My Only Costa Rican Meal in Costa Rica

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Posted under Costa Rica

Whenever I start thinking about a trip, I start to think about the food at my destination. Do I build in time to research restaurants and local cuisine? You betcha. For Costa Rica though, my research was a little less taxing because there wasn’t quite much to research. It’s not that Costa Rican food isn’t good; I just found that descriptions of local food weren’t super enticing. What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the Manuel Antonio area is pretty darn touristy. You can find falafels and pizza in Manuel Antonio much easier than local food. Just step outside your hotel.

Where did I finally have this elusive local Costa Rican food? On the beach of all places. While Manuel Antonio beach was not necessary the prettiest water, the water was as warm as bathwater and the food service phenomenal. You want a beach chair and vodka tonic? Check! A full on meal? Here you go.

Here’s my beach lunch (a little on the heavy side but delicious).

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Nothing too earth-shattering here. White rice, black beans, some lovely, and simply grilled fish, and fried plantains. The most delicious part of the meal was the fried yucca. Almost anything fried is good, but when you can make a root vegetable this crispy, it takes this bland vegetable to a new level. This fried yucca was magic, and I realized that I don’t get enough yucca in my life. I wouldn’t call yucca the most flavorful of veggies, but the crispy texture of this fried version made me a feel a little less guilty about all of the fries I’d been eating that week.

My sense of this meal is that it’s pretty representative of a local lunch. Maybe? Maybe? The local soda (Costa Rican family-run restaurants) would probably be much cheaper than what I paid though. I wished I’d have had access to more places or sought them out more, but maybe with Baby C and no car it wasn’t as obvious where to go or even easy to get there. Costa Rican food is still a bit of a mystery to me. I guess this means I need to go back!

Have you been somewhere before and not eaten any of the local food?

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Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio Park

Friday, February 13th, 2015 | Posted under Costa Rica, Family Travel

This is where I tell you how to do a light hike in a nature preserve with a sick toddler strapped to your back. Good times, right?

Last year, Husband J, Baby C and I went to Costa Rica and decided to stay only in the Manuel Anotnion area on the Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Manuel Antonio is known for its beaches and its national park. Was it worth it to focus our trip on just one area of the country with its small national park? My real answer is “maybe”, but more about the Manuel Antonio National Park first.

The Manuel Antonio area’s main draws for tourists are its beautiful beaches along with the pretty and accessible Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re looking for hard core hiking and such, you should probably go somewhere else. “Hiking” in Manuel Antonio isn’t really hiking. It’s more like “let’s walk on a semi-paved road and not trip while trying not to bump into a whole lotta other people who are staring upwards”. Almost anyone with any level of fitness can walk in this park and enjoy it, but I recommend some solid walking shoes or sandals because rocks will jump up out of nowhere and trip you up. No joke.

Manuel Antonio Park

The parks consists of several paved trails with look out points, and it does get crowded.

Manuel Antonio Park Crowds

Not really your dream isolated bit of nature, is it…?

Since we were in the area a little over one week and traveling with a kid who naps, we decided to split the park up into three different trips: Once for the beach; once with a guide to really see the animals and wildlife; and, finally, another time to just walk around the park itself on our own.

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Husband J taking a better look. At what I don’t remember…? 🙂

When I say this Manuel Antonio Park is accesible, I really do mean it. Many of the paths are paved, and there are even stairs.

Manuel Antonio Park Path

The pay off is a beautiful but not swimmable beach. Not bad for a pseudo-light hike.

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One of the park’s beaches. Not swimmable but pretty. Baby C is half sleep because she’s sick. 🙁

The animals are everywhere in the park. They deserve their own post, but we were joined that morning by several, including this guy right here.

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Guide or No Guide: One thing I do want to address is whether or not get a guide for a walk through Manuel Antonio Park. My answer: DO IT!! There is absolutely no way we would have seen a gosh darn thing without our guide. He knew what to look for in the mass of trees that is the park, and he had the best telescope-like device that allowed us to see some practically microscopic animals. Of course, there are lots of groups with a guide stopping and looking at things, but honestly, most of what we saw that day required binoculars or something like that to see much of anything. Yes, you can see the monkeys, but there’s so much more. The beauty of the wildife isn’t just the pretty birds and cheeky monkeys. It’s also the beautiful insects like this one:

Manuel Antonio Park - Spider

I realize not everyone thinks spiders are cool…

The real prize for going the distance is the main beach. It is by far the most beautiful in the Manuel Antonio area, but it comes at a price: for one its the long walk, plus a good walk down and back up to the main path. Trust me when I say that walk back up was enough to make me think about going back down (but a very good workout, if you’re looking for one). Also there are no facilities besides a bathroom half way up the hill. Bring your own food, too. Lots of people do so you won’t be alone.

Mnauel Antonio Park Main BeachEnjoying the view of the water with Baby C

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 She looks so much younger here…(maybe because she is)

Merchs in MA Park

 Family picture!

So while not the most exciting of Costa Rica’s parks, Manuel Antonio did the job for us. It allowed us to do some basic walking with Baby C while still being able to enjoy more of the area’s beaches.

Where is your favorite national park anywhere in the world?

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