Pretty simple trip logistics – saw a cheap airfare over holiday weekend that allowed for a stop in Panama City on Copa Airlines, booked first/last night with hotel points and after some research settled on Jaco as it is a 1 hour drive from San Jose and booked two nights in a beach hostel (at $30/night). However, after doing our final research, we found that Manuel Antonio was more scenic and had the highest rated beach in the country and only a 1.5 hour drive further from Jaco. So we needed either to book a night in Manuel Antonio or have a long day. We saw a seeing a crazy looking AirBNB on a YouTube travel video and found that it was available for rent (unfortunately at more than $30/night). Ended up being the right decision as being in Manuel Antonio for the evening and the next day at the beach was great – and shockingly the drive was longer than indicated. One negative about a short term to Costa Rica is everything takes a little longer than planned – Pura Vida!
We booked a walking tour through the national park at 12:30pm – so with a 2.5 hour drive and some time for getting the rental car in San Jose and checking into the AirBNB (to ensure our luggage secure), we left at 8am…plenty of time right? Pura Vida! No Emerald Isle on the pickup and by the time I took two shuttles, waited for the car, filled out forms by hand, inspected the car, and drove 5 miles back to the hotel to pick Sharon up…already used up an hour of our time. And I was lucky to have gotten local currency as there was a toll was between the rental car pickup and the hotel. Then we encountered regular weekend beach traffic so showed up at the park at exactly 12:30pm.
Glad we had a guide – although one of the most biodiverse places on earth, we really didn’t see any wildlife unless our guide found it and we used his telescopic lens to see them and take photos with our phone. We did find a couple of sloths – but the view was obstructed by the trees – I have also included pictures from our guides blog – we didn’t get this shot.
Pictures from Hike Using Telescopic Lens
Sloth Pictures – You can guess which ones our guide had taken on another hike
So after the walk – as planned we ended up on the beach, a little before 3pm. Two beaches in the national park, back to back and postcard perfect, one side was calm and the other with large waves, had a choice. Sharon went for a swim and came out for me to have a turn – then they closed the beach at 3:30. Apparently a daily occurrence – so we walked out the long way and ran into a lot of monkeys on the beach.
Casa Elsa and views from the town of Manuel Antonio
Google maps is not that accurate in Costa Rica – if visiting make sure you map to well-known landmarks – eventually we found the AirBNB – pretty spectacular. The owner designed and built it himself and we had one of four master suites. Except for the four suites, the entire house was outside and integrated with the jungle – and would have had a spectacular view of the Pacific except for the trees – the view picture is 20 feet from their front door between the trees. Although 4 groups were there, we only saw one other – they were staying for 8 days.
A short walk across the street we found the “Mango Moon” hotel where we settled in for sunset and met other tourists – lots of activities to do if you are staying for more than a couple of days. This view was the other side of a peninsula and a completely different view. Pura Vida!
Nightlife in Manuel Antonio pretty tame – found a cool restaurant that was built out of a recovered crashed CIA plane (think Oliver North) but sadly no one seem to serve food after 9pm. So chicken wings it was.
The next morning we walked down to the public beach at Espadilla which was basically perfect – great waves for body surfing and perfectly white sand. What we should have done was drive our car because in this area you could park on the beach – provides a low stress way to ensure your stuff doesn’t get stolen. We then walked back to the national park and took a local bus back to the AirBNB for the drive back to Jaco.