It’s a funny term, “tourist”. All too often I find we use it with a negative connotation as cruisers. You see, we get spoiled by having beautiful untouched beaches off remote anchorages, and many of us try to avoid the “tourist” areas as it’s just not pleasant to have a jet ski roaring over your anchor chain or a booze cruise charter boat drop anchor next to you and blare their music. It’s not their fault, I’ve been there too – live it up, you’re on vacation! It’s just that we’re transporting our home around and we’re quite protective of it. So why deal with a loud, bustling anchorage when you can have a tranquil one and still enjoy the same beautiful sunset from the comfort of your own boat? Location, location, location. The tourist locations are sometimes the exact ones we’re seeking on this journey and we’ll deal with the additional chaos in favor of a more desirable destination. This was indeed the case with Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
I do think it’s funny though how I’ve begun using the term “tourist” as “not us”, like I fall into a different category. I think the term “nomadic expat” is more perhaps suitable, but last I checked, I’m only here for a brief stay, on a foreign passport, hoping to see the sites like many others….sounds like I’m a tourist! Vacation time is usually brief and concentrated, but our travel experiences are more like marathons and less sprints. We’re not on a strict schedule, so we pace ourselves….OK, our budget and boat projects pace us, but so too does our physical and mental capacity to constantly go and do. Sometimes we have the means on all accounts to indulge and play tourist, and other days we simply take in the beautiful scenery from the cockpit, never setting foot on the beach or exploring the town.
With friends arriving in Quepos, we genuinely looked forward to playing tourist. Quepos has many great activities and topping the list was Manuel Antonio National Park. This national park is one of the smallest in the country, but one of the most visited. We booked a private guide with Diego Hernandéz, a naturalist specializing in herpetology, of Diego Nature Tours https://diegonaturetours.com based on recommendations from friends of S/V Boundless and it was well worth it. Diego, like many other guides, is equipped with his telescope and binoculars, because after all, this isn’t the zoo. You’ve gotta find these animals who are many times, way up in the treetops. Within the first hundred yards, we stop and join the gathering group of people to get an up-close look at our first sloth. Technically, second sloth as we were looking at a matted furball high in the trees the previous day, pointed out to us by the guys working on the beach. We’re pretty sure the sloth butt that we were looking at was a stuffed animal that they move with a crane every 2 days, but that’s still up for debate! Unlike our first, questionable sloth sighting, this one was very apparent and moving…as you’d expect…very slowly. She was a 3-toed sloth and as we looked through the telescope, you could see her 3 long claws grab at the tree branches high above our heads. We learned all sorts of interesting facts -like the sloth only descends the tree top once a week to take a poop, Basilik lizards are known as Jesus Christ lizards because they literally walk on water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45yabrnryXk , and the mangrove trees have a sacrificial leaf (noted by its yellow color) that absorbs the salt water to spare the rest of the tree. We went on to see more sloths, lizards, bats, and frogs. Diego’s ability to locate camouflaged animals was incredible. I now look at the rainforest through a different lens – had no idea so many little creatures were out there! Unlike scoping for wildlife on the water, many of these creatures stuck around for at least long enough for us to all get a look in the telescope and take pictures.
Towards the end of the tour, we saw something I hope to never encounter on my Costa Rica exploration: a beautiful but poisonous Fer de Lance snake, aptly nicknamed the Costa Rican landmine. This is Costa Rica’s most dangerous snake, injecting a hemotoxic venom that is seriously debilitating, if not deadly. Diego tells me that the park has the antivenom on hand, because time is precious following a strike. I later read this post https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/exploration-survival/surviving-viper-bite/ just to get an idea of what it’s like to survive a Fer de lance strike. I stare into the telescope at this gorgeous snake, just coiled up next to the river, who like all the other creatures, is nicely camouflaged amidst the brown leaves. I now realize what my addition park fees for medical insurance were for. Hike at your own risk in the jungle.
We enjoyed the luxury of a hotel pool, shower, and air conditioning….thank you Brian and Christina! Driving the windy road from Quepos to Manuel Antonio, we were intrigued by a cargo plane parked on the cliff amidst the hotels and restaurants, so we had to come back. It turns out El Avión is a C-123 cargo plane relic from the Iran-Contra Affair that was converted into a bar and restaurant with an interesting history. Its sister plane was shot down over Nicaragua leading to the discovery of the scandal, thus this plane never took to the skies and sat abandoned in the capital city of San José. The present owners shipped it over part by part by both land and sea to Manuel Antonio https://www.elavion.net/history . Great food, beautiful ocean views, and a bit of history – we’re there! Back in the marina, we peruse the shops, relax on the boat, and enjoy a walk into the quaint town of Quepos. Tourist time is great!
It was time to bid adieu to our friends, but the family had one more tourist adventure in mind. This was something we’d been promising the kids, but just never found the right opportunity until now…..Ziplining! The rainforest canopy is awe inspiring, so I’m glad we waited to see it from this vantage point. However, I am NOT a fan of heights. There are incidents of bungee jumping and sky diving in my history thanks to a swift vote of confidence from my best friend, but that was in a previous life when I was bullet proof. Now, I feel my knees get weak on any height and leave the mast climbing to my husband. Anything for the kids though and why not?
The tour with El Sanctuario https://elsantuariocanopyadventure.com was great because you didn’t have time to process what you were doing. These guys know what they’re doing, and their friendly banter lightens the mood in between safety checks. We all get outfitted in our safety gear and off we go. Of course, my kids are first up, fearless as ever. I watch as my youngest gets rigged onto the zipline and yells with joy as her tiny body disappears into the expansive rainforest. The guides confirm that she made it to the other side, good. Next up, my oldest decides to mock me by pausing before launch and saying morosely, “goodbye mother” as she too disappears into the rainforest. Thanks, very funny. I’m up. Wow, we are REALLY high up here, but I focus on the rigging, the backup safety strap and my grip; my very tight, white-knuckle grip. Hold on, lean back, and….launch. It’s exhilarating! So beautiful! The trees, the clear sky after it rained all night, the wind in my face…then I realize I’m flying towards this tree platform and my guide is suddenly getting bigger and bigger. I instinctively put my feet out for impact…BUT the brake system eases me in comfortably to the platform. WOW! 9 more to go – let’s do this! Oh, if I could just bottle up the excitement and joy in my kids’ faces as we waited for the next one! The pace is fast, but just so much that you are looking forward to the next ride. Our favorite was of course the longest one which is a double so you can “race” your friend or family member. It was a breathtaking 90 second ride and at the finish line, the girls won their prized gelato and were relentless in making sure we paid up back at the marina. I napped that afternoon after my adrenaline rush – what a softie I’ve become.
Tourism contributes to a significant percent of the economy in the countries we’ve visited. We still feel the significant impact the pandemic had when travel ceased – the guides will tell you how grateful they are this year compared to the prior one. The locals are hospitable, charming, and catering to all those who seek the adventures, the luxuries, or just the basic services in town – we feel very welcome here. While some days, we’re tapped and just want to be homebodies, on others the adventure and once in a lifetime opportunities are calling to us. The kids will grow up and prefer not to be associated with us soon enough. We’ll all go back to a more conventional, routine lifestyle of some sort…we know it. So, for now, we’ll enjoy being tourists and seeing the world.
Wanna buy the HelmsMistress a cold Imperial? Check out our Patreon Page!
LF2SF is entirely published on a cruising sailboat where we live with our giant breed Great Dane, kitty and kids. We’re currently in Costa Rica poised to flow south as soon as the next tropical wave passes over us.
Quepos is a Costa Rican coastal city that started as a fishing village and reminded us of La Cruz (Mx) because we could walk there from the Marina and everything was fairly accessible. Tourism and sport fishing how fuels the economy in the local area, anchored by Manuel Antonio National Park.
Provisioning in Costa Rica is a mixed bag of smaller stores with a good selection of products, but most are locally owned. This one had the owners dog in it, something you probably won’t find in the US but I thought is was great. I’m also constantly surprised at the name brands I find and the selection of products from the US that we could never find in Mexico.
The MiniPrice Store in Quepos has LOTS of US products with slightly higher prices but great selection. The day I shopped I had missed the 10% off sale by 24 hours…so the manager extended that price break to me and had this truck run me and all my provisioning back to the marina. I’m very thankful.
All the Pics in this story are either by the HelmsMistress, Teagan or me. This is an original story by the HelmsMistress.
Happy World Oceans Day!
Wanna buy the HelmsMistress a cold Imperial? Check out our Patreon Page!