1) Manuel Antonio
6) Food & Drink
Legendary, epic, mesmerizing, quintessentially tropical. Situated along the central Pacific coastline, quaint, serene, naturally bountiful Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most sought after destinations. And for good reason. Only thirty minutes by plane or two and half hours by car from the capital city of San Jose, Manuel Antonio offers visitors a unique and compelling opportunity to experience the boundless energy of Costa Rican nature and culture.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the country’s second most visited park. The park’s biodiversity is astounding. Through its network of trails observe monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, iguanas, lizards, exotic grasshoppers and spiders, among the hundreds of species of wildlife and plant life. The beaches both in the park and nearby embody the lush, serene essence of paradise. For non-natural diversions, restaurants and shops abound. There’s never a shortage of excitement.
Named for the Quepo Indians who inhabited the area during colonial times, Quepos is located just a few kilometers north of Manuel Antonio. Formerly a major port for the banana plantations, it has since transformed into a one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations along with its nearby neighbor, Manuel Antonio. The bus station makes this central Pacific coastal town an easy to reach destination and its local shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries offer visitors an exciting glimpse into Costa Rican culture.
Although representing .25% of the world’s landmass, 5% of the world’s biodiversity inhabits this small, but naturally forceful Central American country. Incredibly, 500,000 species of wildlife and plant life co-exist across a mere 51,000 square kilometers of space. That’s an average of 235 plant species, 17 bird species and 4.5 mammal species per 1,000 square kilometers. Representing one of the most ecologically progressive nations in the world, the Costa Rican government has placed development restrictions on nearly 25% of its land. Translation: access to a natural authenticity that includes lush mountain ranges, active volcanoes, cloud forests, rain forests, dry forests, lakes, rivers and two lengthy coastlines along the Pacific and Caribbean.
The climate in Costa Rica is tropical and the weather is typically pleasant and agreeable year round. The dry season lasts from December to April and the rainy season extends from May to November. During the rainy season the mornings are generally sunny while it rains a bit in the afternoon, but not always. The average year around temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The coasts, however, are a bit hotter, but not unbearably so.
Costa Rica never amounted to much of a colony for the Spanish Empire, which is probably a good thing. It was far from the empire’s capital in Guatemala, lacked valuable resources such as gold and silver, and didn’t have much of an indigenous population to use as forced labor. Then, along with the rest of Central American, Costa Rica gained its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. But it wasn’t until 1838 that Costa Rica withdrew from the Federal Republic of Central America and finally established itself as a sovereign nation. Over the next century or so, Costa Rica continued to develop its unique political, social and economic identity and by 1948 it constitutionally banned the military and held democratic presidential elections. Not bad for a small, remote Central American country at the time. Presently, the country is ranked as having one of the happiest, healthiest and educated populations on the planet.
Food & Drink
The traditional food (comida tipica as it is known) of Costa Rica is flavorful and creative in its own right. The tropical fruits, vegetables, fish and coffee are outstandingly fresh and exotic, and the meals are simple to prepare and healthy, give or take a few calories. The most famous of the Costa Rican meals are gallo pinto and casados. Often eaten for breakfast, but good for any meal of the day, gallo pinto is a delightful mixture of rice and beans and is often served with eggs and local cheese. The casado, meaning “married”, is the midday meal and is a combination of meat (beef, pork, chicken or fish), rice, picadillo (side dish), and fried plantains. Other local delicacies include exotic fruit drinks, fried yuca, and ceviche.