Just over an hour south of Jaco lies the breathtaking town of Manuel Antonio. This town is home to gorgeous beaches and tons of wildlife! It also happens to be where we had the best food on our entire trip!
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Where to Stay
There are a variety of hotels, hostels and airbnb’s that are really close to the national park and the beach. We stayed at an Airbnb right outside of the park entrance and the location was absolutely perfect. We didn’t have to battle crowds, pay for parking or worry about a shuttle. It was also a 5 minute walk to the beach! We were so close to the park we were woken up by howler monkeys at 3am one night. How cool is that?!
All of these hotels are within walking distance of the national park entrance:
Hotel La Posada
El Faro Beach Hostel
Hotel Playa Espadilla
Hotel Vela Bar
Hotel Manuel Antonio
Overall, they seem to have great reviews online but I have not personally stayed at any of these hotels so I can’t vouch for them!
Where to Eat
A lot of people say the food in Costa Rica is underwhelming. I’ll admit there were a few places we ate along the way where the food was okay, not bad, but just okay. But, it’s easy to get tired of casados after a few days if you’re not used to rice and beans on the daily.
In Manuel Antonio, we had consistently amazing meals! Seriously, every single meal we ate was delicious! It is truly a foodie’s paradise. Here’s a few of places we ate at and why we recommend it:
This little café was so good we ate here three times! From coffee to craft beer, everything about this place screams local. I highly recommend the jerk chicken with coconut rice and beans. We also had the beef tenderloin which was so delicious! Don’t forget to order extra plantains!
This pirate themed restaurant is known for their sushi and cheap pitchers. They have a pretty diverse menu but most of the people around us also ordered sushi, with good reason! Make sure you order their Tico Roll. It’s topped with a grilled plantain and the flavor combination is delectable!
The view is amazing! This is what initially drew us in to this café but we stayed for the fresh fish and great service. They’re great for any meal but if you go for dinner, go early so you have a chance to enjoy the view!
You can’t beat the atmosphere of this restaurant. When you spot a giant airplane on the side of the road, you’re there! Walk through the fuselage and emerge at the bar with a spectacular view over the ocean. We only stopped in for some cocktails but the food looked (and smelled) delicious!
This hip and trendy restaurant shines a spot light on Middle Eastern food. We had falafel and schnitzel pitas and they were so good! Middle Eastern food is a bit out of our comfort zone but I loved every bite!
What to See
Obviously, the national park is the main draw here. Go early for more chances to see wildlife and take your time! Spotting sloths is not an easy feat and we only found them because we saw groups of people hanging around in a particular area. If you use a guide they will have a spotting scope and you can use your phone to get some pretty cool photos this way! If you go at it alone, I would recommend bringing a pair of binoculars!
Also, bring a beach towel and make a day of it! The beaches within the park are gorgeous! There is no food for purchase within the park and they limit what you can bring in so consult the official website before bringing in food. When we went they were allowing sandwiches, bottled water, soda and fruit. They were confiscating bags of chips and other processed snacks.
Outside of the national park is actually where we saw the majority of the monkeys! If you follow the road all the way to the end of the beach it ends with a turn around. Off to the left you’ll see a gravel parking lot. They may want you to pay to park in there but if you just walk down there you’ll find tons of monkeys hanging out in the trees! Out of our entire trip this was the absolute best spot.
Here’s a map!
The red X is where our Airbnb was, the blue X is where you’ll find all the monkeys! They have changed the location of the actual park entrance in the past but currently (2017) it’s where the road ends by Hotel San Bada.
If you’d like a guide for a national park, or you want to check out other activities for Manuel Antonio, check out the canopy tour and snorkeling tour from VIVAster!
Overall, we absolutely loved the time we spent in Manuel Antonio. It’s so picturesque, beautiful and riddled with wildlife! Not to mention it’s a foodie’s paradise! If you’re planning a trip to this wonderful country, Manuel Antonio is an absolute MUST! Now that you know where you’re headed, check out my list of Top 10 Items You MUST PACK For a Trip to Costa Rica!
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