Costa Rica: The 10th Day

I am predictably tired of travel by day 10. It’s totally consistent, like a light switch. I’ll be fine and then all of a sudden all I can think about is my garden and my bed at home. It’s hard to think beyond exhaustion when the toddler thinks 4am is a good time to wake up and the kids keep falling out of bed in the middle of the night.

If we had this trip to do over again (which we will do our best to make happen!) we would reverse our two long stays–do Tulemar first and Los Sueños second. Tulemar is in the Manuel Antonio area and the amount of adventuring options is incredible. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to do a few amazing outings. But even without kids several days of that will wear you out. With kids, well, as I write my husband is passed out on the couch while the baby naps and the big kid does quiet time. We are pooped.

Because this is a coastal area with big rocky cliffs overlooking alcove beaches, in a tropical forest, it attracts folks interested in active tourism. Now, toddlers are *interested* in active tourism, except on the uphill parts, when they want to be carried. They are keen to run on slippery rocks at the bottom of waterfalls that you carried them 2 hours on horse back to get to. And kick their horse to trot when they’ve never ridden before.

Almost every single thing we have done has been a ridiculous success–especially given the company–which continues to amaze me. But it would have been strategic to follow this up with 5 days at the flat crazy resort where you just waddle across the lawn to the pool, fall in, and stay there all day. With free childcare. Live and learn.

Today was the closest we’ve been to a fail, and even then only because we had the rest of the trip to compare it to. The baby fell out of bed twice last night (the big kid once the night before) and then got up for the day at 4am. We threw back tiny cups of coffee and tried to pull ourselves together to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. We leave the area tomorrow and after 4 days we still hadn’t been. We were tired and the kids were exhausted after the previous days’ adventures (a full day horse back ride out to Nauyaca waterfall yesterday and boating out in the Mangroves in the heat of the day, at nap time, the day before). But we knew we’d feel regret if we missed it…since we were literally staying on its doorstep.


Big kid’s first time on a horse!


Nauyaca falls


Great Blue Heron in the mangroves


Mangroves at new moon high tide

Manuel Antonio opens at 7am. We couldn’t find any reliable information on whether or not it was stroller friendly but we were guessing not. The kids kind of ate. It’s all a blur. We sort of packed the diaper bag and trudged out to the car. It was a quick ride. The toddler had accidentally been put in his carseat with a mouth full of cheese toast and had taken it out and stuffed it into the colored pencil case his brother was using to draw Ron Weasley being smashed off his horse in the final chess match of the Sorcerer’s Stone. I hold it up accusingly “what is this?” and he looks at me like I’m a moron. “Num-a-num.”

The entrance to the park is fairly chaotic, but if you are planning to go with small children and you have a sturdy jogging stroller, for the love of everything you hold dear, TAKE IT WITH YOU. The main path is flat and wide, if rocky. Nothing a jogging stroller can’t handle. And the only thing we did right was to go at 7:30am because by the time we rolled out of there, passing out from heatstroke after having to carry both children the entire way (because of course if the 5 year old tells you before you leave the house that he has no interest in going and you make him go anyway and then don’t take the stroller and he is so tired he can barely keep his eyes open…well the mommy guilt for leaving him in the dust in a foreign country when he refuses to walk is not good, so you’ll carry all 60lbs of him), there were lines of sweaty tourists waiting outside the gate. They have a daily quota and by 9am they were maxed out and only letting folks in for each person who left.

We made it to the first main beach, Playa Manuel Antonio, sat panting for half an hour, then went back. We saw two brown throated three-toed sloths, tons of capuchin monkeys, a few howlers, some beautiful blue morpho and postman butterflies, an interesting spider, and a raccoon. It actually makes me feel better about the trip just writing it all down.

The density of easily visible wildlife is considerably greater at Tulemar beach where we’ve been staying, likely because it’s much more secluded. We’ve seen all those lovely critters several times over the past few days. It’s a lot more fun to spot the occasional creature than to hurriedly try to see as much as you can before everyone implodes. And by the time we were leaving at 8:30am, the walkways were totally packed and barely passable and the noise levels were pretty high. The beach is beautiful, but there are lots of beautiful beaches.


Beautiful big old trees at Playa Manuel Antonio


Capuchin monkeys are the most outgoing


“Doo doo-WAH!” as he waves his magic stick


This raccoon had an ouchy and stopped to rest on the sidewalk


Termite nest, which we can spot without a guide thanks to the Kratt Brothers


Brown throated three toed sloth!

This place is gorgeous and amazing…it’s just that there’s lots of gorgeous and amazing in Costa Rica and we were not at our peak capacity for enjoying the scenery. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that saw the sloths because my husband was blinded by sweat and trying to keep the baby from walking off the edge of the raised walkway (no guard rails). It speaks volumes of the trip as a whole that this was the least successful day.

We limped home to regroup. We did not want to eat the pathetic stuff in our fridge left from 10 days of picking up bites here and there. The baby fell asleep in the car on the way home but woke up screaming when we arrived. Take two! We got back in the car and drove the short way to El Avión, this super cool restaurant with great food where we ate the day we arrived. It was 11am. They don’t open until noon.

First world problems, we can do this! We headed to Café Milagro, a place we’ve been wanting to try but whose two parking spots have always been full. Ah, it was great. Fish tacos, an ingenious kid’s menu that includes a salad with honey on top (what better way to get kids to eat greens? First kid’s menu I’ve ever seen in my life with something green on it). We got a delicious salad with roasted red pepper and avocado with a banana vinaigrette. The baby devoured it, we had to get another one.



“Hmmm, honey, does the baby’s face look like it’s getting red again around the mouth?” “It’s just the heat.” No, it’s not the heat. The toddler is having the same contact allergic reaction he had at El Avión when we ate there. It didn’t bother him and went away in 2 hours, but I really wanted to know what it was. Oh look, and this time it’s worse and it went all the way into his eye and turned it pink. Fascinating. Last time I guessed it was mustard because the other things he’d had–mango and shellfish–were things he’d had before. I got the ingredients of the dressing (sneaky me, gonna make that baby at home, it was amazing!) and sure enough, mostaza.

The big kid had an enormous banana split and we let him watch My Neighbor Totoro on the tablet. The baby had been charming everyone so we’d met every other diner and all the wait staff by the time we were done. He dragged a crate around the whole place for 20 minutes and I followed along, enjoying the cuteness. But I was getting tired, where was my husband? Oh, trapped by the former tobacco plantation owner from Virginia and debating gun control. I suggested amicably that they agree to disagree, as it was ramping up and I could see the racist commentary was about to start. Once they dropped a “wish the thugs would all just kill each other and then we’d be safe” I left and ordered a beer.

I love me a good Imperial, but it was a special occasion so I ordered a bright red beer made from flor de jamaica and called it a day. It’s 1 o’clock.


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