A Day Trip to MONO FELIZ (Happy Monkey)

Back in May, our friends, Ken and Sharon, asked Lilliam and I if we would like to go with them to see MONO FELIZ. We jumped at the opportunity. I had seen Sharon’s photos of past trips and we are always game for a day outing.

This ecological refuge is located in the north western part of Chiriquí, close to Costa Rica. The owners, Juancho and Luz Mila, are friends of Ken and Sharon and they had been there several times.

Sharon had invited us on previous occasions and this was the first time we were able to go. What an adventure!

We had to leave early in the morning, because we were going to go along the coastal area and it require that the tide be out. This would give us a few hours to sight see before the tide came back in.

The first part of the trip was easy. David to Puerto Amuellas. I have been to Puerto Amuellas a couple of times and each time it is the drive I enjoyed more than the destination.

From Puerto Amuellas, the road quality will get continuously more challenging. This is definitely four wheel drive territory. Ken kept me in stitches all the way by his story of the first time he had made the trip.

It seems that British friends of ours had told Ken about Mono Feliz. They said they had driven there and it was easy to get to. So as Ken and Sharon headed out on their first trip, Ken thought, “If a crazy Brit can do it, I can do it”.

The trip to Puerto Amuellas was as all the other trips I have made. There was the normal stops where you have to show your residency identification, one before the Frontera (Paso Canoas) and one between Paso Canoas and Puerto Amuellas.

I did have WASE running on my iPhone and was surprised that I had internet connection all the way to and some distance past Puerto Amuellas. The map that WASE showed was very good and other users had accurately identified where police were positioned.

NOTE – Click on all photos to enlarge.

From Puerto Amuellas, the road turned into a dirt road. While unpaved, it was still well maintained. Ken reminded me, “Remember, if a crazy Brit can make it, we can make it”.

I saw few signs that could be used to for navigation. The one I saw the most on our way was for Puerto Balsa. We drove and drove and ken would mention his reminder every now and then, but at this point, I saw nothing all that challenging.

I took a photo as we crossed this one way bridge. It looked secure enough. Certainly, I had driven across much worse in Costa Rica.

We even got back on a stretch of pave road and I was thinking that ken had been pulling my leg about the difficulty of this trip. Ken has a way of embellishing stories sometimes. Don’t tell him I said that. I even felt more confident now that I had seen that Ambulances are here.

In the interest of reducing the number of photos on this post, I have cut out many of the photos that supported Ken’s story. Just remember, “If a crazy Brit can make it, you can make it”. I admit, that we had crossed several areas that the 4×4 Terios I drive, might not have made it.

We finally started toward the beach portion of the drive. Remember, the objective was that we had to be in this portion when the tide was out. This was a slow drive and Ken carefully chose the path he was driving. Where there was sand, there were no tracks other than ours. No one else had been this way today.

OK, now I saw the first area, that I know the Terios would not have made it. Never in my life have I seen a beach with a rock bed surface like this. There are areas here that will remove the transmission and oil pans from your vehicle. I mean. this was like being in some foreign land. Hey, wait a minute. Compared to Texas, this a foreign land.

Leaving the beach, we were back to the well maintained road. Repeat after me, “If a crazy Brit can do it, you can do it”.

Ken made a right turn and we were in a small parking lot and Ken informed us that we were HERE. Mono Feliz had been achieved. Lilliam did the Catholic cross that all Catholics do when they are approaching danger, passing a church, or having just had a frightening experience. I am not sure why she was worried. “If a crazy Brit can make it, certainly we could make it”.

As you saw from the signs, the Mono Feliz refuge has been here since 1997. Now let me tell you, we are in the boonies. There is no electricity, no public water, no telephone, no cell service, no super market. But there are monkeys!

From the parking area, we walked on a well maintained trail. I took this photo of Lilliam looking at some plants she would like to bring home with her. As always, I am bring up the rear.

We took a short respite and had a Breda beer. John Garvey (AKA Juancho), who owns and cares for Mono Feliz said it was being delivered to a market and he had it brought in by horseback. Sometimes a taste of civilization is even more refreshing when you are in a location that is basically as it was hundreds of years a go.

OK, the purpose of this trip was to see some monkeys. Ken had brought a couple sacks of bananas and when the came out, the monkeys magically appeared. The first to arrive were the Capuchin Monkeys. They are a reasonably large monkey and not all that trusting of humans, but trusting enough to come grab a banana from an extended hand.

Luz Mila offered to take us up to the highest point where they had a cabin. Getting there required a pretty steep climb. However once you got there, you did have a beautiful view. Talk about quiet. There was only the rustling of the leaves in the trees and a few bird sounds. This is really being in nature unspoiled.

I took photos of the cabin. As you can see, it is basic. While the price is cheap, the view is priceless.

I took this photo of a Mono Fruit tree, I asked if the fruit was edible and was told that it was only eaten by the moneys, hence the name.

When we returned down the hill, much easier than going up i will tell you, the Capuchin monkeys were still waiting for more bananas. However it was the cute squirrel monkeys that we wanted to see. They would not come out if the Capuchins were around. Capuchins have been known to kill and eat the smaller monkeys, so they are given what ever territory they want.

We were told that the smaller monkeys were currently at another location and walked over there to see them.

This is a photo of Sharon feeding one of the monkeys.

I took several photos of Lilliam feeding them as well.

This photo has a baby being carried on its mother’s back

This photo shows Lilliam doing an acrobatic trick and extending her left arm behind her back and feeding two bananas at once. OK, I made that up. Ken was encouraging the monkeys to crawl on Lilliam’s shoulder.

Lilliam had a ball. These small monkeys were light, sweet and their fur felt like velvet.

Well all good things must come to an end. Sharon had made a copy of the tide times from the Internet and announced that we just had enough time to make it back over the beach route, otherwise we might need to spend the night. Off we went.

I forgot to mention earlier, but part of this trip was passing through an area where petroleum is loaded onto ships. Huge pipelines, with pipes that looked like they were three feet or more in diameter, lined the area and ran out to see. In this area, you are restricted from taking photos, so I didn’t. To drive through the area, you pick up a pass as you enter and drop off the pass as you exit at the other end.

We did the same on the return trip. I think it was at this point that ken told the rest of the “Brit” story. Remember for our whole trip, Ken kept saying, “If a crazy Brit can make it, we can make it”.

Well as it turns out, following Ken’s first trip, he had talked to the Brit. He mentioned several things he had seen and the hazards he had experienced. It turns out that the Brit had stopped before entering the oil area and had not driven in any of the areas Ken had driven.

We had made this trip back in May and I am just getting around to posting it. Part of the reason was a technical problem. I took some great videos. I had a lot of footage taken with the squirrel monkeys. I had loaded them into the PC and watched them. They were a riot. Then when I got ready to write this piece back in May and went to edit the videos, they were gone. I was heart broken. I spent several days trying to figure out how they were lost and if I could find them. I still have one thing I want to try to do and if I find them I will post the video.

This was a GREAT day trip. I want to thank Ken and Sharon for thinking of Lilliam and me. I am confident I would not have been able to have made the trip by myself even if I thought at a crazy Brit had made it. I found THIS Article on the Internet with more information on Mono Feliz. It will give you more directions and options to get there. It also has prices for camping and cabin rentals.

I warn you. This is nature unspoiled. If you can’t get by without city convieniences, plan on a day trip. However, if you want to escape from your everyday world and imagine yourself alone with nature, then pack your camping gear.

If you make it to Mono Feliz, tell Juancho that Don Ray from Chiriquí Chatter told you about Mono Feliz.

11 thoughts on “A Day Trip to MONO FELIZ (Happy Monkey)

  1. looks like a great adventure, love the pics of the ‘undriveable’ area, the rocky ‘beach’, very un usual

  2. Hello Don,

    this peninsula is a real treasure,
    it is one of our preffered beach areas,
    hoping the refinery plans will not come truth.

    Envy greetings, from 15 Brit degrees (called Scotisch summer)


  3. I have been waiting for the Mono trip, thought maybe “stuff” had caused it to be abandoned. Well worth the wait, however.
    The comment about Lilliam wanting plants to take home almost gave me a stroke. One of the hardest habits I had to break Nena of in the states was collecting plants to take home. She was SO used to just picking seeds and buds from everywhere that she couldn’t understand why the parks and public lands frowned on it. Land of the free, my eye! 🙂
    jim and nena
    fort worth

  4. Thanks so much for this piece! It reminds me of a place I’ve heard of from
    who-knows-where, and no one I’ve spoken to here seems to have any know-ledge of it. Can anyone enlighten me regarding a place near Puerto Armuelles
    called Tigre Salvaje?

  5. This area is one of the most beautiful places in Panama. When the wife and i moved from Costa Rica we bought a beachfront lot a few kilometers before the reserve only to find out that Law # 2 and Article 121 of the Panama Tax Code forbid foreign ownership. Needless to say we lost our money and who knows when or if the law suit will finally come to be. We are sure we will never see a penny,but, even more sad is there still selling lots to foreigners and scamming 24/7 down by the point ! There seems to be no way to stop these low life’s. Please know that the bunch of foreigners who think they own there properties do not.
    When Panama want to act ? Or if the local Gov wants the land for any reason these people will learn a horrific lesson ! I did ! Sampson Valverde

  6. Bobbie I made a few videos about my trip to Tigre Salvaje. Here is a link to youtube playlist where you can watch them.

  7. Hi Don: this article brings back memories of the trip I made with a friend of mine from Costa Rica in 1998. It did require permission from the guard at the refinery gate to get through the refinery and out the other side. It wasn’t being used then also. We made the trip in a small 4×4 Suzuki and it was quite an adventure. The beaches we passed by were beautiful and some contained small Indian villages. Passed by a couple of fresh fish restaurants and had lunch at one with a cold beer. It was quite a trip and all the roads were dirt and I didn’t think the Suzuki would make it. I wasn’t driving or I would have turned around way before he did.

  8. Thanks, Don Ray and Ryan. It’s just the kind of place I wanted to find when I came to Panama. Hope I meet some other like-minded people who’d be interested in heading down there to help out.

  9. I my opinion it is good to protect very nice nature as they do, but don’t feed the monkeys, as they can turn into very aggressive animals , be careful, keep them wild!
    Also what is happening with the monkeys when the owners are moving away…

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