Sloths and monkeys and raccoons...oh my!

Exposed crater of Arenal from La Fortuna
On our last day in the La Fortuna/Arenal area, the volcano decided to show it's peak...but still no flaming lava :( Still, it was pretty cool to see the clouds finally part across the top of the jagged crater on a bright, sunny morning. This time, even though I was stuffed to the brim with a typical Costa Rican breakfast of black beans and rice, eggs, fried plantains and picadillo (kind of a veggie hash), I managed to avoid any major car sickness issues, although there were still a few hairy moments.

Due to the state of roadways, we had to head almost all the way back to San José before continuing on our southward journey to Parque National Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast. After almost six hours in the car, the first thing we did after dumping our bags at another lovely hotel, was to change into swimsuits and head for the beach! From the shore, we could see a series of jungle-covered islands off the coast, which James assured me were full of dinosaurs, à la "Jurassic Park." Luckily, I didn't see anything that could prove him right!

This morning, we woke up to another Costa Rican breakfast and headed out to the National Park. Within minutes of entering, we sponged off some of the tour guides to spot a couple sloths and a monkey or two! It was so amazing to see the animals out in the wild, just doing their thing...a long way from watching the poor stir-crazy critters kept in cages at the zoo! We hiked around for hours...always walking as quietly as possible and
keeping an eye in treetops, which led us to spot several monkeys and sloths on our own!

We found a few secluded beaches ringed by rugged black rocks and lush green jungle. Due to the humidity and steepness of the trails, we were dripping DEET-laced sweat, an unfortunate necessity to keep the killer
mosquitos and other biting insects at bay. I have been
maintaining a steady intake of Benadryl to cope with the itching...I have NO self-control and would have scratched all my skin off by now without it. At one point, we got a little too close to the waterline and
our hiking-shoe-and-socks-clad feet took an unexpected dip...fortunately, it didn't take too much of a toll on the rest of our Manuel Antonio experience.

After the park, we decided to take a dip in the Pacific to cool off...actually, that sounds far too calm...it was more of a battering in the breakers than a peaceful paddle! We tried to avoid getting knocked off our feet as we watched a few hearty souls taking surf lessons...seeing them get slammed over and over into the sand nipped any inclination I had to give surfing a go in the bud. Maybe something a little more sedate...

Oh, yeah...and this guy as per the title...
One of the highlights of this area has been the amazing food and fantastic happy hour views that we've managed to find! As soon as I caught a whiff of the ocean breezes on our drive into town, I set a goal for myself to only eat seafood at major meals...a goal I have proudly met! From fish steamed in a banana leaf, to coconut-rum sauteed shrimp to eye-popping citrus ceviche, everything I have sampled has been incredibly fresh, lovingly prepared and beautifully served...now, if I can just fit into that swimsuit a few more times....

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