Manuel Antonio. I wanted to like this place. American queers have been coming here for decades, and on paper it was perfect: a beautiful national park with postcard beaches, sunsets over the Pacific, and no fear of any homophobic twitchiness (not that I encountered an ounce of homophobia in Costa Rica. I didn’t. Which is astonishing given that for most of my life I could hardly check out a library book in the US without having to answer for my lack of husbandry). But inevitably, a place that’s been treasured by American tourists for decades can become … touristy. Lots of things for sale in large American-dollar prices, lots of Americans. And the sweaty, hot heat.

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Friendly Manuel Antonio

 

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Waiting out the sun

There’s only one main drag in Manuel Antonio and we were right on it. The friendly hostel manager dropped us off at our guest house in his smoky little Toyota and warned us about the thieves, and then we were on our own to go stick our heads in the ice cream freezer at the Mini Super across the noisy road.

I will say we ate great food in Manuel Antonio. Fresh vegetables and those lovely unsweetened smoothies made up for a lot. That half hour with a white-faced capuchin monkey family sitting in a tree watching us eat local grilled fish and salad was a nice break.

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Manuel Antonio National Park was aces. It’s small, but that meant we could see most of it in one visit and not get that Fear Of Missing Something. We started at about 7 AM to try to get ahead of the worst heat, and we bagged a good sightings list, including some excellent iguanas and spiders, more capuchin and howler monkeys, a Jesus Christ lizard (they walk on water), and a whole commuter belt of morpho butterflies — huge creatures with irridescent blue-purple wings, all slowly flying in the same direction early in the morning. The way they drifted around the visitors made it seem like they had all the dreamy friendliness of our 3-year-old niece Annabelle. I really thought one of them was going to stop for a chat about what pirates eat.

Handsome fellow

Handsome fellow

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Nice day for fishing

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Intrepid voyagers

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Jesus Christ

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