Bucket List: Slothcation in Costa Rica
Group of six friends heads to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, in search of sloths, ziplines and chill times
On a whim, I-Ping Chiang and five friends decided to fly to Costa Rica to relax at the beach and, more importantly, see their favorite animal—the slow-moving sloth—in its native habitat. They used airbnb and homeaway to find deals on where to stay, and saved for about three or four months by cooking meals at home instead of dining out.
Why Costa Rica? And how did you rally the whole squad for this trip?
Our group of friends simply liked sloths and wanted a “Slothcation.” We found that Costa Rica offered many beautiful landscapes, and is a relaxing destination that offers a lot of options for a group of six. We could choose to get a tan and lay on the beach, go ziplining or a nature hike—it was all there for us.
In the planning stages, the easiest way for my friends to organize and agree on the destination, accommodations and activities was to get everyone together for a meet-up. We booked tickets on the spot, and created lots of Google Docs to figure out what we wanted to do and what we needed to bring … and make a collaborative Spotify playlist, of course.
How would you plan your trip differently if you could do it all over again?
Midway through the trip, we realized we didn’t end up needing our Hertz car rental and could have saved money there. Our airbnb in Manuel Antonio was in walking distance to the beach and a selection of restaurants, and the local bus system was convenient. With our large group, it was safe to walk around at night.
Looking back, it would have helped if we planned ahead and brought some light snacks to share since we stayed in a touristy area that had New York-like prices.
What was the stand-out highlight of your trip?
The biggest highlight of our Slothcation was getting up-close with sloths at the Manuel Antonio National Park (we had to live up to the trip’s name). It was cool to finally see them in IRL, and we even spotted two sloths at our Airbnb.
Ziplining with El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tour was another story. We were all a bit anxious, but one friend who was really afraid of heights got stuck at one point. For the sake of anonymity, let's call this friend Gretchen. With some help from the staff and cheering from the family behind us, we all made it through. By the end, everyone was chanting, "Gretchen! Si se puede!" I'm pretty scared of heights too, but it was actually not that bad. (I'm probably not going to zipline again unless I was offered a million dollars tax-free though.) After our adventure, El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tour treated us to a homemade lunch of roasted chicken, beans and plantains.
What advice do you have for first-time travelers?
The best advice I could give to first-time travelers is to stay curious and open-minded. Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, and that comes with a wild side. By that, I mean mother nature knows how to rain on your party every day and you might unexpectedly find a medium-sized lizard chilling in your living room. All things considered, it's rewarding to be so close to the indigenous wildlife that you only get to see on the Internet or in National Geographic. Also, bring some lightweight, water-repellent clothes and plenty of bug spray to avoid mosquito bites.
What was a challenge of traveling with a big group?
One regret was not making it to Irazu Volcano National Park, but sometimes you have to compromise for a larger group. Ultimately, we didn’t have that much time and didn’t want to run-a-round trying to do everything.
What is one thing everyone MUST do when visiting Manuel Antonio?
The one thing I think everyone should do is find some delicious fish tacos near the beach and take in all the beautiful scenery and culture. Unfortunately, my favorite spot, El Gato Pescador, closed, but so many other nearby restaurants make great fish tacos too. Some other restaurants I enjoyed in town were El Avion for fresh seafood and Gato Negro Restaurant for Italian. Restaurant Angel is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and roasts their own coffee beans.
I-Ping is a Brooklyn-based art director with big ideas—like the Tortilla Towel, which took the Interwebs by storm last summer as it vowed to turn any human into a burrito, taco or quesadilla. Keep your eyes peeled for the Turkish Tortilla Towel, which is set to debut this year. And if you like weird stuff (Cholula hot sauce packets, dogs that pose like Nicholas Cage), be sure to check out the PingPanther on Instagram.