Enjoying Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw so many monkeys!

It’s hard to believe that we only have a week left in beautiful Costa Rica! It will be especially difficult to leave after falling in love with the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio, a definite contender for the top five most beautiful places in the world.

We were given last weekend free to explore the country. We had countless options to consider: Should we go to the rain forest? Venture to the mountains? But we knew we couldn’t leave Costa Rica without seeing the beach. We asked around and all the locals told us to head to Manuel Antonio, a national park in the town of Quepos on the Pacific coast.

Right after classes on Thursday, all ten of us and two of our “amigos ticos” made the three-hour trip to the seaside and arrived after sunset. But we didn’t let that keep us from a day at the beach. After ditching our bags at the hostel, we went to the beach to dip our toes in the water. At that point, it was easy to tell we were going to have an excellent weekend.

On an early morning walk on the beach. There were no tourists yet— just us and the waves.

The next morning we woke up really early to beat the crowds to the beach. We spent the day at the public beach, where vendors meander among the tourists selling ceramics and snow cones. The waves were pretty big, which made for a fun day of surfing for a few members of the group. The rest of us basked in the sun and soaked up the amazing day.

For dinner we went to “El Avion,” which actually has a converted airplane in it as a bar. Delicious seafood was the perfect way to finish the day.

After dinner, we went dancing at a local spot, which was really fun! We finally got to put the salsa skills we learned in orientation to practice!

On Saturday, we went to the National Park. After hiking through the rain forest for a bit, we arrived at the most gorgeous beach I could have imagined. In contrast to the public beach, the waves were nonexistent, making it easy to swim to the coves and enjoy the water.

We had a simple but delicious picnic lunch of mangoes, avocados, and chips on the beach and watched monkeys steal food from all the sunbathers.

Sunday morning, a few of us woke up at 7 a.m. for a long stroll on the empty beach. It was absolutely gorgeous and not too hot yet.

After our walk, we had just a few hours before heading back to Heredia, so we spent them playing in the waves and building sandcastles.

Probably the best part of the weekend was spending it all together. We had a few hiccups along the way (like not seeing the warning signs and swimming in a crocodile-infested lagoon), but all in all we had a great time getting to know one another in such a stunning setting.

I’m so sad I’ll be leaving Costa Rica in a week, but I’m so glad to be taking the friends I’ve made here back with me.

Pura vida,