Off the Beaten Path in Manuel Antonio
As Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, is slowly discovered, more and more tourists come seeking its famed natural beauty. Manuel Antonio national park and the primary public beach, Playa Espadilla, are its biggest draws-however, with such topography and flourishing rainforest, it is also home to numerous off-the-beaten-path gems.
One of the greatest things about visiting Manuel Antonio is the juxtaposition of a variety of different adventure tours with boutique, luxury accommodations. It is one of the few destinations in the world where travelers can stay at a luxury condominium with full amenities, and still have nature and adventure knocking at the door. Boutique accommodations such as the Shana Residences provide a perfect base from which to explore the area-without sacrificing all of the comforts of luxury travel:
IN MANUEL ANTONIO / QUEPOS:
Description: Ronny's Place is a local dive with a fantastic location. Set along a bumpy, dirt road, a row of cement tables provide great sunset views over the Pacific, and cold drinks to accompany them.
Directions: Turn right in front of Amigos del Rio, and follow the dirt road ½ mile up to the restaurant.
Notes: Get there well before sunset to ensure getting a front-row table.
El Salto Waterfall:
Description: One of the only waterfalls in Manuel Antonio, 15-foot El Salto is an easy 10 minute hike from Valle Pura Vida.
Directions: Take a left just after Amigos del Rio into Valle Pura Vida, and drive to the end. In front of Rancho Manuel Antonio is a path which leads along the creek directly to the waterfall.
Notes: Do not jump-hidden rocks below!
Playa La Macha:
Description: Playa La Macha is one of the least-frequented beaches in Manuel Antonio-likely because it takes a 20 minute hike down through the rainforest to get there. It is a picturesque cove beach, walled by rainforest-topped cliffs.
Directions: Take a right just after the Blue Monkey hotel, on the paved road which quickly becomes a dirt road. Take the next left-in front of Hotel Villa Teca, and then another immediate left down into the rainforest, towards Villas Kristina. Go to the top of the hill, past a couple of homes, and park. The road turns to a rough path, and winds down directly to the beach.
Notes: Best at mid-to-high tide. Bring sun protectionlittle shade.
Description: Playa Cocal is the long, open beach just north of Quepos. While it's the closest beach to Quepos, because it is only accessible by crossing the river mouth in a ferry, there tend to be few tourists.
Directions: Look for the ferryboat near the bridge to enter Quepos.
Precautions: Irregular ferry. Bring sun protection & water.
Description: 'Playitas' is what the locals call the surfer's beach-the northwest end of the main public beach, Playa Espadilla. For travelers looking to escape the crowds and vendors at the southeast end of the beach (near the national park), Playitas is much more relaxed and has plenty of shade.