In Manuel Antonio
hotels perch on cliffs like palaces
disguising sweeping sea views
with their tall castle walls
Restaurants serve nachos and burgers
to American families
at American rates
The most beautiful beaches are protected
by gates and guards
you must pay to pass
unless you are so bold to climb the cliff
Monkeys and iguanas approach tourists
like ducks and squirrels
making you wonder
is this the jungle
or the zoo?
is written, spoken, expressed
But the sun casts its glow over a sparkling green sea
and at the right time
on the right day
you might be the only one on its warm golden shore
Animals are everywhere
and ever ready
to pose for your perfect picture
from a renowned array of international chefs
the service impeccable
And a town
just beyond the hill
with its markets, and Spanish, and sewage
is right next door
if you need a reminder that you are indeed in Costa Rica.
I could not imagine
a more perfect introduction
to the country that I love
than the beautiful, friendly, easy
Starting at $140 for a studio with kitchenette, two double beds, and panoramic ocean views
Accommodations in Manuel Antonio are pricey, but Hotel Costa Verde strikes a great balance between luxury and affordability. The hotel has several restaurants including L’Avion and El Wagon (see below). You can reach the national park by bus in a few minutes or walk in less than half an hour downhill.
$14 for four bed dorms, $45-60 for private bungalows
Vista Serena sits on the hill between the park and Quepos but manages to keep prices extremely low. Enjoy the same views as luxury hotels from a comfy hammock while conversing with other travelers. Dorm rooms are clean and simple with shared kitchens and bathrooms.
$3-5 for breakfast, $5-8 for lunch
Adorably decorated, delicious, healthy affordable food, incredible coffee and has a panoramic ocean view. The latte and pastries are perfection, the vegetarian omelet is loaded with delicious roasted vegetables, and the sandwiches are perfect for packing for the beach.
$10-20 for dinner
This friendly spot offers ocean views, an enormous and internationally diverse menu, and some of the best food in Manuel Antonio. The menu offers anything from thai spring rolls to bacon cheeseburgers to big satisfying salads to calamari sautéed in garlic, capers and white wine… and it’s all delicious! The brownie sundae is to die for and it seems to be the place to meet fun expats and locals.
$10-30 for dinner
Where else can you enjoy sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean with a cold creamy pina colada next to a vintage airplane? Come here for a delicious tropical umbrella topped cocktail, appetizers, and prompt professional service. I’d put the fried calamari and nachos against the best you’d find in the US.
$10 for a big pizza for two
Any local will tell you this is not only the best pizza in Manuel Antonio, but maybe in the world. Thin crispy wood fired pies come simple and hot and the lively open air space is great for kids.
$8 for a Panini, $3 for a scoop of gelato
Enjoy Panini on your way to the park or indulge in one of twenty amazing flavors of gelato. The coconut and pistachio are my favorite.
Markets in Quepos
Restaurants in Manuel Antonio are pricey and inaccessible from the park. Head to nearby Quepos for inexpensive groceries, bakeries, and delis to assemble your own picnic.
Manuel Antonio National Park
$10 for a day pass, open 7am-4pm
The trails are somewhat disappointing but the beaches are absolutely stunning. Show up early, hike the paths to few points for a couple of hours, then spend the rest of your day at one of the perfect swimming beaches.
Take a Load off
Free to very expensive
Get a massage. Eat a nice meal. Relax at the beach. Manuel Antonio is a place for vacation. So treat yourself. Enjoy it!
Flights from San Jose arrive in nearby Quepos in twenty minutes for around $85. Buses run constantly to the Manuel Antonio National Park, stopping at hotels along the way, or take a short taxi ride.
$95, 3.5 hours for shared shuttle
$45, shared shuttle
3.5 hours, $5
Direct buses leave downtown San Jose at 6an, 12pm, and 6pm for Quepos.
Check the schedule here.
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