Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea - Page 2

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White-Faced Monkeys
I SPY: Take a guided wildlife hike and catch sight of white-faced monkeys chasing each other through the trees  (Corel)

The next activity? Flying above the rainforest canopy, harnessed to a cable, cruising from platform to platform. An extremely popular tourist activity, ziplining has practically become Costa Rica's national sport. Numerous outfitters in the Quepos area offer zipline rides through the trees. If you prefer a slower view from the top of the rainforest, head to Rainmaker National Refuge, a short drive outside of town. Here, a naturalist leads you through the dense brush, past centuries-old cashew trees with long hanging vines and the thick roots and buttresses of the ficas tree. Under the large leaves of the elephant ear rhododendron, we spotted sleeping bats. Brown and green hummingbirds flew by on their way to fragrant heliconia, and a bird-eating snake poked its head out of a teak tree.

While conducting research in the rainforest, scientists built a series of six hanging bridges, now the highlight of the refuge. One of these canopy bridges stretches the length of a football field, overlooking a waterfall to the left and the Pacific to the right. High atop a ravine, we observed blue-throated hummingbirds bathing in the falls and heard the call of the toucan. Upon returning to the main lodge, we drank fresh starfruit and tamarind juice.

The town of Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio, is a hub for both fishing and sea kayaking. Fishing charters take families to the deep water to hook sailfish, marlin, and tuna on full-day or half-day excursions. Our family likes paddling more than fishing, so we took a guided sea kayaking tour of the coast through sheltered bays, stopping at abandoned beaches to snack and snorkel. Iguana Tours (www.iguanatours.com) has a varied selection of paddling routes along the shoreline or inside an estuary through a shaded mangrove forest.

Nature beckons around every corner in the Manuel Antonio region. Across the street from our family-friendly hotel, Si Como No, a garden swarmed with an array of exotic butterflies. Our favorite, the owl butterfly, had a large circle on its orange and black wing that looks like an owl's eye. Giant blue morphs shimmered about, their vibrant colors emanating against the green backdrop. Of course, you can see these graceful creatures floating above you on Manuel Antonio's trails, but rarely will they stop to rest on your son's Red Sox baseball cap. That's what they call a Kodak moment in Costa Rica.

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