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An outdoor odyssey to Costa Rica

Squirrel monkey

In Search of Four Monkeys
It felt like a tour of Jurassic Park as everyone quietly studied the river’s bank for movement or sound. Not long into the boat ride through the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, rare creatures made themselves known. With the help of guides, I spied tiger herons, a green kingfisher, a river otter, a six-foot caiman and a plethora of other wildlife. Two new species of monkey also moved into my view during the ride.

“This is amazing,” said Alex, gazing into the trees. “We are going to be very quiet and patient because we have just seen a rare species of monkey in Costa Rica. We will try and move closer to get a better look.”

Small spider monkeys in the branches above caused everyone to point excitedly and snap photos. We had seen the white-headed capuchin monkey a few minutes ago, so we had now seen three of Costa Rica’s four species of monkeys in one day. Not bad.

The next day took me to Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, where I stopped at Rio Tarcoles to look for the area’s well-known abundance of American crocodiles. Looking down at the river, I counted 30 of the prehistoric monsters floating lazily around.

My next wildlife stop impressed me in a different way. Twenty brilliantly colored scarlet macaws stood perched in a tree for a beautiful effect. The rainbow-colored birds caused everyone in my group to gasp every time one of them flew from one branch to another.

In that wonderful mood, I soon reached La Parador Hotel. The hotel, which overlooks the ocean, has striking views, a hiking trail, minigolf and a serene pool area. With its surrounding forests and the howler monkeys that I saw pass by my window that evening, the hotel felt secluded.

In the morning, we explored the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park with the hope of seeing more flora and fauna, including the one species of monkey that had eluded us: the squirrel monkey. The squirrel monkey remained hidden, but Monte immediately spotted an adorable sloth and baby near the path.

“Most of the time when you see a sloth, it looks like they move in slow motion,” he said as the sloth slowly scratched its nose. “Well they do. They do this to preserve energy.”

While walking through the park, I met with several more sloths, a lizard, a green tree frog and more white-headed capuchin monkeys. When I reached the beach, the vista looked like a filming location for paradise. Dark rocks and trees arching out toward the impossibly blue ocean inspired me to declare that I had found my retirement home.

That evening, I was relaxing on a similar-looking beach by the hotel when I saw people taking pictures of something in the trees. I started to draw closer when I realized that they had found the elusive squirrel monkey.

The small monkey seemed to pose for a few photos before disappearing back into the forest. I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to my wildlife adventure. With the help of my talented guide, I had seen more wildlife in a week than on any trip yet. And the stunning Costa Rica backdrops didn’t hurt either.