MANUEL ANTONIO – THE CENTRAL PACIFIC beach and nature paradise
How to get there
For a safe and comfortable door-to-door service Interbus is a tourist transportation company with over 25 years of experience in providing passengers with a smooth ride between destinations. Our shuttle leaves San Jose daily at 7:30am for the 4 ½ hour journey to Manuel Antonio. There are also daily shuttles from Jaco Monteverde and La Fortuna. Book your shuttle here
Travelers are advised to take one of the direct buses which leave from the Trapoca Bus Station ten blocks from the Plaza de Cultura in San Jose rather than the regular buses which stop frequently for passengers to get on or off. This is the cheapest option between San Jose and Manuel Antonio. Visitors should keep a close eye on luggage and valuables.
For a fast travel option it is possible to fly from San Jose to Quepos. Do consider that flights are quite expensive and there are luggage weight limitations. Weather conditions often affect flights so check on the flight status before heading to the airport.
What should I do?
There’s so much to do in the Quepos and Manuel Antonio area but the must-see on every visitor’s list should be:
Manuel Antonio National Park
Established in 1972 Manuel Antonio is the country’s smallest National Park but consisting of less than 5000 acres; the protected area offers the visitor with a wealth of biodiversity. There are 109 species of mammals including raccoons sloths and monkeys 352 recorded species of birds and many reptiles such as caiman crocodiles and snakes in addition to a wide variety of marine life.
The park is closed to visitors on Tuesdays so plan your itinerary accordingly. Do note that bags are checked before entering the park to prevent any foods which could be dangerous for wildlife being brought into the park. There are changing shower and restrooms facilities within the park for visitor use. Tickets for entry to the park must be purchased in advance online. There are many guides available to visitors who want to see more of the nature within the park although it is a good idea to ask for recommendations from your hotel.
Within the part’s boundaries are four beaches which visitors can enjoy. The most popular is Manuel Antonio which is a good spot for snorkeling and iguanas often stroll across the sands. Look out for the pre-Colombian turtle trap at the Punta Cathedral end of the beach for a glimpse into the past. South Espadilla Beach is less crowded but visitors should watch out for currents. The striking Gemelas Beach is named for the Spanish word for twins as it is divided in two by a rock formation whereas the walk down to Playa Puerto Escondido provides stunning views.
Cathedral Point was once an island but the accumulation of sediment has led to its reattachment to the coastline by a sand ridge known as a tombolo. Clearly marked trails provide access to the different areas of the park such as the viewing point at Punta Serrucho the waterfall which is visible in Green Season and the incredible mangroves. The Universal Trail is designed to be accessible to all with carefully created pathways and braille signage.
In sharp contrast to the beaches within the national park Playa Espadilla is filled with souvenir and snack vendors vying their wares beach lounger rental and the chance to participate in a wide range of activities from parasailing over the ocean to inflatable banana rides. Visitors can find a shady spot for catching up on vacation reading or the ultimate adrenalin ride over the waves. Do note that there can be strong currents.
The town of Quepos is the best choice for restaurants nightlife shopping and cheaper hostels or cabins but visitors who want to have the budget and inclination for quieter mid-range to luxury accommodation may want to consider staying in one of the hotels on the clifftops on the winding road downhill towards the small village of Manuel Antonio. The drive to or from Quepos takes only 15 minutes by taxi or on the frequently running local buses.
Sport fishing is a popular tourist activity and the cost of the trip can be shared with other fishermen to make it a more affordable day or half-day out at sea. Expect to catch fish like marlin sailfish snapper tuna and amberjack.
Surfing is a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. Rent a surfboard by the hour or day to catch ten on the Playa Espadilla waves. New surfers can learn the ropes with experienced surfers just sign up at one of the beach stands. If hiking through the rainforest has not been enough nature then consider a night jungle tour to get up close with nocturnal animals like tiny tree frogs.
Kayaking through the mangroves combines an energetic water sport with wildlife spotting for a fun half-day tour.
Many visitors enjoy a catamaran cruise which may include snorkeling although a sunset ride with sundowner cocktails as part of the package is a very popular excursion. There is also ziplining horseback riding ATV riding rafting and canyoning available nearby.
When should I visit?
The high season is from December to April which is summertime although the fishing season runs from December to August. March and April are usually the hottest months of the year and visitors should expect September to bring more rain than in other months. However the Green Season between May and November is not as busy as other times of the year and provides visitors with better opportunities to enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty of the area.
Where should I go next?
For a week’s vacation many visitors like to combine beach time with a few days at the cloud forest like Monteverde or at a volcano like Arenal. A longer stay would allow time to head further south to enjoy more beach time at Uvita or Dominical and even to head to the other coast for Caribbean vibes.