7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do Near Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations. With a gorgeous beach, lush rainforest, and tons of wildlife, it is no surprise that it’s a favorite among visitors. Although part of Manuel Antonio’s appeal is how convenient it is to activities and tourist amenities, the small community sometimes can feel a bit congested, especially during peak travel months. Luckily, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path things to do just a short drive from town. Below we share seven day trips for exploring the Manuel Antonio area off the tourist trail.

 

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

1.  Hiking and Hanging Bridges at Rainmaker Conservation Park

Manuel Antonio National Park right in town is no doubt a great place to see wildlife. But it can get crowded, with long lines to get in and busy trails. If you’re looking for somewhere more authentic, consider Rainmaker Conservation Park. Rainmaker is a 2,000 hectare (5,000 acre) reserve just north of Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Although it is only a half-hour away, the setting is completely different. Once you get off the main highway, you’ll travel on a quiet dirt road through quaint Tico towns without a tourist in sight.

The reserve itself has a nice trail that loops past several waterfalls and along rustic hanging bridges. Rainmaker is mostly primary rainforest so it doesn’t have as many monkeys as Manuel Antonio, but it does have lots of other interesting wildlife like glass-winged butterflies, poison dart frogs, tons of birds, and even snakes.

 

Rainmaker Conservation Project | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Cost: $20 for a self-guided tour

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: About 30 minutes

For more information on visiting Rainmaker, check out our separate post: Rainmaker Conservation Park: Unspoiled Nature Near Manuel Antonio.

2.  Hiking, Waterfalls, and a Cable Car at Los Campesinos

For those wanting an even further off-the-beaten-path activity, there’s Los Campesinos. Los Campesinos is a little known rural tourism organization deep in the mountains north of Quepos. It takes about an hour from Manuel Antonio to get there. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming Tico villages in the heart of the countryside. The drive is a bit of an adventure, along bumpy and sometimes steep dirt roads, but entirely worth the effort. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a friendly local at the small ticket booth/store where you can buy your tickets for exploring this wonderful nature reserve.

Los Campesinos has a few different trails. One shorter trail goes down to a river and waterfall where you can take a dip in the refreshing water. Another goes deeper into the jungle and up to a lookout where on clear days, you can see Manuel Antonio National Park in the distance. On this trail, you have the option of flying across a shallow valley in a self-propelled cable car! The third trail, which is the highlight for most visitors, is the one right near the entrance. This one crosses an extremely long hanging bridge over a lofty waterfall. In addition to the hiking, a highlight of Los Campesinos is the traditional lunch that local women prepare over a wood-burning stove for $10.

 

Los Campesinos Cable Car | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Cost: ₡4,400 (about $8) for a self-guided tour. Local guides from the association are available for an additional fee.

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: About 1 hour

3.  La Iguana Chocolate

One of the most delicious tours near Manuel Antonio is the La Iguana Chocolate tour. The Salazar Garcia family has been farming a four hectare (10 acre) plot in the mountains of Mastatal for nearly 30 years and recently started focusing on cacao. They grow some of the finest bean-to-bar organic chocolate we’ve ever tasted, flavoring it with fruits and spices that come straight from the farm. We’ve been on a few different chocolate tours before, but what we really liked about La Iguana was the intimate feel. The son of the family, Jorge, personally took us around the property, showing us each step of the chocolate-making process. We got to try our hand at grinding the raw cacao and even practiced tempering the liquidy chocolate goodness.

 

La Iguana Chocolate | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Cost: $20 per person

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: 2-2.5 hours. La Iguana is located in the hills on the road to Puriscal, which used to connect Quepos to San Jose before construction of the new highway. While it takes some time to get there because the road is rough, the drive is scenic through rural villages and pineapple fields.

For more information about La Iguana Chocolate, read our separate post: Making Organic Chocolate at La Iguana Chocolate.

4.  Spice Farm Tour at Rainforest Spices

For a food tour closer to Quepos and Manuel Antonio, check out Rainforest Spices. This working farm 16 km (10 miles) outside Quepos grows a plethora of spices and exotic fruits. Vanilla and ceylon cinnamon are their specialties, but they also cultivate cocoa, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, and much more. The tour takes place at the plantation. For part of it, you’ll walk along a jungle trail, learning more about how the different spices are grown. Later on, you get a chance to taste them. The in-house pastry chef is known for preparing some delicious treats showcasing the spices that will have you stocking up on your own supply to bring home.

 

Rainforest Spices | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Cinnamon Bark. Photo Credit: Roy Luck

 

Cost: $45

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: About 30 minutes

5.  Kids Saving the Rainforest

Since 1999, Kids Saving the Rainforest has been rescuing and rehabilitated rainforest animals that are injured or orphaned in the wild. They treat over 130 animals a year and are one of the most well-respected wildlife centers in Costa Rica. KSTR made international news earlier this year after performing the world’s first ever C-section in an effort to save a mother sloth and her baby.

You can tour the Kids Saving the Rainforest wildlife sanctuary to learn more about this organization’s amazing work and of course to see some creatures close up. Some of the animals you might see on the tour are several types of monkeys, including spider monkeys, white-faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, marmosets, as well as sloths, kinkajous, and parrots.

 

Sloth at Kids Saving the Rainforest | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
A rescued two-toed sloth

 

Cost: Suggested Minimum Donation, Adults- $60; Children under 12- $45; Children under 3- free. All proceeds go to helping the animals.

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: About 20 minutes

6.  Playa Biesanz (Biesanz Beach)

Everyone who visits Manuel Antonio goes to the main beach, Playa Espadilla, but there’s another lesser known spot that is worth a visit. Playa Biesanz is a deep cove with sparkling turquoise water and peaceful jungle surrounds. It’s a favorite beach among the locals, and on weekends, you’re likely to see families stocked up for the day with bags full of food and maybe even hammocks. The best part about Playa Biesanz is that, while many of the beaches in the Manuel Antonio area have rougher water, Biesanz has calm water that is perfect for swimming. This makes it a great place to bring children.

 

Playa Biesanz Manuel Antonio | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Cost: Free. If you have a car, there is sometime an attendant who will keep an eye on it for you for a small tip.

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: N/A, right in town. Playa Biesanz is located on the road to Punta Quepos near the Parador Resort. To access the beach, you have to walk through the forest for about five minutes. Look for a small opening in the gate on the right side of the road at the bottom of the hill.

7.  Quepos Farmers Market

If you’re going to be in Manuel Antonio on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to hit up the farmers market in Quepos. This is one of the bigger ferias in the area and it offers an assortment of goodies. You can find everything from exotic fruits and veggies to artisanal cheeses, homemade pies, breads, and ice-cream, and even handcrafted souvenirs. Visiting the farmers markets will not only teach you about the multitude of produce that is grown locally in Costa Rica, but will also show you the culture. Most of the patrons at the feria are locals out in their daily routines, picking out produce for their restaurants or families.

The feria is open on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Look for it on the seawall in downtown Quepos.

 

Hot Peppers at the Quepos Farmers Market | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

 

Cost: Free

Travel Time from Manuel Antonio: 5-10 minutes

 

* * * 

Manuel Antonio may be best known for its namesake park, beautiful beach, and abundance of tours, but there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path things to do in the area. Each of these seven activities is sure to give you a taste of authentic Costa Rica.

What has been your most memorable experience in Manuel Antonio? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Related Posts

Family Itinerary for Costa Rica
Family Itinerary for Costa Rica: Rainforest, Beach, and Volcano
Palo Verde National Park Boat Tour
Palo Verde National Park: A Wildlife Tour Through Guanacaste’s Wetlands
Waves at Playa Avellanas
Playa Avellanas: Sun, Surf, and Fun in Guanacaste
Playa Dantita from Above
Playa Dantita: A Serene White Sand Beach in Guanacaste

97 Comments

  1. Hey Matt & Jenn,

    We’ve been in Manuel Antonio for a couple of days now and after enjoying the park & Playa Biesanz we were looking for something to do tomorrow & couldn’t decide between Los Campesinos & Rainmaker. So glad I found your website, wealth of great info! For you travelers out there in the area: we had a great dinner at La Bahia right over the bridge after the marina. Not a tourist to be seen & half the prices from the regular places around town. Don’t let the goofy karaoke & disco lights scare you, just walk thru & score a table right on the water. Our waiter was Alonzo & he took wonderful care of us. Peaked in the kitchen and it was clean. Caveat: bathrooms could use some attention so plan accordingly. Think we’ll do Rainmaker only because it’s a shorter drive than Los Campesinos, but input welcome!

    1. Hi Liesbeth, What a great trip report to help people plan. We’ll have to check out that La Bahia restaurant, we love finding little local spots. I think we’re a little late on helping you decide between Rainmaker and Los Campesinos- luckily, both are great so you can’t really make a wrong decision!

    2. Can’t offer any suggestions however – did you stay in the Manuel Antonio area? If so, where? Any place to buy groceries? We are contemplating a trip in January. Thanks. Mary Lou

    3. Planned a trip to MA CA and we will be there for 2 days last week of decemeber fly of 5 with 2 kids.
      I know one day will go in MA park tour and beach .we have one more day .please let me know what activities can we do. we are coming from la fortuna and monteverde .so we would have done hiking ,zipline and hanging bridges.

      1. Hi MSP, A fun activity with kids in Manuel Antonio is the boat or kayak tour at Isla Damas. You can see a lot of wildlife on this tour, especially monkeys, and it includes a cultural element since the tour ends with a meal at the family’s home. Other ideas are whitewater rafting, waterfall rappelling, or a catamaran cruise. Let us know if you’d like help booking any of these. We also work with an excellent guide for Manuel Antonio National Park. Just contact us through our Tour Booking page for more info.

  2. If you are looking for a fabulous little local place for breakfast you must check out the omelets at El Arado. I had the western omelet that was probably one of the all time best. Loaded with ham and cheese and sweet red and green peppers. These gracious people are a true farm to table restaurant with delicious dishes. Tell them Bodie and Suzanne from Texas sent you.

  3. Great info! I am looking forward to our trip in 2 weeks to Manuel Antonio. Thanks for all the info – from packing list to where to get me morning coffee! Excited!!

  4. Hi! Great list of information. In researching Los Campesinos and Rainmaker, they seemed somewhat similar — waterfalls, suspension bridge. I’m confident that I’ve oversimplified, so I would be curious to get your insight into the differences. I think that we will only have time for one. Thanks!

    1. Hi Natalie, Yes, they have similarities but are very different. Both are off the beaten path, but Los Campesinos much more so. Los Campesinos is way out in the country and takes longer to get to due to rough roads (4×4 only). It’s also a little harder to do self-guided unless you’re only going for the bridge and waterfalls. These trails are very short and easy to follow. If you want to do the longer trail that goes to a lookout, last time we were there anyway, this trail was not well trodden and somewhat difficult to follow. You can easily take a guided tour, though, if you’re looking to do this hike.

      Rainmaker is also set in a rural area but is closer to Manuel Antonio and much easier to get to. It’s more popular than Los Campesinos but still feels very authentic and doesn’t get too busy usually. Rainmaker has nicely defined trails and many hanging bridges, as opposed to Campesinos, which only has the one long bridge. Both have a great lunch, which we highly recommend!

  5. Hi, my husband and two girls (7 & 11) will be traveling to CR the last week of March. We are planning on 4 nights in La Fortuna/ Arenal and was thinking of three days in Samara. Would you recommend that we stay in MA vs. Samara. We have the Montelaguna hotel booked in Samara and the Nayara Springs hotel booked. We could change our plans from Samara to MA if you think its better. We were hoping for beach time on this leg and a more active trip in La Fortuna. We thought we should fly into Liberia and out of San Jose. We have not booked flights yet but have some on hold. Thank-you!

    1. Hi Julie, Samara is a very family friendly beach town that you will probably really enjoy. Playa Samara and Playa Carrillo, which is very close to Hotel Montelaguna, both have smaller waves and are good for swimming. The main area of town is cute and very walkable. Manuel Antonio is great for families too, but I wouldn’t switch it if you already have things booked. The only advantage I can think of with Manuel Antonio is that Samara will be getting dry since that time of year since it will be almost the end of dry season. The forest won’t be as green, but otherwise, Samara will be just as good.

      For airports, flying into either San Jose or Liberia would work with La Fortuna as your first stop. For your return, Liberia is less of a drive from Samara so go with that if it makes sense with flight times/prices.

  6. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Your site has been so helpful! My husband and 18 yr. old daugter will be flying into Liberia on March 1st for a two week stay in Costa Rica. We will first head to M.A. for 5 nights, on to La Fortuna for a 5 night stay, then back to the coast for our last 5 nights on the Nicoya Peninsula. We want to rent a car for the entire trip. Do you recommend a certain car rental business that would work well for our entire stay? We fly out of Liberia on the 17th of March.
    Thank you, Mary

    1. Hi Mary, The car rental company that we recommend is Adobe Rent a Car. They have new, reliable cars and good customer service. They also are very transparent with how they do quotes. What you are quoted is what you will actually pay when you arrive, unlike some companies that aren’t upfront about extra fees that can really add up. The great things is that we also get a discount through them for our readers of 10-25%. We have a lot more information about this company and our discount on our Rental Car page. Hope that helps!

      1. Hi thanks for your post, so much great info! Do you have any recommendation on where to stay? We’re 2 adventurous couples in our 30’s who like the idea of “off the beaten path”. We’re flying into SJO on 12/26 and we’re trying to figure out where to go/see and stay until we head to Jaco 12/30 for NYE. We will be in Costa Rica for a total of 2 weeks. Any recommendations welcome. Thank you.

        1. Hi Courtney, We have some accommodation recommendations in our Manuel Antonio destination guide. But Manuel Antonio itself really isn’t off the beaten path, especailly around Christmas and New Years when it is usually busy. While the activities we give in this blog post are off-the-beaten path, most of the hotels and accommodations are right in town. So we’d recommend staying somewhere outside town.

          A little south of Manuel Antonio in the beach town of Matapalo is a really cute B&B that is great for couples called Jardin de los Monos. This might be a good option because the town is really small so sees a lot less tourists than Manuel Antonio, but you’re still only about 20 min. away. You could also explore Dominical and Uvita to the south from here. This would show you a less developed part of the country before you head to Jaco. Hope that helps!

  7. Hi, Mary again,

    In addition to car rental info., any tips on what to see or do, or eat :-), on the way to M.A from Liberia, M.A. to La Fortuna, and La Fortuna to Nicoya would be so appreciated. Looking forward to hearing from you! Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary, This is the type of thing we do for our itinerary clients, but you could take a look at our Map for some ideas. We do have posts on different attractions between those destinations. We would caution you, though, about making long stops with all of your bags in the car. It’s not a good idea to do that because of theft. You can read our Safety post for more tips about staying safe with a rental car. If you do need to stop, sometimes places have a parking attendant or we always try to find a restaurant where we can pull the car right up and watch it when we stop to eat.

  8. Hi guys: Love your website, it is so helpful. I am inquiring about Los Campensinos. I have been given prices to stay overnight with meals would be 85 per person and then they suggest we would need a tour guide for an additional 60 dollars? This sounds a lot more expensive that what you have listed above. Your input would be greatly appreciated. We will have a rental car to travel in btw.

    1. Hi Kim, We did the hike self-guided, which I think is still an option. $60 for a guide does seem a little high. Are you going directly through the association? A travel agent could be adding a markup. The per person nightly rate with meals does seem reasonable.

  9. Good morning! Im curious to know if know of ways to get to “Los Campesinos” if we’re NOT renting a car?

    Im taking my 12 year old son there in July. Can you recommend any other cool places for us? Would you recommend me renting a car for a day or 2?

    Thanks
    Jason

    1. Hi Jason, A car is the easiest and least expensive way to get to Los Campesinos. You could hire a cab or private driver, but it would most likely be very expensive because they would wait for you there while you hiked, since the reserve is so remote. Renting a car for at least the day, as you suggest, is much easier. You could use our discount and pick up the car from Adobe’s office in Quepos.

      A great alternative to Los Campesinos that your 12 year old would probably really like and that is also much easier to get to is Rainmaker (also covered in this post). Again, it is easiest to get there by rental car, but it would be a less expensive cab than Campesinos.

  10. Hi. Great site/tips. We are also from Boston; first time to Costa Rica, staying Dec 20-30 during busy season. Any suggestions on best time of day/places for 5 adults who want to zipline, raft, kayak, go to the beach. We are staying near Biesanz. Could we survive with walks/taxis/tours or should we get a car ( for a few days anyway) Thanks.

    1. Hi Lynne, I think it would be easiest for us to help you through our booking service, if you want to book things in advance (recommended since, as you said, you’ll be here during the busy season). That way, we can learn more about exactly what you want to do and suggest specific tours and activities based on that. We don’t charge anything extra to make bookings for people. If you’re interested, just reply to this thread and we can send you an email with more info. Once we know what you want to do, we can help you figure out if you should get a car. It’s not always necessary in Manuel Antonio. Hope to hear from you soon!

        1. Hi Mary, We have a page on our website about our Tour Booking Service now. Here’s the link. Please contact us through that page with your group’s information and we will get back to you ASAP. Thanks!

  11. So glad I came across your site! We will be traveling to Costa Rica for the first time in August and planning on booking our lodging tomorrow — a total of 10 days and 9 nights. We are total beach, snorkel and swim people! Do you think spending our entire time in MA is too much? Or should we spread our days around? I should add, we are a group of 16 people so we’re a large group to move around and we had not planned to rent a car 🙂

    1. Hi Maria, 10 days is not too much time to spend. Manuel Antonio had a ton of activities and is a really good spot if you’re beach people. It’s also particularly good for groups because of the diversity of things to do, since people might have different interests. If you need any help booking tours, let us know. We live not far from Manuel Antonio and are very familiar with the options for tours/activities. We can help with all the arrangements and can often get group rates/discounts. Just reply to this thread if you’re interested.

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt,
        We will also be coming to MA in mid-August with our 11 and 6 year old. planning on 5 days, staying at Si Como No (I think). I know we will see the MA park, but am not sure if we need a tour or not… (my kids are especially interested in the sloths so I wondered if there is any place they might be able to pet or hold one?!), We want to zipline, and check out the hanging bridges. I would love to snorkel or river raft also (a first for my children)…just thinking about more fun in the water. Any suggestions for booking or recommendations would be great. I am trying to keep everything within an hour’s drive, unless there is really a reason to get my kids in the car. Seems like there is so much to see just in this one area. Thanks for your help!!

        1. Hi Kirsten, We recommend a guide to see the most in the national park, especially with kids. You can go on your own and still see some, but a good guide will show you a lot more and give you a better appreciation for what you’re seeing. We know of a great guide in MA if you would like a recommendation. We had some clients with kids (about the same age as yours) go out with him recently and they loved it. Just reply to this thread if you want more info and we can help with that booking and anything else you’d like to do. We don’t know of anywhere that will let you touch a sloth but have some ideas that will get you close to one. We know of some really good companies for zip lining and rafting too, though we will have to make sure your youngest is old enough for the rapids out of the Manuel Antonio area. Again, just reply here and we can send you an email 🙂

          1. Hi Jenn and Matt,

            Yay! We would love to have the park guide that you recommend, and information about the zip line company too. We may skip the rafting with my 6 year old, but wondered about maybe a mangrove tour, whale/dolphin watching or the catamaran snorkel/waterslide tour that I think you mentioned in a different post. We are actually planning a six day trip and staying at the Mango Moon. Lastly, would you suggest booking a Sansa flight from San Jose to Quepos ahead of time? I am concerned about missing the small flight if there are any delays with our plane coming from the states. Thank you so much!

          2. going to MA in June. Would like info on rafting for adults. Tour guide for MA also

          3. We will be in MA March 16-21 with our 7 year old. We have done a self-guided tour of the park before, but with our son maybe a guide would be good. Can you send me your guide’s contact information? I thought your post about the catamaran/snorkeling tour sounded great too if you have any additional information. We may also do Kids Saving the Rainforest….read a few reviews and it sounded like you may not always see sloths there. I guess that makes sense if they are trying to rehab and release back into the wild when possible. We probably want a few days just to relax at the beach so will have to prioritize what we want to do. Thanks so much!

          4. Hello, could you recommend a guide or tour company for the National Park? Also do you recommend a kayak trip in Damas Mangrove or Tamarindo Estuary (if we only have time for one)?

  12. We have a visitor coming on 5/27/17 and will probably drive to MA on 5/29.
    We would love a recommendation for a tour guide. We live in the mountains
    near Uvita (moved here in Sept) and have already been on a walking tour but
    this is the first visit to Costa Rica for our friend so we want her to see as much as possible.

    Also can you tell me how strenuous the hikes to the waterfall areas and hanging
    bridges that you described. We are on the elderly side with some physical problems which would make a strenuous hike difficult…..
    Thanks much!

    1. Hi Santa Maria, I am sorry for the delay, your comment went to our spam box. Please let us know if you still need a recommendation for the park and we will get back to you ASAP.

  13. Hi! I am planning to visit Manuel Antonio National Park during my trip. Do you recommend going to Rainmaker Park as well? I understand Rainmaker Park has suspension bridges and waterfalls but I will be experiencing those things at La Fortuna earlier on the in week, so I’m wondering if you think it would be worth it to visit both Manuel Antonio and Rainmaker.

    1. Hi Cindy, The bridges and waterfalls at Rainmaker are different than the ones in La Fortuna so I think it would be okay to do both. But it does sound like you’re doing a lot of hiking so maybe a different type of activity would be nice? You could look into a kayak or boat tour to Isla Damas mangroves to see wildlife or we really enjoyed the
      catamaran tour. Let us know if you need recommendations for tours for these. We know of some great operators out of MA and would be happy to help you make the arrangements.

  14. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    My family will be in MA in the middle of July for a week. We will have 3 rental cars to get everyone around. We’d love to know about a good snorkeling location. We’d also like to know if there are any river tours where we can see croc’s and other wildlife from a boat. We will be coming from Monteverde and also La Fortuna the week before where we are doing lots of hiking, zip lining, and river rafting. We are spending time at the beach to wind down a little bit after the first week. Could you give us some tips of what we MUST see and where we MUST go? We are good for anything although there are a couple in the family that get sea sick so any offshore excursions would need to be on a very stable boat for a short period of time.
    Thanks ahead of time. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, The best place to see crocodiles is on the Tarcoles River near Jaco. You could stop there for a tour on your way from Monteverde/La Fortuna to MA. The tour company we work with does offer secure parking so having your bags wouldn’t be an issue. Otherwise, another good option for seeing wildlife from a boat is the Isla Damas mangroves near Quepos. They have boat or kayak tours and people usually see things like monkeys, sloths, lizards, and a lot of birds. The water is really calm so you don’t have to worry about getting seasick.

      Unfortunately, the MA area doesn’t have the best conditions for snorkeling. Your options are taking a catamaran tour, which has a snorkeling component but is also just a really nice ride along the beautiful coastline. The boat is big too so not much danger of getting sick. It is also possible to snorkel at the first beach in the park is conditions are right and you have your own equipment.

      Other than that, another must see is the national park. If you do not mind driving there’s also an amazing waterfall about 45 min south that you can take a horseback tour or hike to. It’s called the Nauyaca.

      We work with reputable companies that offer all of these tours so let us know if you would like help with the bookings once you know which you’d like to do. Depending on the number of people in your family, we may be able to get you group rates as well.

      1. Thanks for the great information Jenn and Matt. As far as snorkeling we’ve heard great things about the cano island but we have also heard that there are no bathrooms either on the boats or at the island and that the island is offshore about an hour and a half via relatively small boats. I have to say that none of us are very excited about a 9 hour trip with no bathrooms and those prone to getting seasick are a little worried about the ride out to the island. Have you been and can you provide a little bit of information about these tours and which ones are best? We have 9 people in our group and are wondering if we can book things through you.
        Thanks so much guys. Dave

      2. Hi we are interested in information about the crocodile tour and the tour guide for Manuel Antonio Park. We will be a group of 7 adults and 4 kids (17 and under). Thanks for any information you are able to provide.

  15. I am thankful and overwhelmed with all of the information and fun things to do in Costa Rica. I finally committed to renting a house in Manuel Antonio in early August. I have 3 teenagers that want to do rafting. do you have any recommendations? I think I have read just about every review and all seem great. Do you know any other fun things we should check out? We do not have a car…Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Lisa, Whitewater rafting is a lot of fun out of Manuel Antonio. We know of a great rafting company who we have sent lots of people out with. Let us know if you would like us to help with the arrangements. We could also give you some ideas for things to do in the area that would be fun with teenagers. Lots can be done without a car, as many tour operators provide transportation. Just reply to this and we can send you an email.

  16. Thank you so much for taking the time to help us all with our CR trips!! We were planning to fly into San Jose and take a shuttle to MA, where we would stay for two weeks. But, now I’m seeing some very reasonably priced tours through Groupon. One does Guanacaste, Playa Samara, Liberia, and Arenal, Costa Rica; Granada, Nicaragua. The other goes to San Jose, La Fortuna, Guanacaste, Monteverde, and Playa Hermosa. If we take the second one we could stay on in MA for a few extra days.

    Which option would you recommend? We want to see monkeys, sloths, birds, waterfalls, and if possible, the cloud forest. The tours would be nice, but I’m afraid we wouldn’t get to experience as much local culture. And, given our budget, we would also be happy to just stay in MA. Suggestions?

      1. Hi Yvonne, October is the low season in Costa Rica so most towns won’t be too busy so you should get to take in the culture more. But you’re right that usually you don’t get as much of the cultural aspect of travel when you go on a package tour. Personally, we would just go to Manuel Antonio for two weeks and rent a car to explore. MA has a lot of wildlife and waterfalls are within a 1 hr drive. The cloud forest would be tough on a day trip, though, since the closest is several hours away. So you may want to break out a couple of nights to stay in either Monteverde or San Gerardo de Dota.

  17. Hi. We are planning a 1 week trip to CR in April (15th-21st). We have been a few items before, but this will be the first trip bringing the 4 kids ages 10-13. We were thinking of taking them to our favorites from prior trips, MA, Montezuma and Curu. MA for El Avion and the monkeys, wildlife and beaches in the park. We did the park self-guided when we went and felt that was sufficient. We have not looked at accommodations at all yet. We did not care for the atmosphere in MA at night closer to the park area, particularly with the kids. The park and a little time walking the shops and restaurants are really the only draw there, so I’m ok with staying someplace and going in for the day, if that makes sense. We have heard Dominical and Uvita recommended as well. I would like to go to the kids saving the rain forest facility for a tour. We would love to hear other suggestions. I learned of the fast ferry from Montezuma to MA, which would make our itinerary much more feasible without the wasted transit time, but it does add a lot to the cost. I’m told I might be able to negotiate a deal on that fast ferry, if I call them, so I’m willing to give that a shot. If we can find similar experiences to Montezuma in Curu closer to MA and stay in one region and save the travel time ans cost, that might be wise and then for the adults, we get to see places we have not already been. The only thing we have book so far is out international airfare (BOS to SJO), so we are open to assistance with bookings. I believe I read above that your assistance does not increase the cost of the bookings, is that right? Thanks so much, Your website is super helpful and you are totally living my dream:)

    I have been re-thinking this itinerary due to the amount of time wasted getting between the 2 regions and am interested in your thoughts.

    The draw to Montezuma is the very walkable, charming size and atmosphere and accessibility to the tours departing the beach. The dram to Curu is the even smaller size and intimacy, plentiful wildlife and that the boat tours done there are very small and the water more gentle. We feel like it is impossible to watch 4 kids who have never snorkeled before and would be nervous on a large boat tour. The small boats used in Curu with multiple staff on board, we fell would be much safer and more enjoyable for the kids. I’m sure this could be had elsewhere, we just are only familiar with that out of Curu.
    The hotel we stayed at in Montezuma (Luz de Mono) has apparently closed and finding affordable accommodation for 6 people is not so easy. We would like to be walking distance to town as we won’t have a car, but we want to be out of the way enough to be quiet and hopefully have monkey visitors. Luz de Mono was perfect:( Casa Montezuma looks great and I have reached out to them, but, it is not within walking distance of Manuel Antonio or of restaurants. We don’t want to cook, not because we’re lazy, but we LOVE the food and atmosphere in CR and that is very much a draw and something we want the kids to experience, so we want to either have accommodations with meals or be walking distance to restaurants. it doesn’t have to be a 2 minute walk, we’re ok with up to a 15 minute walk, I just don;t want $20 cab far each way every time we go out.

    1. HI Lynn, It sounds like you have a lot of great ideas for your trip. Traveling with the kids does add a new dimension, which we completely understand. Calm water in particular is harder to find in Costa Rica but there are some good choices. If you don’t want to go all the way to Guanacaste, you could look into the Playa Blanca area. The trade off there is that there isn’t much around as far as restaurants but the water is nice and calm. The Costa Ballena is a wonderful destination but most beaches do have bigger waves. There are a lot of different considerations and we’d be happy to help you figure out some of them. Our itinerary schedule is full until March right now but we could help you with tour bookings sooner than that once you have your accommodations secured. That’s correct that we don’t charge anything extra to do this. It’s the same price as if you booked directly through the tour operator. If you’re interested, feel free to send us a message at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.

  18. Hi…we will be travelling to Costa Rica for the 1st time next month! Your posts and articles are extremely informative and helpful! We’ll be staying in La Fortuna to visit Arenal for 2 nights and 2 nights in Manuel Antonio.
    Can you please recommend some places (i.e. ziplining in Arenal v MA or rafting in Arenal v MA) and companies I can contact to book some activities.
    We are interested in ziplining, rafting, tubing, ATV, hot springs (I believe in Arenal area is better vs MA), surfing (I believe MA is the best vs Arenal), hiking, segway tours.
    We are renting a van to get us around.
    Really appreciate your help! 🙂
    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Isabelle, We know of some great rafting and zip line options in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio and would be happy to help you sort through the best place to do the different activities. If you would like, we could help you book these and the rest of your tours for your trip. We’d charge a small fee for our time. Let us know if you’re interested and we can send you an email with some more information.

  19. What up Jenn and Matt. Taking my adult child to CR in March. From landing to take off is exactly one week in CR. With such limited time I’m having a hard time figuring where to go, where to stay and the huge transportation dilemma.

    Is San Jose downtown worth a stay? She wants to visit the market but besides that… is it just another dirty city or is that downtown area decent for enjoyment?

    La Fortuna.. I get the idea that staying downtown is the way to go. Choices of food and nightlife just a walk away. Does Manuel Antonio have such an area to stay in? It looks more spread out but I’m trying to find places where we are close to everything where it’s either a cheap taxi or a walk.

    Speaking of transportation.. yikes. Everything is so far apart. Rental, shared transport, Uber? Kinda wish i had looked into this first before booking flights. Just getting around is a budget killer. Any tips on itinerary for a week stay would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Jimmy, The part of downtown San Jose near the museums and National Theater is worth a stop for a day or 2. The Central Market is a fun cultural experience. Here’s a link to our post about downtown San Jose.

      If you won’t have a car, yes, staying near downtown La Fortuna is best. Not much for nightlife there (it is a small town) so keep that in mind. There are plenty of restaurants, though. In Manuel Antonio, if you stay near the top of the hill, you will be close to several restaurants and can easily grab the bus to get down to the beach. This is the area near Barba Roja restaurant, Cafe Milagro, Agua Azul, etc. Just before that around Super Josef, Sancho’s etc. has a decent amount near it too.

      Uber is pretty much only available in San Jose. To get between destinations, the most affordable option is the public bus. With only a week, though, we would not recommend it if you want to go to more than one place because of travel time. Shared shuttles are a good alternative. They are much faster and still fairly inexpensive at around $50-65 pp per trip.

  20. My family just did the Nauyaca waterfall horseback tour and the entire Rainmaker Park hike and we enjoyed both. We’re traveling with 6 year old twins who did fine. On the horseback tour our guides held onto the kids horses reigns. The Rainmaker hike did get hot and sweaty but the worth getting to the river swimming hole. Note that Rainmaker only takes cash, and they did not charge us for the kids (at that time). We also bought the after hike lunch which was delicious. Try to start your hike by 9am.

    Both destinations require some gravel/dirt road driving, so an AWD helps. However I did see the locals driving sedans at Rainmaker

    1. Hi Peter, Thanks for the detailed trip report, it is very helpful. That’s good to know that they didn’t charge for your kids at Rainmaker. Glad your family had a good trip!

  21. HI Jenn and Matt we are actually only in Costa Rica for 4 days and like most I want to make the best use of my time…….WISH I COULD SEE IT ALL!!!!
    We will actually be staying in an airbnb in Quepos would love your recommendations on Can’t miss things to do along with suggestions for MA tours and Jetski tours.

    Thanks so much Love this site

  22. Hi, my husband and I went on our own driving trip in 2011, and now we are doing the same with my son and his girlfriend, in Sept. on a Sunday to Wednesday and we are staying in MA for 3 nites, the younger ones (39 and 35) want to hike and zip line and we all want to go to the National Park, and to a rescue centre. Can you please send us some info, on this. Is there any little markets or special stores to purchase unique gifts to take home. I see the prices are very high for each person, but when we were in La Fortuna in 2011 we found a ticket place and the prices were much lower. We are then traveling to the Tree house hotel just past La Fortuna for one nite (we did this before and the kids want to experience this also) then off to La fortuna for 2 nites and we are going to the Baldi hot springs. The last nite will be in San Jose. We wanted to go longer but my son could only get a week. So we will be busy.

    1. Hi Bonnie and David, That sounds like a fun trip you have planned with your son and his girlfriend. We’d be happy to help you plan some excursions. We know of a great zip line company in Manuel Antonio and a wildlife rescue center that we can tell you about too.If you’d like a guide for the national park, we work with an excellent naturalist who knows a lot about the local flora and fauna. Please contact us through our Tour Booking Service page and we can get started right away. That page has detailed information about how we can help you.

      For places to purchase unique gifts, there’s a cute boutique in Manuel Antonio called Jungle Avenue (it’s in the plaza near Promerica bank). They have a lot of locally made clothes, jewelry, and some other random items. Quepos has some souvenir stores as well and the prices are a little cheaper there. If you’re near downtown San Jose for your last night, there’s a wonderful gallery that has local art in all price ranges (things like Boruca masks, paintings, pottery pieces, etc.). It’s called Galeria Namu.

  23. We will be in MA August 1-5. We are not renting a car, but are interested in going to Las Campesinos. Do you have an idea of what it would cost to take a taxi there? Or to go to Rainmaker? Do most taxi drivers know how to get there?

    1. Hi Mara, It would be quite expensive to go to Los Campesinos via a taxi because they would need to wait for you while you hike. Rainmaker would be a better option. A cab would still be pricey, so we’d recommend either a guided tour (we could arrange this for you for $75 pp) or just renting a car for the day. You would only need a regular non-4×4 sedan so the price would be lower. You can check pricing on our Rental Car Discount page. Adobe will deliver the car to your hotel for free if you specify it when making the reservation. Let us know if you’d like help with a guided tour of Rainmaker.

      1. I would suggest renting a 4×4 if you are going to Los Campesinos though. There are a couple of steep hills, one right after a sharp turn. Also if you stay past 2 the rain gets super raining, especially during this season.

          1. This doesn’t have to be on the website or anything but I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the article! You nailed it with the events to do around here…I just got back from the farmers market tonight and love it here. We are missionaries through the Foursquare church and we are here full-time. We just moved here full time in April but we have been coming for the last 8 years or so visiting my parents (who have been missionaries here for the past 13 years). My wife and I do date days while the kids are in school on Fridays and you gave me a few new ideas…Thanks!

  24. Thank you for the abundant information! It has been very helpful. We are thinking about visiting MA for a week in mid July with our two kids, 2 year-old & 4 year old. Are there particular things you recommend for a family with kids this age? We will be traveling from the US and wondered if it was best to rent a car or if we should just have coordinate a shuttle pick up with our hotel. Lastly, is mid to late July too rainy of a season? Thank you so much! I really appreciate any insight you might have.

    1. Hi Maria, For activities for kids that age, we’d recommend a private guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. That way, the guide can go at your family’s pace and focus on the kids. A boat tour of Isla Damas is a good one too. You can see a lot of monkeys. We did this with our son when he was about a year old. Happy to help arrange these and with other ideas if you’d like. Just contact us through our tour booking service page.

      For transport, shuttling or renting a car works. Just keep in mind that for tours, most tour companies will not provide car seats so you will have to bring your own (car seats are only required for shuttles making longer trips between destinations). If you decide to rent a car, be sure to check out our discount (we get free car seats for our readers too). We can help with shuttles too if you decide on that.

      Mid July is fine weather wise. Everything will be nice and green!

  25. So happy I found your website – I had no idea about Los Campesinos and the frainmaker project. Thanks so much x

  26. Hello I am traveling to CR for the first time in June. We will be there for 10 days. We have 9 people in our party (adults and teens). We are staying in Manuel Antonio Estates. Should we rent a car? The teenagers want to take surfing lessons, any suggestion? Also what wildlife tour do you suggest? We also want to zip line. Anything else you suggest for first timers? Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Hi Caroline, Most tours include transportation so you won’t need a car for those. Manuel Antonio Estates is located at the bottom of the hill in town, closer to Quepos, so a little farther to restaurants, but you could easily take taxis to get around. So you could rent a car if you want or just shuttle from the airport and rely on taxis and the local bus, which runs fairly regularly.

      For tours, we work with an excellent surf company for lessons and have a great recommendation for a zip line tour as well. For wildlife, your best option to see the most is probably a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. And June is a great time of year to visit the park because it will be less busy. If you would like help making the arrangements for these, just reply to this thread and we can send you more info by email. Thanks!

  27. Hello,

    We are staying at Manuel Antonio Estates – Casa Macaw, two couples in the 50s but active (4 adults).

    We are travelling in Feb to March 2020 for 11 days, 3 in San Jose and 9 in MA and it is my first time at MA. We arrive on a Tuesday and head to MA/Quepos on a Friday afternoon. Looking to go to the Farmer’s market if we are not exhausted from the drive. We probably need to go out for dinner the first night.

    Love hiking, snorkeling, wildlife and culture. We are coffee fanatics as well as chocolate. Snorkeling a must but was thinking of a boat tour. Would love to see dolphins while on a boat with some snorkeling. Are marine life best seen at sunset? Should we book our tours ahead of time or when we get there? Any suggested must do tours outside of a boat?

    Thank you.

    Carol

    1. Hi Carol, We definitely recommend booking any tours you know you want to do in advance since you’ll be visiting during a busy time of year. We’ll send you some recommendations by email now. Marine life like dolphins can be seen any time of day really. If you’re visiting next Feb/March, the afternoon catamaran tours are great because you get to catch sunset on the way back to the marina. For a coffee or chocolate tour, we don’t know of any in the Manuel Antonio area but will give you an option for one for your time in San Jose.

      For restaurant recommendations, we have a whole post that will help you. Check out our Manuel Antonio Restaurant Guide

  28. While staying in Manuel Antonio, our condo looked out over Playa Biesanz where we could see the parasailers…thus, our kids had to parasail. We found Aqua Azul and they were fantastic!! On the way down the beach, we met Bayron Araya who is a surf coach. He first directed us to Aqua Azul, coached us in a safe place to park, and then called his cousin and the two of them spent a couple of hours teaching our daughters to surf. They were incredibly kind, professional, fun, and helpful. We highly recommend Bayron for surfing fun!! https://www.facebook.com/bayron.araya.3

  29. We are travelling to MA for a week in February, we are planning on taking public transportation from the airport. Do we need to purchase tickets prior to our arrival? We rented a car last year when we visited for two weeks and went to several towns, we were hoping to not have to rent a car this time. Will we have any issues with getting around the area if we do not have a car? We would like to do some of the activities in the area. We have a room booked at Hotel Verde Mar.
    Thanks for all of your information, we had a great trip last year and followed a lot of your suggestions.

  30. We are traveling to Costa Rica in mid april with my family (2 adults & 2 kids 15 & 11). Going to Arenal, and then to Manuel Antonio. We will be staying at Hotel Si Como no.

    We would like to do some snorkeling. Is a trip to Cano island from Uvita worth it, with a 15 yr & 11yr old? Or is the Catamaran Cruise 7 snorkeling around Playa Biesanz enough?

    Thanks for your time.

    Best,
    Deepthi

  31. Hi Jenn and Matt

    Im looking to go to Manuel Antonio and Uvita as soon as all this craziness passes. Does it work well to have a shuttle come pick me up at the airport in San Jose or should I rent a car? It seems like a lot of the activities have a shuttle that pick you up from your hotel.

    1. Hi Taylor, They just announced today that the border will be closed until at least June 15th, but we think it will likely be longer than that. You can follow our coronavirus post for updates. We are updating that article regularly.

      Yes, you could easily have a shuttle take you from SJO Airport to Manuel Antonio and then on to Uvita. Some hotels in Uvita are located more remotely so just keep that in mind if you plan not to rent a car. Here’s a link to our post on Taking Shuttles in Costa Rica with more information. For activities, most operators in Manuel Antonio do include pick up from your hotel, but this isn’t the case in Uvita. There, usually you have to pay extra for pick up or take a taxi to the starting location.

  32. Hello! This site is so helpful!!

    We are planning a trip to CR over the week before and after Christmas (2021). Will we run into many places being closed during that time? We will be staying near Parrita. Also, are there many festivities during the holiday week(s) that we should check out?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Rebecca, Christmas is one of Costa Rica’s busiest times of year so most everything will be open. Some exceptions are things like banks and government offices, but you shouldn’t need those anyway. ATMs will still be available. Most of the Christmas activities take place in early December for some reason, so I’m not sure there will be anything going on when you’re here. If you’re looking for something to do Christmas Eve or Day, some restaurants in the Quepos Marina have special Christmas dinners with live music that are fun and festive.

  33. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    We have followed your site since its inception. Congrats on your well-earned success. However, it would be helpful if you could add the most current comments at the top instead of the bottom. As a reader, I think leading with current is more relevant and effective.

    For 10 years, January through March, we resided in a beautiful mountain home in Costa Rica south of San Isidro del General de Perez Zeledon. We love the community and we grew very close to our landlord, his family and the Tico community. We are healthy and in our 70’s with excellent supplemental health insurance to our Medicare. (Thankful to God for such a blessing.) Costa Rica’s Health Ministry has no clue that additional insurance would not be required by those of us with our coverage. We would pay for our out-of-country care and receive substantial reimbursement. To date, we’ve never required health care in Costa Rica. If needed, we had plans in place to avail ourselves of the Private Care option in Costa Rica. (Frankly, we would not want to be in the care of the Socialized Medical Services of Costa Rica.) Suffice to say, we believe Costa Rica’s current political administration is enforcing Covid tourist insurance requirements that are prohibitive. It surely will hurt the tourism industry of Costa Rica. We will continue to enjoy your postings and pray the insurance requirement is lifted. Thank you. Peg Townsend

    1. Hi Margaret, Thanks for following along with us all this time.

      The order of comments is a technology issue. The plugin we use for comments lists them that way but we will see if there is a way to reserve the order.

      We hear your concerns about the tourism industry and about the cost of the required insurance. It seems to be a careful balance with the CCSS not having enough money to stay afloat and encouraging tourism. They should definitely make it easier for people who are in Costa Rica on tourist visas but live here or come for extended visits. That piece has been left out. At least people are entering now with proof of a home or rental agreement in lieu of the $2K accommodation requirement, albeit it needs to be a long-term lease for a rental agreement to qualify. They are accepting international insurance like yours now too, so that is good. Change is definitely poco a poco here, as you know.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Become a Subscriber!

Receive our newest articles by email. It’s free.