8 Reasons To Head To Manuel Antonio ASAP

8 Reasons To Head To Manuel Antonio ASAP

Monkeys, Mountain views, and the power of Imperial.
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Manuel Antonio is THE place to be in Costa Rica.

I got to experience a variety of terrains and natural settings for under $300 a day (that’s airfare and hotel included babes!) Manuel Antonio is often low on the list of destinations to experience against Hermosa Beach and Arenal area, but I’m telling you this is the place to be, especially if you’re ballin’ on a budget.

1. Monkeys

Now I’m sure you knew I was going to have to talk about this one right off the bat. In Manuel Antonio area, you will without a doubt, see hundreds of monkeys. For me, seeing them in their natural habitat was so incredibly breathtaking and I couldn’t get enough of spotting them ruffle throughout the tree tops and jumping from palm to palm all week long. My hotel room was more of a villa set in the rainforest and monkeys would hang out on my back porch every morning and just about everywhere you went you could hear them cooing in the canopy. Talk about an authentic feel.

2. Rainforest Hikes

Hiking is not my thing. I’m not a professional hiker, I don’t have any equipment and I sure as hell don’t have much knowledge on properly hiking in other countries and terrains. Yet, hiking in Manuel Antonio became my favorite thing I was able to do my entire time there. The park is somewhat laid out to aid you in hiking trails and to guide your way, but what I oddly liked about the park was the lack of signs. You got to explore on your own time and try to navigate yourself to, well, kind of nowhere, and experience everything you stumbled upon along the way. Deep inside the park are wooden staircases that allow you to climb high up in the understory of the rainforest and wander through the different layers of foliage spotting animals through foggy conditions (while you sweat your booty off of course). At the end, once you find your end of your rainforest trek, it almost always leads to a small path that opens up to a beautiful beach, so wear that bathing suit under your outfit, you’re gonna want it!

3. Surfing & Beaching

There are a few options for beaches in Manuel Antonio, and let me tell you, none of them will disappoint. The beaches inside the Manuel Antonio National Park are pretty calm most times and have the perfect vibe for hanging out on a towel on a piece of drift wood and just taking in your surroundings (be warned: the monkeys and raccoons will totally go through your bag). These beaches also have lots of hiking options on beach rocks that leave for the most picturesque scapes to take in. Outside of the park, the water is a little more conducive to, drum roll please, the famous Costa Rica surf. You can rent a surf board for less than 10 bucks and more times than not the instructor will offer to take you out and help you learn how to catch the surf even for complete beginners for another whopping 10 dollars. Not coordinated enough to surf? Grab a paddleboard and still get to experience the power of being out on that dazzling water, you’ll thank me later.

4. Views

Every walk, pool session, dinner, drink, and adventure in Manuel Antonio is accompanied by amazing mountain views. The terrain is very escalated and when you start spending more time walking around the area you start to realize how steep the inclines are just about everywhere you go. You will be surrounded by lush rainforests, sandy beaches, quaint buildings, and art. Pay special attention to detail and you won’t be disappointed in their simplicity. Almost everything is set near or on a perfect-picture landscape and let me tell you, it’s simply satisfactory for your love of nature. Every picture you take will be one a masterpiece just due to your backdrop of rainforest tops.

5. Lions, Tigers and Gila Monsters…?

I am and always have been an animal lover, making this area especially exciting for me as it is so rich in wildlife. Although it wasn’t quite lions, tigers and bears, I was, on two occasions able to spot sloths lounging in the forest, which was and I think is, just about everyone’s goal in Costa Rica. You will have the opportunity to see hundreds of huge crocodiles (and you really will), giant Gila monsters scattered along the beaches (just keep one eye open when you’re lounging at the beach, take my word on that,) toucans, and of course hundreds of other exotic breeds I wasn’t even sure of what they were! Having the opportunity to see so many unusual animals really grows your appreciation for the space and make you one with the nature you’re all of a sudden a part of.

6. The Bus to Jaco

I could’ve spent every single day exploring Manuel Antonio Park, however for the traveler that needs to switch it up, or even for just a change of pace, a $5 2-hour bus ride will land you right in the city center of Jaco Beach. This is a highly populated, pretty touristy area, however, it is for a good reason for the beaches are truly amazing. There’s the main strip hosting countless tiny souvenir shops, restaurants, and artist halls, which won’t really be found in Manuel Antonio if you’re looking for that sort of shopping day. But for me, the impact that Jaco left was its wide soft sanded beaches with a surf that is incredible. The surfing in Jaco is no joke, so if you don’t know how to surf, you might wanna leave it to the professionals, but the landscape is astounding and you have to see those waves for yourself as their power is so incredible.

7. River Rapids

Now, while I’m not into doing tours or excursions there’s really no good way to experience this without the professionals and their equipment. I think it ran about $60 a person and they bus you up a million steep hills (that our bus couldn’t make it up by the way and we had to push it due to excessive rain,) and take you rafting down the river. They include lunch, snacks, and one of the coolest experiences of your life. The guides were all young and full of true love for their jobs as they talked about doing it even on their days off, they really have a passion for being on that water. However, unlike rafting here in the states, you stopped every so often and got to experience huge waterfalls and were surrounded by the sounds and smells of the rainforest, with the occasional toucan or two.

8. Friendly Feel

One of the most impressive parts about Manuel Antonio, and I think Costa Rica in general, were the people. I have never met so many kind and helpful beings in my travels. Everyone is there to serve and help each other in some way, and I never once came across a rude or introverted person in the “countryside” of Costa Rica. They want to help educate you about their area, because they are genuinely proud of it (who wouldn’t be proud of being so peaceful that your country doesn’t need any sort of military form?) Everyone is just trying to live simply and have the most rich life they can possibly have with the utmost opportunity for happiness.


So crack open an Imperial (it’s actually delicious), and get to Expedia (that’s where I scored that super low daily rate) to get booking! Pura Vida~

Cover Image Credit: Brandi Harmon

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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My Future Is Unpredictable And That's Totally Alright

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations.

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For six months, I had plans to study abroad in the Dominican Republic during the fall semester of junior year. Filling out what seemed like endless applications and paperwork, searching for travel ideas on Pinterest, and writing a class research paper on the DR's relationship with its neighboring island, Haiti, I was prepared to live and learn about Dominican culture hands-on.

Then on the Thursday before Finals Week last spring, I read my email. My study abroad program in the DR had gotten canceled. In the span of 30 seconds, my future had taken a new course. Less than a week later, I was submitting papers to study abroad in a new country where another adventure awaited: Ecuador.

If there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that life is unpredictable and we can't control it. The future is unknown. But-

Who wants to know exactly what's going to happen in the next few years? I mean, I believe it's good to have a direction, but you don't have to have the entire journey pinpointed straight to the core. You meet people, you get inspired, you see things, you have experiences. And you go from there. (Though, I totally respect people who have clear ambitions and stick with them their entire lives.)

Where I was a year ago was a completely different path than where I find myself today. Last summer, I worked four different internships/jobs in the span of three months. A year ago, I would never have guessed my following summer unfolding with an immersion trip to India, a solo adventure to Taiwan & Hong Kong, and becoming a certified yoga instructor. A year ago, I hadn't met half of my best friends. A year ago, I hadn't seen poverty in a third-world country. A year ago, I wasn't even sure I wanted to major in Environmental Studies.

Just because I don't know what the future holds doesn't mean I can't set goals. I have a destination, an idea of where I'm headed and where I want to go. While abroad in Ecuador, I want to learn about sustainable development and coffee production as well as enhance my Spanish skills.

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations. I know the format of the program. I'll be taking classes and living with a host family and then doing an internship at a farm. Otherwise, I have no idea what's going to happen. And that's what I'm looking forward to the most. The spontaneity. The unexpected. As one of my good friends would say whenever he doesn't have formal weekend plans, "I'm improvising." And you know the one rule of improv: Always say yes.

¡Hasta pronto, Ecuador!

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