Manuel Antonio has been made famous for its national park and easy wildlife viewing. But one activity that shouldn’t be missed is a boat tour along the coast. From the glimmering Pacific Ocean, you’ll see the jungle-filled coastline, rocky offshore islands, and possibly some impressive sea life. While there are many boat tours to choose from in Manuel Antonio, we recently had a wonderful experience on the 100-foot wooden pirate-like sailboat, Brisa Elegante. In this post, we’ll share all the details and tell you how to book.
Manuel Antonio Boat Tour Options
In Manuel Antonio/Quepos, you’ll find many options for boat tours. There are half a dozen catamarans, many smaller sportfishing boats, and a couple of sailboats.
Tours are usually set up the same. They leave from Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, travel south along the coast, turn around at Manuel Antonio National Park, and then anchor in a cove for some snorkeling. Lunch or dinner is served on the boats along with drinks and snacks.
What makes each different is the atmosphere and experience. Some tours are known to have a booze-cruise party atmosphere, while others are better suited for families and couples.
We have tried three different boats now and enjoyed them all for different reasons.
Brisa Elegante – Background
Brisa Elegante is a newer boat for Manuel Antonio that offers more of a laidback, high-end experience.
This 100-foot wooden sailboat is full of shiny mahogany wood and brass and chrome metal. It has two lofty masts. Downstairs there are nicely decorated cabins, a spacious kitchen, and dining area.
With a wide wooden hull and sturdy deck, the boat looks almost like a pirate ship. There is even a plank to walk and a skull-and-crossbones flag. Like a pirate ship, the boat has an interesting history.
Brisa Elegante was built in Turkey in 2010. It sailed through the Mediterranean Sea for several years.
In 2014, the boat’s hull was reinforced to make the 6,000-mile (10,000 kilometer) voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. It arrived in Florida and then the Bahamas.
In 2021, Brisa Elegante traveled through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean. From there, it sailed north to its new home on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast.
Our tour started at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos (next to Manuel Antonio) where we checked into the office. After everyone had arrived, we walked as a group down to the dock.
The beautiful wooden sailboat and crew were waiting. There were about 25 people on the tour with us when we went in January, about half the boat’s capacity.
We took a seat on the forward deck on some wooden chairs and benches. Bryan, the first mate, introduced himself and gave us a warm welcome. As the other crew came around for drink orders and readied the boat, Bryan introduced them all.
In total there were four crew members, the chef, and captain. Bryan continued with a little background about the boat, what we were going to be doing that day, and some safety information.
Within a few minutes, the ropes were let loose.
Setting Off & Setting Sail
After motoring out of the marina and into the open water, the crew worked quickly to get the sails up, music on, and drinks served. The atmosphere was fun but not intense.
The people on our tour consisted of a few families with older kids, many couples, some older adults, and us with our younger kids (ages 3 and 7). There was a lot of room to spread out around the boat.
The front of the boat had a large covered table with bench seating all around. The very back of the boat had a similar setup. Overall, there was plenty of shade, especially once the sails were put up.
What You’ll See
As we sailed south along the coastline, we could see all the area hotels nestled into the jungle as well as the small coves and longer beaches. Playa Espadilla, the main beach, was busy and dotted with beach umbrellas.
Manuel Antonio has some scenic offshore islands that we cruised by. As we did, we spotted sea birds perched on the rocks or flying nearby.
Depending on the time of year, you might also encounter whales.
Two humpback whale migrations occur in the area, and you have a chance to see whales between July and February (peak season is September). These whales can sometimes put on a nice show with tails or fins flapping and the occasional breach out of the water.
Even if you don’t see whales, there is often other marine life around. We have seen sea turtles and flying fish. Sometimes there are even dolphins or false killer whales.
Snorkeling, Swimming & Watersports
After an hour or so of cruising the coastline, the crew took down the sails and tied up to a mooring near Biesanz Beach. This sheltered cove is where all the boat tours go for snorkeling. Luckily, they stagger their time so that it doesn’t get too crowded.
The snorkel conditions in the cove are hit or miss as the water is often a little cloudy. There is one big rock in the center where you can see a lot of small fish, even with lower visibility. Brian was also able to point out a cool starfish and some spiky sea urchins.
Since conditions weren’t the best, most people decided to head back to the boat for some swimming and watersports on the calm water. The crew had a couple of kayaks and paddleboards for us to use. They also put out a big floating foam platform that was nice for lounging.
Walking the Plank
The highlight for a lot of people on the boat, especially us, was walking and jumping off the plank. This was a true pirate-ship experience.
At the rear of the sailboat was a long gangplank. The captain kept the angle of the plank elevated so that the jump into the water was higher. Overall, it was probably a 15-foot (4.5-meter) leap.
A handful of people tried it, some needing to work up enough courage to make the jump. Others didn’t hesitate for a second. Everyone on the boat and in the water was clapping and encouraging each other on.
Our son Sam (age 7) waited at the end of the plank for a long time, nervous to jump. This prompted the captain to put on a pirate hat and walk halfway out with a fake musket. Our son and the whole boat laughed as the captain smiled. He then lowered the plank, so that Sam felt more confident and could jump.
After swimming and jumping, we were all hungry for dinner. We took seats in different spots around the boat as the crew brought out plates of fresh fish with side salads. They also had some special dishes for those with food restrictions.
During dinner we started to slowly motor back out into the open ocean.
The Perfect Ending with Sunset
One of the nice things about an afternoon charter, especially in the dry season (mid-December to mid-April) is the chance for a beautiful sunset. Manuel Antonio and Quepos can have some spectacular ones.
As the boat motored slowly along, the sun sank lower in the sky and soon below the clouds. As the sky turned different shades of orange, pink, red, and purple, the captain turned the boat so we could all snap photos. The crew also put on some fun, softer music as we all watched the sun sink below the water’s edge.
What a relaxing way to end the tour.
Round-trip transportation from hotels in Manuel Antonio or Quepos to Marina Pez Vela, fresh fruit, lunch or dinner, 1 alcoholic drink per person, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, safety equipment, and use of snorkel equipment, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard. Additional drinks like beer and cocktails are available for purchase.
Morning tour – 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Afternoon Tour for Sunset (Seasonal) – 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Adults: $120 per person plus 13% tax.
Children: $60 per person ages 6-12 plus 13% tax.
Free for children 5 and under.
Booking a Tour
If you’re interested in booking a tour on Brisa Elegante, email us at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com with your preferred date, time, number of people (with ages of any children), and your pickup location if you would like transportation. We’ll secure the reservation for you at no additional cost. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website.
Private Sailing Charter Option
Private charters are available starting at around $2,400 for 15 people and going up from there based on the number of guests. The maximum number of passengers is 46.
Brisa Elegante also does multi-day, overnight charters where you can spend anywhere from one night to a week on the boat exploring national parks, secluded islands, and more. These charters travel up and down the coast to other areas like Uvita, Drake Bay, Isla Tortuga, and Isla San Lucas. Contact us for more information.
Have a question about the Brisa Elegante Sailboat Tour in Manuel Antonio? Ask us below.
Looking for more activities to do in Manuel Antonio? Check out these posts:
Manuel Antonio Catamaran Cruise – If you’re looking for more of a party boat, this 100-foot catamaran offers that experience.
Manuel Antonio National Park – While this is one of Costa Rica’s busiest parks, it’s also one of the easiest places to see wildlife. Learn more about the trails, animals you can see, and how to get tickets.
Villa Vanilla Spice Farm Tour – This agricultural tour will show you how vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices are grown. You’ll also get to do a delicious tasting!