After a wonderful birthday bash with my fellow CouchSurfers, I was ready to head out for another adventure in Costa Rica. My heart was torn between either visiting Tortuguero in northeast Costa Rica or Manuel Antonio in the southwest corner of the country.

The two locations could not be more different. Tortuguero is on the Caribbean side of the country, and is famous for the nesting sea turtles that return to its beaches every year. There are no roads to the area, so one has to travel for nearly an entire day via buses and boats to get there, and once in the remote location, there is little to do in the way of night life. This is pretty much a nature tour type area and that’s about it.

Manuel Antonio National Park

View while swimming at Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio is a cheap ($10) three-hour bus ride from San Jose and sits just south of Quepos on the Pacific coast. Manuel Antonio National Park is the country’s smallest park, but boasts some of the most amazing tropical forests, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife anywhere in the world. Also, word on the street is that Manuel Antonio has the largest and most active GLBT scene in the country—outside of San Jose of course.

I decided to take my chances with Manuel Antonio, and the next morning I took a local bus into San Jose, then a cab to one of the major bus terminals in the city. I arrived with plenty of time before departure, so I picked up my ticket and did a bit of people watching. I quickly spotted a rather flamboyant couple of guys… a cute short fellow sporting a Panama Jack hat, short shorts, and a murse—and his companion– a tall, dark, and handsome Latin clad in skinny jeans and a tank top. My first thought was that they were a native gay couple from San Jose headed down to the beaches of Manuel Antonio for a couple days of relaxing sun and fun. I always enjoy passing split-second judgments based solely upon outward appearance and well ingrained stereotypes. So with my ill-informed homoerotic narrative about these two strangers playing out in my head, I gingerly boarded the bus en route for some of the best beaches on the Pacific coast.

Manuel Antonio National Park Lookout

Stunning scenery while hiking through the park.

The park was the end of the line, and after three hours, the once full bus had dwindled down to only the gay couple from San Jose and me. Not that I was trying, but I overheard the top telling his exuberant fiancé about some rather inexpensive lodging close the beach they would be staying at. I love meeting new people, and these two seemed like a couple gems, so I seized the moment to interject.

“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you know of some good accommodations close by? I’m traveling alone, and I haven’t yet made any reservations. Any suggestions?” And that is how it all started. The good ol’ southern charm worked, and the couple quickly took me under their wing. They invited me to check out a hostel up the road that they were going to be staying at. Seeing as it was starting to rain and the sun was setting, I figured I might as well spend the night there…

Check back tomorrow for part 2!

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