¡SALUD! to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Getting to Paradise

You will be flying into San Jose (SJO) upon your arrival no matter which airline you choose. The only 2 airlines that will get you to Manuel Antonio from San Jose are Sansa Airlines and Nature Air.The cost for the airplane ride is approximately $140 round trip which is cheaper than renting a car, but more expensive than riding a bus.  The bus is the cheapest option at $8.  You will also pay a $3 exit fee and $5 entry fee back into the airport. These are small planes that will get you to Manuel Antonio in 20 minutes rather than the 3-4 hours a bus or rental car will take. If you are going to ride a bus to Manuel Antonio- here’s your guide: Bus Travel
 
Check Travel Pirates for deals on getting to Costa Rica. I highly recommend these guys to land the best deals if you are traveling from a major metropolitan area.

Packing

Manuel Antonio has humid tropical weather. They have a number of different areas including jungles, estuaries, and now swamp Marsh’s.  Pack accordingly or suffer a similar fate.

Take your time and decide if you want to travel to Costa Rica during the “rainy season”- we arrived at the tail end of it and they are not bluffing.


Rain Drop, Drop Top, Here’s a Picture of it Pouring off my Roof Top 

If you go during the rainy season this will apparently be your weather most of your trip. BRING BINOCULARS IF YOU WANT A GOOD LOOK AT THE WILDLIFE!

Should I rent a car?

I would not recommend renting a car for Manuel Antonio. Most places you want to go are walking distance- like the beach and the jungle. Just be prepared to have your calves skewered by the amount of hills you will be walking.
Actual picture of me calf’n a good time.

Image result for huge calves

WI-FI

Because you will not be spending much time in a car on this trip or navigating in general- no need to purchase the mobile WIFI. Most locations will have WIFI for you.

Where to Stay

We rented an amazing house while we were there, but for the budget conscious I have only one hostel to recommend- Hostel Selina . Selina’s is square in the middle of Manuel Antonio and if you are age 18-30 this is the hip spot to be. It has a pool, pool table, and a fantastic bar within its confines.

 Activities

Here was a list of things to do and their prices to give you an idea.  We chose 3 different excursions as listed below.

Zip Lining

MidWorld Costa Rica

Image result for midworld costa rica

The folks at MidWorld know how to provide a good service. They will pick you up in the morning and take you out the location out in the middle of the jungle. The location is a well-built resort for excursions whether that is zip lining/ATV riding/ etc. Their zip lining tour contains 9 rip roaring lines that will have you riding high on adrenaline the entire time. At the conclusion of the zip lining, you will do a small rappel down a tall tree to get back to the resort in which they will feed you a delicious traditional Costa Rican meal and then drop you back off from where you came.


I know what question you are asking yourself- “Is that the first ever dab on a zip line?”  The answer is yes.

Jungle Tour

The entry fee to the park is $16 and you will be asked countless times to purchase a guide. I do not recommend going with a guide as it is close to $80 per person and you will always be able to see where these guides stop to look because the park is small and they have nowhere to hide.

 

Image result for i will find you wedding crashers


They are adept at using their telescopes to find sloths, but we were able to find multiple sloths/monkey’s/etc. without needing a guide. The Manuel Antonio National Park has 4 path ways total culminating at a beachfront location to end your day. Besides- Many of the animals you see in this sectioned off park can be found while you are walking the town.

White Water Rafting

This was hands down my favorite excursion of our trip. The guys at Amigos Del Rio were incredibly accommodating throughout the experience. They pick you up in the morning, cook breakfast for you, take you on a 1.5 hour ride to the rafting location, guide you down the river, drive you back, cook you lunch, and then take you home- All for $95. I would say it’s the best date I’ve been on in 7 years. Not only is the service amazing, but the people they have working there genuinely love their jobs and have outrageous senses of humor.
 

Ask for Gustavo if you go- Guy knows how to have fun on the river.

Exercise

I recently became a runner in the past few months so finding a good route was paramount. The Manuel Antonio area is exhausting with the amount of hills it contains (good if you are interested in doing some incline training.) The best place to go for a run is on the Manuel Antonio beach. If you do a round trip down the beach and back it amounts to about 2.5 miles.

They have a yoga studio and gym in the middle of town as well. The gym membership at MA fitness will run $40 for 7 days.

Nightlife in Manuel Antonio

The only place worth going at night for me was Selina’s. The place has live music and a young atmosphere. You will find locals and tourists alike. If you plan to travel to Quepos for a night out this guide will help: Guide to Quepos

Where to eat

Picador 

Serve delicious seafood and some great bruschetta. The owner Ignacio was incredibly kind and accommodating to all of his guests to make sure everybody was enjoying their dinners. They have craft brew on tap and specialize in specialty shots!

Emilio’s Cafe

Get the curry or the cinnamon encrusted seabass.. but mostly the curry. Just get the curry and stop asking questions. Curry.

Apparently there is good breakfast here as well.

Falafel Bar

If you’re a big Mediterranean fan, this is the place to go. Delicious food. Ranked #1 on trip advisor.

Café Agua Azul

 

This place is always packed and rightfully so. Everything they have on the menu is fantastic. They also have creatively named monstrous burgers for $12

El Avion

Famous for the cargo plane it is built around- the food is good not great and the drinks are cheap.

Victoria’s

Italian food. If you are dying for some linguine or spaghetti and meatballs check this place out.

Miscellaneous

  • The sunsets are spectactular- felt like a different array of colors every night.  Soak them in at different locations
  • The currency is the colón.  Current exchange rate is 548/1 American Dollar.
  • Quick exchange calculation- Multiply the price in colón’s by 2 and remove the last 3 digits.  Ex:  Fajitas are 6000 = 6000 x 2 = 12,000 = remove last 3 digits= approx $12 American dollars.
  • Most things purchased will have a 13% tax and restaurants add a 10% tip onto your bill
  • Take the time to rate these places on http://www.tripadvisor.com – this is their means of living
  • Negotiate the prices on your beach chairs you rent- $6 per chair is good.
  • Beware of the jet ski’s- People are irresponsible and ride close to the swimming area
  • You may run into a jellyfish or 9 in the water
  • The monkey population is awesome. Extremely interactive throughout the trip.  The locals refer to them as “The Mafia”
  • Brush up on your Spanish before you go- approx. 50% of the population will be able to communicate fluent English with you
  • Salud is your word for Cheers!

Travel Accommodations made for you!

Take a look at the guys at Under30Experiences.  They have a fantastic operation running through Manuel Antonio and other countries where they will guide you through your visit with other people from around the country.  Where they are different is they only accept people ages 21-35 and will not bus you around like a tourist. Think of it as solo traveling to another country and experiencing it with new best friends.  Study abroad for adults perhaps.  They are looking to give the most authentic individualized experience in every country and will take the hassle out of your trip.  Highly recommended for those who want to travel and do not want to do it alone!

 

Overall, Manuel Antonio is a beautiful place for wildlife admiration and relaxation away from traditional resorts. You will find that the area is full of extremely genuine people who care about making sure your stay is memorable!

If you liked this travel review –  follow on Instagram @hopsonplanes

Salud,
Chris

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Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Arkansas, Chris is living vicariously through himself as a corporate escape artist and self proclaimed decreaser of world sucking. Currently based out of San Diego, he graduated from Arkansas with a dual degree in finance and economics and is a travel writer, entrepreneur, and project manager. He thoroughly enjoys traveling, humor, and beer so he created Hops On Planes. He prefers his puns intended and speaking in 3rd person.

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