It was time to venture out into the natural world of Costa Rica. Our first stop after San Jose was the popular area of Manuel Antonio and it’s famous national park on the Central Pacific coast, near the town of Quepos.
The bus journey from San Jose to Quepos is fairly simple, all buses leave from San Jose and travel in all directions outwards towards a coast. You can catch a bus to Quepos for USD8.50 that takes around 3.5 hours (direct service). From there you need to catch a bus from Quepos – Manuel Antonio National Park, costing 310 colones (under a dollar). There is no clear distinction of where the town of Manuel Antonio begins or ends. As the national park has become more popular, the road has gradually been built up. To accommodate the growing numbers of tourists and so created Manuel Antonio Village.
San Jose to Quepos Bus Times: 06:00 – Direct, 07:00 – Not Direct, 09:00 – Direct Except Sundays, 10:00 – Not Direct, 12:00pm – Direct, 14:00 – Not Direct, 14:30 – Direct, 16:00 – Not Direct
Quepos to Manuel Antonio – the bus begins early in the morning 05:45 until about 21:00. Running every 15-20 minutes. You can catch the bus anywhere along the main road by just waving down the bus driver.
Hotels are varied here in price. I would recommend staying along the main road and as close as you can to the park. However, depending when you book you may not have much choice depending on your budget. Que Tuanis was our choice of hostel. Located towards the beginning of the main road. With a bus stop right outside and for the price of USD56.00 for two nights for two people sharing, this suited us perfectly. The closer you get to the national park the more restaurants, cafes and supermarkets you will be nearer to for evening meals.
Visiting the National Park:
You can get the bus to the park, the bus driver will shout when you reach the stop. Or get off when you’ve stopped near a beach. You need to walk past this beach and around the corner. There is be a narrow alley next to a car park with a sign for the national park. You need to continue down here, over the little bridge, past the houses and finally at the end of the dirt track you will see the park to your right and the ticket office to your left.
The park is stunning and full of life. There are some of the best beaches inside the park as well. Skip past the one outside the park and enjoy a choice of beautiful beaches inside. I could go on and on describing the park but being as it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country it rather speaks for itself. Oh, just watch your bags on the beaches if you have food inside them. The Racoon’s will sniff anything out and take food straight from your bag – or your entire bag itself!
There are numerous places to eat in Manuel Antonio. The most spectacular one to visit is El Avion. An old C-123 Fairchild cargo plane which has been converted into a bar and restaurant. Go at least once while you are here. Sunset is a particularly busy time to visit, as you can sit and glance across the whole bay. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain when we went so all we saw was the lightening circling us.
Another place to visit especially for breakfast, is Emilio’s Café. Great food, great price and a great view! Manuel Antonio is known for having a whale tail shaped spit of land that divides two beaches inside the national park. This is particularly viewable from the balcony at Emilo’s.
Cafe Milagro is also a good place to go for dinner. We started off spending ‘a lot’ on dinner, but we learnt quickly and started to live cheaper. Eating in Soda’s and Cafes for mere dollars after our first stop on our trip.
Temperature is not an issue here in Manuel Antonio with an average year round temperature of 20 degrees. Tt is the rainfall that you need to look out for. The months from December to April have the least rainfall. We travelled at the end of April into May. Our first day we had downpours which did not seem to stop all night. The second day at the park it was pure sunshine. Make sure you carry a rain jacket at all times if travelling in shoulder season.
Top tip: Early mornings are always worth getting up for in Costa Rica!
Accommodation – USD56.00 for 2 nights (2 people sharing USD28.00pp) USD8.00pp for breakfast.
Transport – USD8.50pp + $ within town bus journey’s
National Park – USD16.00pp
El Avion Dinner – USD25.00pp
Emilo’s Café – USD10.00pp
Café Milagro Dinner – USD25.00pp