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Suzan Crane Headshot

Rainy Days and Jungle Nights

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MANUEL ANTONIO, COSTA RICA -- One of the problems with living in the Costa Rican rainforest is that is rains. A lot. From May through November -- mas o menos -- the skies weep incessantly, rendering the rutted streets puddle-laden bogs, my small house a receptacle for all things musty and moldy.

Don't get me wrong. I savor the occasional rainy day where I crawl into bed with a good book and the remote control, watching reruns of my favorite and not so favorite sitcoms and reality shows -- the sum total of the limited English-language fare available to me. And unlike the bone-chilling downpours that douse New York or Seattle, it remains tropically temperate here. Quite warm even on these rainy days.

And as I sit on my patio sipping rich Costa Rican coffee, embraced by the lush arms of impossibly verdant foliage, I get why this must be so. All this rain. It is, of course, nature's prerogative and the elixir of life here in the jungle. It is also one of the primary reasons so many visit Manuel Antonio, this small scenically splendid enclave on Costa Rica's central Pacific Coast where the forest literally kisses the white sand-ribboned shoreline. Where the wildlife population rivals that of we mere mortals and the famed namesake National Park houses a myriad of species, including the titi, whiteface and howler monkeys, two and three toes sloths, brightly hued iguanas so grand that you sidestep as they amble by.

Soon, though, the rain will abate and the environmentally-responsible tourist haven will reawaken from its dormant state. Vacationers will descend like locusts and traffic will swell on the one main road between the local village of Quepos and the beaches of Manuel Antonio. The hotels and exclusive villas will be fully booked, the restaurants and bars will hum with activity. The zip lines will again zip at full throttle, the kayaks will shimmer atop the translucent turquoise waters as colorful parasails dot the horizon and sun beds pepper the beach. Throngs of honeymooners will arrive to celebrate their unions, enjoying the adventure activities, luxury spas and native flavor. Sea-view hotels will host a surfeit of "destination wedding" parties, families will flood in during school holidays and the anglers will arrive en masse in February to fish the fecund waters, renowned as amongst the best in the world.

It will be a happy, lively place where everyone will begin to make money again, doggedly attempting to capitalize on the relatively short-lived season, infusing visitors with a healthy dose of "pura vida" hospitality as they innocuously and not so timidly hustle them.

But alas, in the time it's taken me to pen this column, the rain has dissipated and the sun is peeking through the silver sky. In moments it will gleam like a gilded orb, casting a golden shadow over the luxuriant flora and jeweled sea.

Welcome to the jungle. My temporary pit-stop on my ever evolving life journey.

There are numerous lodging and dining options in Manuel Antonio -- ranging from rudimentary hostels to sumptuous full-service resorts -- most of which are suitably and unobtrusively ensconced within the area's natural milieu.

A truncated list follows (in no particular order):

Luxury:
Arenas Del Mar

Parador Resort & Spa
Gaia Hotel & Reserve
Mango Moon Boutique Hotel/B&B
La Mansion Inn

Midrange:
Hotel Costa Verde
Hotel Mono Azul
Villas Nicolas
Hotel Verde Mar

Budget:
Cabinas Pedro Miguel
Backpackers Hostel
Vista Serena Hostel

Restaurants:
Kapi Kapi
La Terraza
Agua Azul
*Also numerous local "sodas" in Quepos serve up traditional fare