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    Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica — A Mini Paradise in Central America

    Manuel Antonio National Park is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and an uncountable variety of reptiles, insects and plants. It is difficult to walk very far in the park without encountering some of its fascinating wildlife. Additionally, Manuel Antonio National Park offers spectacular views of the ocean and nearby islands. We are far from alone in considering it one of the more beautiful spots on Earth.

    Just outside of the park is a huge, white sand beach prized by surfers, swimmers and sun-worshippers alike. The beach offers a variety of activities, including Jet ski rentals, Banana boat rides, and mangrove tours.

    From the North end of the beach, the area’s curvy but well maintained main road leads up a steep hill. About two and a half kilometers (about 1.6 miles) up the hill, several restaurants offer a view of one of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet. This entire area is full of hotels, restaurants and bars and casinos offering an active night life to those who want it.

    Still further North is the town of Quepos, famous mostly for its sport fishing. The cheapest accommodations in the area are available here, along with several local restaurants and numerous tour operations.

    Buses run on the main road from the town of Quepos to the Park every half hour between 6:00AM and 7:00PM, and every hour between 7:00PM and 10:00PM. The ride costs approximately 100 colones (around .20 -.25 cents U.S.).

    Things you should know about Manuel Antonio National Park:

    Manuel Antonio National Park is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and an uncountable variety of reptiles, insects and plants. It is difficult to walk very far in the park without encountering some of its fascinating wildlife. Additionally, Manuel Antonio National Park offers spectacular views of the ocean and nearby islands. We are far from alone in considering it one of the more beautiful spots on Earth.

    Just outside of the park is a huge, white sand beach prized by surfers, swimmers and sunworshippers alike. The beach offers a variety of activities, including Jet ski rentals [http://majetskis.com], Banana boat rides, and mangrove tours.

    From the North end of the beach, the area’s curvy but well maintained main road leads up a steep hill. About two and a half kilometers (about 1.6 miles) up the hill, several restaurants offer a view of one of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet. This entire area is full of hotels, restaurants and bars and casinos offering an active night life to those who want it.

    Still further North is the town of Quepos, famous mostly for its sport fishing. The cheapest accommodations in the area are available here, along with several local restaurants and numerous tour operations.

    Buses run on the main road from the town of Quepos to the Park every half hour between 6:00AM and 7:00PM, and every hour between 7:00PM and 10:00PM. The ride costs approximately 100 colones (around .20 -.25 cents U.S.).

    Things you should know about Manuel Antonio National Park:

    • The most secluded and most beautiful beaches in Manuel Antonio are in the Park itself. There are two of them and both are easily accessible from the Park’s entrance. The one closer to the entrance is usually emptier, but the more crowded, farther beach – still only a five minute walk from the entrance – surrounds a cove, which provides remarkably still water.
    • The Park is closed on Mondays and as a result, the beach outside the Park tends to be quite empty on Mondays. So, if the Park is on your agenda, you might not want to include a Monday stay in Manuel Antonio. But if you want to enjoy the beach with a much smaller crowd, you might want to go out of your way to be sure to be there on a Monday.
    • If you’re in mildly good shape, you should be able to cover all the major trails in the park in about two days. If you are in not so great shape, though, you’ll want to avoid some of the longer trails as they all tend to get somewhat difficult at some point.
    • The park boasts several bathrooms and even cold water, low pressure showers. However, there is no food available inside the park. There are several beach restaurants within a 5 minute walk of the Park’s entrance however, and your ticket entitles you to re-enter the Park for the entire day. We do suggest that if you plan on spending the day in the Park, you are well advised to bring some lunch. But be sure to keep your eye on it as the monkeys are always looking for something to eat.

    Things you should know about the areas outside the park:

    • The sunset from the top of the hill between Quepos and the Park is amongst the most spectacular we have ever seen. The two best places to see it are Barba Roja, a restaurant/bar, and the pool at Hotel Mariposa. If you are not staying at the Mariposa, you can nonetheless enjoy the sunset at their pool while ordering a cocktail from their pool bar.
    • Manuel Antonio has become a heavily visited area. The area boasts dozens of hotels and resorts which are frequently sold out. As a result, prices are higher here than in most of the country. However, there are cheap meals still to be had, mostly notably in Quepos. Our recommendation: “Bar Restaurante Quepoa” a huge local restaurant and pizzeria across from the bus station in Quepos.
    • Another consequence of the large tourist presence in Manuel Antonio is the existence of prostitution (legal in all of Costa Rica), drugs (not legal in Costa Rica), and crime. The first two only show themselves at night, and mostly in the town of Quepos. Crime, though, is a very real danger, so keep an eye on your possessions at all times.

    Getting to Manuel Antonio from Santa Maria Airport in San Jose:

    • By Air: Two airlines will fly you from San Jose to Manuel Antonio: Sansa (011-506-290-4100) and Nature Air (800-235-9272). The flight takes about a half an hour and costs around $53 U.S. each way. Bear in mind that the luggage restrictions on these airlines is around 25 lbs., which makes them a non-options for those traveling with a lot of luggage.
    • By Private or Semi-Private Transport: There are many private and semi-private shuttles and Taxis from the airport to Manuel Antonio. You can usually hire these at the airport. The ride takes 3-4 hours depending on road conditions and costs around $215 U.S. for a private transport (regardless of the number of people), and $30 per person for a semi-private.
    • By Public Bus: There are direct buses that leave from the main bus terminal (called “Coca Cola”) in San José three times a day. In addition to the direct buses, there are also indirect buses that make numerous stops along the way. An advantage to this bus is that you can also pick it up along the way, just in case you aren’t starting out in San Jose. Please note that this is a much longer trip and can take upwards of 4-4 1/2 hours. You should know that Coca Cola is the pickpocket capital of Costa Rica. It is important to keep your eyes on your things at all times, both when waiting for the bus as well as when you are on it. Be sure to keep all your pertinent documents (i.e. passport, licence, money etc. . .) on your person at all times and do not store them with your luggage under the bus.
    • By Car: If you rent a car at the airport, you can get to Manuel Antonio in about 3-4 hours, like the private transports. From the airport, take the Pan-American Highway west approximately 10KM to the Atenas exit. Exit right off the road at the Atenas – Orotina sign and turn left crossing over the highway continuing through the scenic mountains through La Garita, Atentas and past Orotina. You will drive through the mountains for about one hour; once you get to the town of San Mateo follow the signs to Jaco, Parrita, and then Quepos (the town just north of Manuel Antonio)

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