The town of Manuel Antonio, built around pristine beaches, a famous national park, and home to a diverse marine and terrestrial life, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The attractions draw a ton of visitors both from within and outside the country every year. Due to the popularity of this coastal town, development has outrageously skyrocketed giving rise to thousands of hotels, businesses and real estate, almost seemingly tickling the fine balance of eco-diversity.
In our 3 day stay here, we found it hard to get away from the swarming crowd everywhere including the beach. The surf and the comfortable water of the ocean makes it a popular surfing destination for amateurs and newbies alike. Many a times we found ourselves elbow to elbow with other swimmers in the shallows and the beach. Finding a seat in the restaurants or beach shacks were troublesome too.
But all the whining aside, the walks along the beach in the dead of night or just at the break of dawn before all hell broke loose were remarkable. Watching the known stars and constellations along with the other unearthly objects shine in the dark night sky reminded of what we miss out in our uber-urban lifestyle. We felt the sheer power of darkness, that humankind fails to recognize in the presence of neon-lights, while looking at the Milky Way with the tall rocks in the ocean in the foreground.
Parks and Adventures
This area is filled with a list of interesting activities including surfing, diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, cruises, whitewater rafting, and of course the national park for wildlife watching. Since we stayed in a beachside property, we found ourselves on the beach several times during the day swimming, sunbathing, trying to ride the surf, or just dipping the toes in the pleasant ocean waves.
We spent half a day whitewater rafting (Read more about our take on the adrenaline rush in Rio de Savegre) and another day hiking in the Manuel Antonio National Park (Read more about the wildlife in the park).
Food and Nightlife
Food in the town, especially near the beach is extremely expensive without a fulfilling experience. We walked or hopped on the public bus along the main street to find nice diners at a much better value. Alternatively, convenient bus options are available to go to Quepos (only 15 minutes ride) to have fancy dinners. We heard a lot about El Wagon themed on a train coach, on the main street for a nice setting on the side of the hill with cool views of the ocean and hopped in for dinner one evening. Although not quite impressed with the food quality and value, the location is something to check it out. There is a bar up on the main street called Ronnys Place, which is on the other hand really good for food, cocktails and value. It is extremely popular and getting reservation is close to impossible. You can watch a nice quiet sunset while sipping on tropical drinks.