Thursday, July 12, 2007

The beach: Palo Seco and Manuel Antonio

Vacation at the beach
  • Palo Seco
  • Manuel Antonio
  • Kayaking
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • The ride home
Palo Seco
Last week, on the 4th of July, my parents came into town to visit. Finally, after being here for 2 months we took a family vacation to the beach for 3 nights and 4 days. Saturday, we left for Palo Seco. The strange thing, according to dad's gps, Palo Seco is about 37.5 miles directly south of Cartago. However to get there we had to do a wide semi circle going west through San Jose to Orotina and then rounding it out passing Jaco and finally getting into Parrita and then into Palo Seco. It took us about 4 or 5 hours to get there and was well over 100 miles.

We stayed one night in Paloc Seco at the Hotel La Tranquilidad. Palo Seco is a very very very undeveloped beach. All there is is a bunch of cocunut trees lining the beach for 5 miles. I'm guessing there's probably only 50 or 60 structures on the entire 5 mile island. The sand there is brown. Real estate prices for a 1/4 acre lot (beach front) are as low as $100K in some parts.

Most of the property there is being sold under concession. This is how it works. On the 1st 50 meters from the high tide mark no one can build anything. from 50 m to 150 m past the high tide mark, the local government owns that land but can grant concessions to people to develop it. When you own a concession, you own exclusive rights to the land to do pretty much what you will with it like titled property. When the concession is up, the current concession holder has first rights to renew it. I'll try to make a point to post something exclusively on concessions later.

Manuel Antonio
We stayed 2 nights in Manuel Antonio. One night at a hotel that has awesome views of the ocean. Its pretty high up on the side of a mountain. The drawback though is that its about 3/4 mile walk to the beach. The second night we stayed in a kind of ok hotel right on the beach.

Manuel Antonio is a very beautiful area. Its probably half developed. They're very careful there though to leave a lot of trees. The hotels on the beach are actually hidden back in the woods. The ocean/beach there is really nestled in a bay. The beach stretches for about 2 or 3 miles and makes a curve like a crescent moon but more U-shaped. On either end are rocky outcroppings and mountains. Its really a kind of wide bay there (but the waves are good).

On Monday, Meyling, Dad and I took 2 kayaks out into the bay. These are the type of kayaks that you sit on (not in). More like a cross between a canoe and a traditional sit-in-kayak. Out in the bay are a few rock formations / small islands. The closest one to us was about 600 m out (according to the guy at the kayak place.) They called them gemelas (twins). We paddled out to there to the gemelas.

Dad tried to go in between the gemelas from the ocean side. The passage is probably about 10 feet wide at the narrowest point. He was timing the waves, but didn't time enough, because as he was making his approach a huge surge of water about 4 or 5 feet higher than the norm came rushing through and flipped him over. He was ok and managed to save his GT hat too. I got to see it all in slow motion and almost get hit by him and his kayak at the same time!

Once he got his kayak righted and back on it, we went around to the ocean side of the formation to check it out. Waves were constantly attacking the gemelas. Dad wanted to go through from that side. Meyling and I quickly paddled back around to the beach side to watch him come through and help him out in case he got into any trouble. We had enough time to get ready to watch dad come through.

That time he made it through with no problem. He said that he watched the waves for a few cycles and noted that after 4 or 5 there was always a big one going through. After deciding it was safe, he assaulted the passage right on the tail end of a 'big one'. He made it out just fine.

After that, we snorkeled very briefly. The water was pretty turbulent and at the same time we wanted to stay kind of close to the rocks to see stuff. Meyling and Dad went first. Dad saw some fish and Meyling saw some rocks. After that I went, I saw some rocks too. Then Meyling went again determined to see a fish and finally she saw a blue one.

After that we paddled around went out a little further to some other rock formations and then went back in.

Manuel Antonio National Park
On Tuesday, the day we left for home, we took a tour of the Manuel Antonio park. Our guide showed us a few 3 fingered sloths, some monkeys, lizards, bats and spiders. To his credit, we wouldn't have seen many of the animals without his help. He even brought along a telescope on a tripod to see the animals better. Our tour group consisted of us and a couple from Holland.

After the tour we got into the ocean (at the beach in the park.) The slope of the beach was pretty steep making the waves very powerful as they crashed on the beach. Once the girl came running out to be with me and the boy. She was suddenly flipped on her back and then flipped over completely and finally another wave was dragging her out as it receded. As she was going out, I was already there to snatch her up. She was fine but really upset and shocked as you can imagine.

The ride home
On the way back, the kids got pretty nauseated when we were going through the mountains. The girl actually ended up presenting her lunch. We had to stop a bunch of times, but it was better for everybody. All in all, I guess it was a rough day for the girl.


General Ledger said...

How about some pics?

kevinc said...

No. I don't actually. Dad does though. He did all the picture taking.

General Ledger said...

Have you ever been to Guanacaste or Cabuya? They're out on the penisula -

kevinc said...

I've been to Guanacaste several times. I've never been to Cabuya though. Why?

General Ledger said...

It looks like a nice area. Isn't it the touristy area?

kevinc said...

The province of Guanacaste is where most of the tourists go. Also, Jaco, in the province of Puntarenas is probably the most touristy beach in Costa Rica. Guanacaste still probably hasn't been over developed. I mean it is nothing like Panama City Florida. I haven't been to Guanacaste in about 2 years. The last time I was there was at Flamingo Beach, one of the most touristy in Costa Rica. Just off of the beach there are a bunch of hotels and condos. Right behind all of that though is country side.