Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Well, here it is! My first post from Central America!  Very excited to be in Costa Rica.  It has been at the top of my travel wishlist for a very long time. And now here I am.

First stop in Costa Rica (for pretty much everyone that flies in) is San Jose.  It’s not the most exciting city, but it is a great transport hub to see the rest of the country from.  I spent a few days in the city, checking out the National Museum, and eating all the Costa Rican food.  But pretty soon, it was time to get out of the rainy city, and into a park/beach/small town.  I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for.  Luckily, in Quepos I found the best of all the worlds.
Just south west of San Jose, Quepos is a small town on the Pacific coast.  A winding mountain road connects the town of Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park.  It’s the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but its stunning beauty, and the relative ease of getting there make it a popular tourist site.
The town itself is nice, and has some good restaurants and shops.  Everything is cheaper in Quepos, compared to the more expensive tourist trap outside of the park.  But it is indeed that place about which this blog will be based.
I set off with a fellow backpacker in the morning to see the national park.  Despite my nearly allergic reaction to mornings, we got an early start.  The park is $16 to get in, so I wanted to make sure I got there early to get my money’s worth.  Also, because of the popularity of the park, the rangers have begun limiting the number of people that can enter per day.  This is to protect the animals from getting too used to humans.  So, if you’re reading this because you’re planning to go-go early.  Plus-it’s worth it to be there when it’s quieter.

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The first fork of the main trail gave an interesting option- right: to the beach, left: to the waterfall.  We went left, and hiked a little ways out into the forest- but overall the waterfall was not that exciting.  Somewhat smaller than I had been hoping it would be.  It was still interesting, however, because for the most part, we were the only ones on that trail- so it was really quiet and peaceful.

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Post waterfall, we headed to the beach.  This was the part I was most excited by, because I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before.  I was definitely not dissapointed.  The main beach in the park is Playa Manuel Antonio.  This beach was almost picture perfect, what I had thought Pacific beaches would be like.  All white sand and clear blue water.  Luckily, I found a great piece of driftwood under a tree, and sat for a bit enjoying the view.

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One thing you do have to be careful of in the park is losing your food at the beaches.  Hungry white faced monkeys and raccoons spend the day leisurely looking for food to steal.  Luckily, my piece of driftwood also had a long stick nearby, so I could shoo away the raccoons.

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The monkeys never came close enough that I had to shoo any away- though to be honest, I would probably have been fine, even if they had.  They were cute.  And so unafraid of people it was kind of shocking. I’ll put in a word here about the sloths.  There are many sloths in Manuel Antonio.  If you want to see them, however- hire a guide.  The sloths are high up in trees, and very hard to see on your own.

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A narrow strip of land seperated Playa Manuel Antonio from Playa Espadilla Sur.  It also connects the mainland to what used to be an island, Punta Catedral.

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The walk around Punta Catedral takes about a half hour, and goes around the edge-giving you multiple scenic views.  It ends (or starts… depending on which direction you start in) in a quiet little cove, cut off from Playa Manuel Antonio by some rocks.  This place was my favorite.  I got to hust sit on the rocks with my feet in the water, until the water got too high for that.

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After leaving the park I went for late lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the street near the beach.  Here you can find all sorts of food, from sushi to all day breakfast.  I went for the casado which is Costa Rican typical food.  And delicious.  And pretty cheap (though it would have been cheaper to go back to Quepos for lunch)

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The next day, I spent on the main beach outside of Manuel Antonio National Park.  Playa Espadilla is quite long, and provides many options to anyone looking for a day at the beach.  Surfing, swimming, parasailing, horseback riding… it’s all on offer.  I chose to kick back in a beach chair with a giant umbrella, watching the surfers.

The great thing about the beach was that, due to its size, the main area by all the shops was very busy… but a walk in either direction takes you to a much more calm beach in that feels like you’re in the wilderness.  Interesting to note, that during high tide the water can come up to nearly the tree line.

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Anyway, to sum it up?  Manuel Antonio and Quepos are a great place to spend a few days.  Enjoy.  Soon, I’ll be off- heading further down the Pacific coast.  🙂

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