I know this may seem like a strange time to be writing about tips for traveling when the world is on lockdown. But, it won’t always be this way so it is a good time to plan ahead and think about things you want to do in the future. This could include a trip to our wonderful corner of the globe, Manuel Antonio. There is plenty of information and suggestions on what to do everywhere but you know, as well as anyone, that it’s the locals who know best. So, I thought I would put together some tips and tricks to whoever wants to read about some good secrets to getting the most out of your stay in Manuel Antonio.
Short and sweet. Use the local currency colones. It is better for you trust me and you will get a better exchange than using dollars.
For the ladies, latin men can be very friendly. If they wolf whistle or click or whatever, don’t be rude. They can get offended and more aggressive. Just ignore and go about your business. If people get pushy which is very rare, kindly ask them to go away or step into a shop, restaurant, bar. Everyone here in Costa Rica in general is very welcoming and friendly.
Visiting the park
Visiting the Manuel Antonio National park is very much the center piece for a lot of people. However, it can become overcrowded and rather daunting to those of you who are heading in without a guide. Unfortunately it has garnered a bit of a bad reputation recently. This is because you get bombarded with people waving you into parking spaces, people yelling at you for a guide and much more. I’ll be honest, it is extremely off putting. They get rude and nasty plus if there are queues. So, here are the suggestions.
First up, you go for the wildlife right? So, instead, check out the Rainmaker park just outside town. Way less crowded, amazing hike and all the animals you need. Also some cool hanging bridges. If you can’t manage the hike, do the park but go first thing, as in there for 7am. Organize a guide before hand. I have some great recommendations including Manuel Cabalceta or Estelle Mansuelle.
If going with no guide, You can park right at the entrance to the park, the gentlemen who wave at you, the moment you are in sight of the beach, quietly drive past them and head to the entrance of the park. You will have to pay for parking but they are valid lots there. You can buy your tickets yourself and wander in. Everything is clearly marked. You can take snacks, in, also plenty of water which you can refill at the water fountains. You don’t need hiking boots, but sensible shoes are good. There is a place to buy food and drink in there but please try and avoid it. Everything is covered in plastic and priced up.
Other options are Carara park near Jaco.
So, at the end of the day you want to relax on the beach, or in your rental house with a nice drink. Supermarkets around town are pretty overpriced. big tip number 1. Buy from duty free on the way through the arrival lounge. right after baggage claim. You have two that you can pick from. If you are looking at stocking up when in Quepos, I give you El Estanco. Near the waterfront and next to the old park. It is a dingy, dark supermarket with juts the basics, but a nice selection of beers and booze at a good price. If you want to get hold of something more upmarket and exclusive then I would go with mini price which is more costly as well but a much wider selection if you can’t find what you are looking for in El Estanco.
Cheeky hole in the wall for places to eat
Looking to grab some good grub in town but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg up the hill? There are some great sodas in town, and some real hidden gems. De la finca is one of my favorites round by Banco Popular and there is a particular gem on the corner of the soccer field in Quepos called Arabelas. Whats looks a bit of a makeshift restaurant really turns out some amazing dishes in both taste and presentation.
Red taxis are the go to. But yes, they do rip you off quite a bit so ask them to put on the meter when you get in. If you are jumping around Manuel Antonio and Quepos then you can use a collectivo taxi. Both Red taxis and unauthorized taxis (piratas) do this. Basically you get beeped at, you wave at them, jump in and then pay c500 anywhere you go. Voila. Not too bad really. Beware of the really beat up cars though!
The beach is always good for this depending on what time of year you are here. Another option, head to the marina or the Quepos waterfront. Grab a cheap beer and watch the world go by. If you are in the marina there are two great happy hours in the runaway grill, with 2×1 on spirits or the double hook upstairs which make some cheap and cheerful margaritas. Both with spectacular views as the sun goes down.
Want to grab a quick snack for the park later or the beach, or get the munchies later on. There is a little bakery in Quepos called Panaderia Las Americas that offers a big selection of cheap pastries and they are GOOD! Local pastries mind you, like empanadas and rollitos. You can stock up for a quick cheap snack. They have both savory and sweet options which is great.