Manuel Antonio and Caribbean Coast
After arriving at Manuel Antonio, we were excited about visiting the beaches and the famous National Park in this small town. First of all, we were lucky enough to stay with a local through Couchsurfing. He worked at a gym as a personal trainer and yoga teacher, and he even invited us to a free class! Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it, but we did have a private yoga flow practice right at the beach. I bet a lot of people that saw us thought we were kind of crazy. Ricardo, our host, made sure we were well taken care of, he cooked us breakfast and we all made dinner for him one evening.
There are a few public beaches in the town. The main one is called Playa Espadilla. It’s pretty long and you can probably find a spot under some palm trees to get some shade. Or you can lay out in the sun and get your tan on, which is what I did. Be careful though, remember to bring your sunblock! Along the beach, there will be people selling ice cream, coconuts, and other yummy snacks. Coconuts by the beach are always a must for me, you can get them for about 1 USD and the guy will crack it open for you.
There is another beach a bit hidden called Playa Biesanz. It is one of my personal all-time favorite beaches. You have to go down a winding street to where it almost ends at a hotel. But right before you get to the dead end, there’s a small passage through a patch of forest before going all the way down to the ocean. When you get there you’re surrounded by beautiful green hills that protect a small bay where the beach is at. The contrast of the clear blue waters with the bright green hills is stunning.
The main attraction of this town is its National Park. You can see families of monkey playing and climbing through the trees, you’ll have to protect your bags from the raccoons that will try to steal your food, and you’ll see huge iguanas laying some in the shade and some in the sun. This place is one of the most biodiverse regions in Costa Rica, you can even see sloths if you’re lucky! We looked so hard to find one but unfortunately never did. You can get optional tour guides if you are really interested in learning all about the flora and fauna that lives here. In the park, there are about 3 sections that give you about 5-7 beach options. Some are very crowded with calmer tides and waves and others have strong currents and aggressive waves, so you can take your pick! We went to most of them but we only stayed for a little while because, once again, a thunderstorm got on top of us. Since we didn’t have bags to protect our electronic devices we had to make a run for it and get back to the car. We were a bit disappointed because the entrance fee costs about 15 USD and we were only there for about 3 hours (instead of the whole day).
We spent 3 days in Manuel Antonio until we had to say goodbye to our friend Ricardo and take our rental car back to San Jose. We spent another night there before taking a bus out to the Atlantic Coast. We met another fellow Couchsurfer in San Jose, his name was Ezequiel, he is originally from Argentina but is working in Costa Rica as a director filming commercials for brands like Mountain Dew and others I can’t remember. He took us out walking a bit around San Jose and gave us one of his friends’ number who lives in Playa Chiquita, right beside Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where we were heading out the next day. We got super lucky and this guy that we hadn’t even met ever before accepted us to stay at his cabin in the jungle, just a couple of minutes from the beach.
Puerto Viejo is a rustic beach town with lots of bars and hostels around. They have quite a few happy hour promos in every direction you look at. We had some delicious beef and potato empanadas and a michelada after going into the ocean for a little while.
We had heard that you can do a beach route on a bike exploring the amazing Caribbean beaches one by one. So we went out the next morning and rented a bike for a day (around 7 USD) and started our route through Punta Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Playa Grande, and my personal favorite, Playa Manzanillo. It is a fairly easy ride with the exception of one hill that made me sweat like crazy with the tropical humid heat. But the beach was right by our side to refresh us whenever needed. In the evening we went back in town to Puerto Viejo to get something to eat and have our last happy hour cocktails (rum & coke) before our next day’s adventure: crossing the border to Panama.