By M.J. Dunphy
One would think that after two amazing experiences for previous decade birthdays, one would be jaded and a tad ho-hum about one’s 80th celebration.
Guess again. Even with the help of the Internet and some basic research on Manuel Antonio, we were little prepared for the beauty and diversity of our destination. Manuel Antonio is a small oceanside village located off Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. The region is a treasure for biodiversity, with 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds, some of which are extinct in other parts of the world. It’s also “monkey” heaven, with friendly and assertive white-headed capuchin monkeys who think nothing of joining the humans for dinner or at least helping themselves to the bananas sitting on the dining room table.
But I am getting ahead of myself! We departed Philly in typical late November autumn weather to find ourselves a few hours later setting down at the San Jose International Airport in sunny, warm Costa Rica. Staying overnight in San Jose allowed us to travel inland to Manuel Antonio in full daylight on Saturday and not miss any of the scenery, including a short stop to hang out with alligators, locals and other turistas along the way!
Appearing as if poised for our arrival, we reached Manuel Antonio and our villa, Casa Las Brisas, sitting at the edge of the rainforest. This distinctive vacation rental is managed by Escape Villas.com and was our home for the next magical week. Pictures don’t do it justice; let’s just say it was like dropping into a movie set with jungle greenery, a pool on each level and privacy for our family and friends to hang out and relax. The staff, including a private chef, quickly became family. The meals were divine for the 23 of us, ages 2 to 80. We chose local foods that were cooked to perfection!
My goal was to zip line for my 80th birthday and Safari Adventures certainly delivered on the adrenaline rush we sought via a canopy zip line that was utterly awesome and topped off with a typical and yummy Costa Rican lunch and a splash in the crystalline waters at the end of the line.
All in all, the week sped by, but not before leaving a million memories and impressions of friendly, hospitable people all along the way; of moments with my loved ones that will last forever; my birthday dinner with everyone around the huge table dressed in tee shirts (made on-site for the occasion) that announced “Granny’s 80th birthday adventure”; sunrises and sunsets worth filming; a walk on the beach hand-in-hand with my son, John; a yellow hibiscus in my hair in honor of my mom. Our Thanksgiving meal overflowing with gratitude for all that was, all that is and all that will be! Amen.
I leave you with Costa Rica’s national greeting: Pura Vida. Simply, “life is good here.” It is and it shows in the broad smiles and generous hearts of this gentle country’s people.