Manuel Antonio, the Crowning Jewel, or the Crown itself?

Manuel Antonio, the Crowning Jewel, or the Crown itself?

 One of the most common questions I get from people who are thinking of coming to Costa Rica is, where is the best place to go? What is the “crowning jewel” of Costa Rica. The answer to that question is like all other complex and philosophical questions…it depends.

So, you say, “Are you one of those mushy, indecisive people who can never make up their minds on anything?” And, to your cynicism, I say, “If there was one best hamburger for everyone, why are there so many different choices at your favorite burger joint? And, tell me please, why hasn’t your favorite burger joint taken over the world in a burger dictatorship?” You see where I am going with this? It depends, and more importantly it depends on you!

What do you enjoy? What type of vacation or lifestyle are you wanting at this time?  Do you want to stand on a volcano and look into the crater that’s bubbling? Do you prefer the mountains, the jungle or the beach? Do you surf or just like to walk and sunbathe when at said beach? Are you a night owl who needs to howl at the moon occasionally? Are you looking for something different or are you interested in a typical resort experience? Are you a sunrise or a sunset person? I can go on and on and on. I often do, just ask my friends and family. Costa Rica has all of this and more.

Costa Rica offers so many possibilities, you should not pick one spot. Almost every microclimate you could think of, (no snow, thank God!) biodiversity that is second to none, and lifestyle choices that can fit anyone’s needs and desires. However, if you force me to make a choice and give you the “crowning jewel”, instead I give you the crown. It encompasses so much that it would be doing a disservice to only call it the jewel, Manuel Antonio and Quepos. (let the angelic music begin)

Manuel Antonio and the town of Quepos (a short 3.5 mi away) have more than enough Central American charm and appeal to cover most people’s desires. Heck, Costa Rica’s most famous national park Manuel Antonio, itself has enough fun filled, adventurous umph to keep most people satisfied. Entry costs $16 US and worth every cent. Spend your days lounging on the white sand beaches, splashing in the aqua blue waters, walking the more than 8 km (5 mi) of nature trails, whale and dolphin watching off of Cathedral Point (August through October is best for this), interact with the monkeys close up (no potato chips in the park please, actual rule!), contemplate the life of a three toed sloth (mesmerizing in their deliberateness), and on and on. If you are not some lily-livered, concrete jungle, city folk, you cannot help but fall in love with this place. 

The town right next to the park has all your touristy necessities, but if you want a little more luxury and/or local flavor, I suggest spending a bit of time in Quepos. It has a multitude of its own charms as well. Restaurants of almost every kind, a farmer’s market open from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, (I highly recommend making at least one farmer’s market stop while in Costa Rica and enjoy fresh fruits and veggies that might turn you vegetarian, at least until your next meal). Local shops and boutiques of all kinds, a few clubs to keep your wild side satiated, (if you are so inclined) and a marina to service fishing charters, jet ski rentals, boat whale watching tours and anything else you may need for aquatic adventures.

One of the most overlooked spots in this area is the hill in between these two locations. So often, as people drive back and forth from Quepos to Manuel Antonio they do not pay attention to this gem on the top of the crown. (see what I did there?) There are some absolutely phenomenal restaurants that offer views of the area that will knock your sandals off! Let me tell you a sunset (OMG!) from atop this hill with some of the best coffee and tapas (snacks and appetizers) in the country are worth the trip alone. There are many smaller hotels and family-owned resorts here that you should not sleep on either. 

If you want surfing, they gotcha covered. If you want peace and serenity, they gotcha covered. If you want good food of all types, (even falafel, yes falafel) they gotcha covered. Mountain, jungles, beach, they gotcha covered. Nature, nightlife, monkeys…OH MY! 

So, if you ask me what is the crowning jewel of Costa Rica? I say, I want the whole crown! I’ll take Manuel Antonio and Quepos as the, “if you had only one place to go and couldn’t go anywhere else, place to visit in Costa Rica.”

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About The Author

Tony

Tony is a contributing writer for Talk Costa Rica. "When I came to Costa Rica in 2006, I had been working in the go, go, go world of business management consulting for more than a decade. I moved around the United States looking for a different lifestyle, something better, community. While I enjoyed all the different people and the places I lived in, what I found in Costa Rica was a rhythm and societal feel more like that of my youth. Growing up in Southern California ingrained a fondness for Latin culture in me that just kept coming back to me. I enjoyed the sense of community and warmness not found today in most American neighborhoods. When I came to Costa Rica in 2006 for a vacation, I had no intention of staying. However, after just two weeks I decided Costa Rica had what I had been missing, community."

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