If you’re visiting Manuel Antonio on your next trip to Costa Rica, you’re no doubt looking forward to spotting wildlife in the national park, doing adventure activities in the nearby mountains, and relaxing on the beach. But a trip to this area wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the magnificent Pacific coastline by boat. We recently went on a catamaran cruise from Manuel Antonio with some family and friends. In this post, will tell you about our experience and how you can enjoy it too.
What to Expect
We started our tour at the brand new Marina Pez Vela in Quepos. Although Quepos has more of a city feel and the downtown isn’t very scenic, the marina has amazing facilities. Some of the best restaurants in the area are located here, and the views of the bay, especially at sunset, are outstanding.
After waiting for everyone to arrive, it was time to board the boat. There are a few different options for cruises out of Manuel Antonio/Quepos. Since our son, Sam, was only one, we felt the most comfortable going out on the biggest boat, the Ocean King.
The Ocean King is a 100-foot catamaran with two decks (upper and lower), big open areas to relax, two Jacuzzis, a full bar, bathrooms, and waterslides off the back. After boarding, we were given a safety talk by the crew and were briefed about what our morning would entail. First, we would head south to the shores of Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way, we would be looking for whales (seasonal), dolphins, and seabirds. Next, we’d go to a secluded cove for some snorkeling, swimming, jumping, and water-sliding. And finally, we’d enjoy lunch (or dinner depending on your tour time) on the way back to the marina.
For information on booking this tour, see the end of this post.
A Party on the Water
As the boat left the marina and headed into the ocean, the staff put on some upbeat music, set out fresh fruit and light snacks, and opened up the bar. Everyone was allowed four beers and four cocktails each, as well as unlimited juice and soda. Even though it was still mid-morning, the bar got busy with fruity cocktails being handed out with big smiles.
What You’ll See
The views of the hilly green coastline are amazing from out on the boat. While on land it seems like there is a lot of development, from the water you can really appreciate how much of Manuel Antonio and Quepos remains engulfed in thick jungle. Adding to the scenery, we passed small rocky islands and local fishing boats too.
Along the way, we saw some seabirds like the Brown Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird. For those of you into birding, these species are considered pelagic. This means that they spend most of their time over the open ocean, with only short periods of rest on tiny islands or drifting wood. Some of them were showing off and got very close to the boat, which was cool for us birding geeks.
The captain and crew were keeping a lookout for dolphins and humpback whales too, but we weren’t lucky enough to see any on our trip. Dolphins, we were told, can be seen any time of year, but the whales have distinct migration seasons. (Check out our Whale Watching post for more info.) We were at the very start of the December to April migration, which typically has lower numbers of whales. Nonetheless, we had plenty to look at with the islands, birds, and stunning coastline.
It was also interesting to get to see Manuel Antonio National Park from a different angle. As we motored close to shore, one of the crew members told us a little about the park over the P.A. system. Things like how Manuel Antonio National Park is among the smallest parks in the country but also one of the most visited. He then explained about the diversity of wildlife that can be found inside, both on land and in the adjacent area of protected ocean.
The snorkeling and swimming part of the trip was probably our favorite. We stopped in a tranquil cove of the secluded Biesanz Beach. Near the boat there was a rock protruding out of the water that attracted a lot of fish. Although Costa Rica isn’t known for having the clearest water for snorkeling, we were surprised that we could see a lot when we got close up.
The swimming was nice since the water was warm. With the boat parked, the crew opened up the two waterslides off the back and a jumping-off point from the top deck. The slides were a hit with kids and adults alike and really shot you out into the water at the end. The jump from the deck was just scary enough to be fun too. It was about 15 feet high and some of the more adventurous people even dove head first!
After we dried off from the swim and snorkel portion, lunch was already being served. It was buffet style and we were each given a delicious heaping plate with locally caught fish, rice, vegetables, and salad.
Soon it was time to head back to the marina. We took in the views again and got to talk to some of the other people to see where they were visiting from. The crowd was really mixed, with people of all ages from all over the world. We loved the morning tour, but are already looking forward to taking the afternoon one next time. The sunset views are supposed to be spectacular!
Additional Info and Tips
- Staff and Boat: The staff was very professional, but friendly and fun too. The boat itself was in excellent condition, clean and well maintained. We felt very safe on it.
- Rainy Season: Tours are offered twice a day, but during certain times of year when rain is likely later in the day (May through November), they may only run the morning boat.
- Music/Environment: The music on the boat makes for a fun, party-like atmosphere, but it is quite loud, so skip this tour if you’re looking for a quiet excursion.
- Sun: The upper deck is nice and sunny if you want to work on your tan, but the lower deck is mostly covered if you prefer shade.
- Snorkeling: If your main goal is snorkeling, you may be disappointed with this tour. The snorkeling component is only a small portion of the day, as conditions are usually not the best in Manuel Antonio. Caño Island is a wonderful spot for snorkeling, however, and isn’t too far from Manuel Antonio. Tours to Caño leave out of Drake Bay and Uvita (about 1 hr. south of Manuel Antonio). If you want help booking a tour to Caño, email us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.
- Kids: The crew took safety very seriously and had more than enough life jackets for everyone. They had some smaller ones for kids, but nothing small enough for a toddler or baby. If you’re traveling with a little one, we recommend bringing your own lifejacket like we did. We bought this one that goes up to 30 pounds for our one-year old. Also, if you have a toddler, there is a lot of room for them to run around in the middle of the lower deck. This area is surrounded by benches so it is fairly easy to keep track of them too!
- What to Bring: The boat has cubbies that close for your valuables, but we recommend bringing only what you need, just to be safe. You’ll probably want your bathing suit, sun hat, sunglasses, towel, sunscreen, extra clothes, camera, and cash for tips or to buy photos.
- Photographer: The boat has a professional photographer on board. CDs with your personal pictures and some stock ones are available at the end of the tour for $30 (cash only).
Information on Booking a Catamaran Cruise on the Ocean King
If you would like to book this tour, send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your preferred date, time, and number of people. We’ll make all the arrangements for you. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!
$85 Adults | $40 Children 6-10 | $35 Children under 5
9:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. Depending on time of year and number of signups, only one tour time may be offered. Duration: Approximately 4 hrs.
Included in the Tour
Simple snacks and fresh fruit. Lunch (a.m. tour) or dinner (p.m. tour). 8 alcoholic drinks and unlimited non-alcoholic. Equipment for snorkeling. Round trip transportation for hotels in Manuel Antonio/Quepos.
Have you taken a catamaran cruise in Manuel Antonio? What did you think? (Email subscribers, click here to post your comment online.)
Looking for more info about Manuel Antonio? Check out these posts:
- Manuel Antonio Trip Planning – If you’re still early in your vacation planning, use this post to get a feel for Manuel Antonio. Covers things to do and places to stay.
- Manuel Antonio Restaurant Guide – Manuel Antonio has a long list of dining options. Check out our picks from years of living nearby.
- 7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to do Near Manuel Antonio – Looking to get a taste of authentic Costa Rica on your trip? Check out these seven fun activities.