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Coconuts and Banana Boats

Coconuts and Banana Boats

Destination: Manuel Antonio

My flight back to Liberia was scheduled to depart at 2:30 p.m., and I intended to spend every moment of my last morning in Manuel Antonio in the sun and surf.

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After an enormous breakfast of fruit, pancakes and scrambled eggs at The Falls Resort, I began the long walk toward the coast. I collected my French Canadian friends along the way, and the four of us set up camp near the lifeguard stand at the beach.

As I organized a game of Frisbee, the chief lifeguard sounded his whistle and sprinted to the water with a surfboard. Manuel Antonio's public beach is notorious for powerful currents, and even strong swimmers can find themselves caught up in the riptide. The lifeguard swam out a few hundred feet in a matter of minutes, and used the board to tow a teenager to shore. This drill repeated itself at least once every hour, and each time we marveled at how the vigilant lifeguards were able to spot the troubled swimmers.

I could have passed the entire day flicking the Frisbee back and forth -- the best were the throws either too high or too low, when we leapt dramatically in order to complete the catch. Our simple pastime came to a grinding halt when the disc landed in the foamy part of a wave.

Although it had only disappeared for a few seconds, it was nowhere to be found -- the ocean seemed to have swallowed it whole. I scoured the shore for twenty minutes until a group of local children offered to help. I promised a reward of 500 colones, roughly one dollar, to whoever could find it.

Those adorable children searched and searched for that Frisbee. Every 15 minutes they delivered me a status report: "We're sorry miss, but we haven't got it yet -- but we'll find it, don't worry." I came to know them as "the Frisbee kids." It took quite a lot of convincing to get them to disassemble the search party, but the disc was long gone.

Around noon, Miguel from Aguas Azules asked if we wanted to take a ride on the "banana boat," a curved inflatable tube connected to a speedboat by a long rope. Up to six people sit single file as the speedboat zips around the bay, making sharp turns in an attempt to toss people off the banana.

Seated at the front, it was my job to keep the boat balanced and upright. The driver twisted and turned the boat, trying his best to pitch us into the sea. It took him three tries. After much suspense, all six of us crumbled into a heap of lifejackets in the water.

As if this wasn't enough diversion for one day, we rented kayaks and paddled a challenging 45 minutes to Isla Larga, a rocky island offshore. Every muscle in my arms burned by the time we got back, but the pain was completely worth it. To re-energize, I suggested that the French Canadians taste some electrolyte-rich pipas, which are young, green coconuts sold everywhere in Costa Rica.

"You guys haven't tried pipas yet. Man, you are going to love pipas. Pipas are my favorite thing about Costa Rica. I'm going to get you some pipas right now." I stared at them in shock as they fell to the ground laughing. Never in my life have I seen anyone so hysterical -- they were actually crying. After a good five minutes, they informed me that the Spanish word "pipa" is French for "fellatio."

On this lighthearted note, it was time for me to return to The Falls Resort for checkout. I packed my things, had a quick shower and grabbed a taxi to the Quepos airport.

Traveling on Costa Rica's domestic airlines is a pleasure -- the tiny aircrafts instill a sense of camaraderie that you won't find on commercial airlines. Guests are seated very close to one another, often chatting and sharing snacks as if they were on a school field trip. Preparing for departure, I watched the pilots run their fingers over the switchboards. The plane took off and I instantly fell asleep.

Coconuts and Banana Boats in Pictures

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