Manuel Antonio – I heart you.

Ok, this post is a PICTURES-OVERLOAD-POST, just so you know.  You’ve been warned. We had a completely awesome and amazing time in Manuel Antonio.  We went with our good friends Justa & Steve, and had a short but FULL weekend.  I’ll let my pictures tell the story.

First stop on the drive down, Esterillos Oeste – this was a beautiful, virtually uninhabited beach.  The road to the beach had several shops and soda’s that were boarded up, so I guess it was more popular at one time…  It was serene and gorgeous, and very sparse with people.  One of the land marks of this beach is this beautiful mermaid statue:



We found a  young woman selling yellow coconuts.  The yellow coconut (pipa amarilla) is very similar to the white pineapple here – rare and hard to find now-a-days, but authentic and original to Costa Rica.  The green coconuts were imported because they grow faster and are easier to harvest as the trees don’t grow as tall.  The pipa amarilla and piña blanco are both more organic.  Justa had to have one (note:  they are not kept in a  cooler and not served with a straw) – Justa was in heaven.  This little girl was the daughter of the woman selling them, and as soon as I asked if I could take her picture – she adjusted her top and looked directly at me with her brilliant smile.


Beautiful beach:


Greg & Me.


We ventured on, arriving in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area before noon.  However, before we got to the main beach / park entrance area, we were accosted by parking attendants directing us to turn off and park.  There were also several policía standing by.  The road was blocked and it looked like we had no choice, but upon Justa conferring with the parking attendants in rapid Español and explaining that we had a reservation at a hotel down the road, they finally let us through.   Justa told to us that it didn’t used to be this way, but apparently has become quite commercialized.  We later saw that the road dead-ended after the park and the beach, so it made sense why they couldn’t allow tons of cars in there – it would quickly become jam-packed and people would have a hard time maneuvering and getting out.

We settled into our hotel, grabbed a bite to eat, and then took a leisurely walk along the beach.  I got to try my first cold coconut water drink (pipa fria).  And yes – this is the green, mass produced kind of coconut, also double the price of Justa’s yellow organic coconut.  So be it – it was so amazingly yummy, and I’d been wanting to try one!  The guy took one from his cooler, chopped off the top, put a straw in it and handed it to me – what a crazy cool and refreshing drink!


The beach was gorgeous.  We kinda loved it.


Handsome Hubby.

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The boys headed back to the hotel, while Justa & I tried to do a little light shopping.  We didn’t get very far when it soon started pouring down rain.  We waited it out a bit, then finally took a taxi (which some nice young men helped us whistle down) back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony together drinking a bottle of wine and watching the waves crash in.   It was a great peaceful way to spend the afternoon – even with the rain.

All of a sudden the rain settled into a light sprinkle and the clouds opened up a bit right in front of us with a gorgeous sunset.  We all ran down to the beach with our camera’s.

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Dinner was at El Avion – an old plane from the Iran Contra Affair.  Very cool atmosphere, good food, nice view & excellent company!


Day 2 –  Manuel Antonio National Park!  With our folio numbers (showing our application approval for residency), Greg & I got into the park for $3.20 EACH (non-resident price is $10 each).  I couldn’t believe what a deal this was!  We had decided to NOT hire a tour guide (which ranged from $10 – $40 per person, depending on the tour guide – who all seemed to work for themselves).   Justa had grown up in Costa Rica and been through the park several times.  The best the tour guides could boast was that “we’d see a sloth or our money back” – but what they didn’t tell you, was that this would be through their telescope.  To me, what good was that?  I wanted to see one with my own eyes, or none at all.  We’d take our chances on our own and with our “very own” tour guide – Justa.  Poor Justa – we put a lot of (teasing) pressure on her to see a sloth…  but truthfully, we didn’t hold out much hope for seeing one.  We were fine with this, as we knew we would see monkeys and lots of other animals.  We entered the park and started our walk.

The first part was a wide trail, lots of trees and jungle on either side, lots of people who had entered all together and were talking loudly, and well – not a lot of animals.

We ventured on, and came to a large fork where you had several different options of trails.  We saw a group of people around a tour guide on the trail to the beach – so hoping for a sloth – ventured down there.  Well, there was a sloth (said they, with their telescopes pointed upwards), but to us with our naked eyes it just looked like a tiny little fur ball.  Could have been a bunch of leaves, for all we knew.

We turned and went back the other way and soon came across another group talking about a “sloth”.  We stood, and looked, and finally saw something – again, way in the distance…  I guess I could kinda see it, and sure, it appeared that it was facing us…

We then meandered onto a small trail, finally all by ourselves and it was quiet.  Quiet is good when you’re listening for different sounds – of any kind – that could be any type of given animal.  All of sudden Justa shouted in a whisper to come over by her – and low and behold – before our very eyes did appear – a SLOTH!!!  Moving very slowly, he went from one limb to another, about 25 feet from us!  He was seriously AMAZING to behold.  It was my first time seeing a sloth, live – naturally – in front of me, and I was in awe. This sloth was a male, as he had 3 fingers and an opening on his back that looked like a wound, but is common with males.

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Well, that would have made my day right there after seeing the sloth.  But wait – there’s more!  Down another trail by the beach, we found these White-headed Capuchin monkeys (many times called the “white-faced monkey”)!

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After a while, Steve sat down on a log and decided to have a snack.  He opened a package of peanut M&M’s, and as soon as he took the first M&M out, these monkeys were almost upon us!  Of course we did not feed them, and Steve promptly put his M&M’s away for later…


More white-headed monkeys…  monkeying around:


 We also saw a laughing falcon, a coati, a blue morpho butterfly – and then, another monkey – this one is called the Mantled Howler, more commonly known as the “howler monkey”.  And yes – it howls, and can be quite loud:


And then, after we left the park and were walking out of the restaurant after lunch, we spotted a family of Squirrel Monkeys crossing a monkey rope hanging over a street (special “monkey ropes” have been hung for the monkeys to use so they don’t use the electrical wires to cross overhead) – I caught the last monkey to cross the wire:


And here’s a better, close up picture of the Squirrel Monkey, the smallest of the Costa Rican monkeys:


So – all in all – we saw three of the four species of Costa Rican monkeys (only one we didn’t see was the “Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey”).  Our awesome tour-guide-friend also saw a Toucan on our drive back from Manuel Antonio – amazing eyes, she saw it from the car!  We pulled over and got out and we all saw it sitting in a tree, hidden by leaves, and then it took off.   This is the best picture I got – it was flying away, and you can only see the silhouette – but look at that beak!



What a completely fulfilling weekend!  Jam packed with animals, sunsets, beaches, ocean waves, friends & good times.  Thank you – Justa & Steve!!

Ciao! — Jen


I quit my job in my early 40’s, sold everything and retired early to live a simple life in Costa Rica!

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15 Responses to Manuel Antonio – I heart you.

  1. Jen, thank you so much for these wonderful photos and great story! It’s like being there (instead of being stuck in the cold and snow of up north — blah)!

    • Carol Jean – thank you! I think we got really, really lucky – and also having my girlfriend Justa with us – was the REAL lucky charm! We seriously didn’t think we’d see one! 🙂

  2. Great pix. What kind of cam did you use? I went to Panama [via bogota] on TACA for thanksgiving. Still in the process of getting my permanent residence. It is winding gale force daily here in Santo Domingo. Getting used to the CR standard fae of rice and beans and whatever else that drops from the trees. Dreaming of foot long hotdogs from Sonic.

    Thanks for your travelogue and pix.


    • Thank you so much, Axiando! I must admit I stole a few of these pic’s (the GOOD ONE’S!) from my hubby – he has a D5100 Nikon and is really good (using a 70-300mm zoom lens).

      It’s windy here too, in El Cajon de Grecia these days (mostly at night!), and I hear you on the hotdog dreams!! lol Thanks for reading.

  3. Pictures paint a thousand words, thank you for sharing your wonderful trip. It brought back fond memories of our visit last year to Manuel Antonio, we loved the view from El Avion.
    Feliz Navida y Hasta pronto en Grecia!
    Annie Lee & Frank Paldino

  4. Hi Jan – this post was a treasure for me to see since MA is my favorite spot in Costa Rica. I recognized exactly where you were standing in many of the shots, have eaten in El Avion twice and cant wait to get back there again soon.

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday! We had a lot of fun here but being in CR would have made it even better! We are off to look at STEM universities down the east coast in a few weeks, and will be back in CT in April!

    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you Ann – we had such a blast in MA – our first time there and only 2 days, but we packed it in! Can’t wait for you to come back to CR! 🙂

      • hello jen

        here in santo domingo we had tons of family over to eat all sorts of cr grub including tamales and a huge roast pork and, of course, homemade rompope.

        i have to say that, having lived in Los Angeles for 17 years, i do prefer the mexican tamales–though i miss the burritos off the roach coach in burbank even more–and so far–even the most expensive cuts of meat pale in comparison to the US standard choices.

        but the rompope made with cacique is yummy.

        still in waiting for the cedula but i learned today that since i am married to my wonderful costa rican wife,kathy, i really have nothing to worry about. of course, i am skeptical of everything but……………………….

        santo domingo is really a nice place to live. very old colonial area. our place is a combination store fronts that my mother in law owns and four three bedrooms condos above the courtyard.

        i go to the bread store owned by two ex soccer stars every morning and shop at the ghetto pali grocery store couple times a week.

        while kathy works at the kindergarten in the morning and helps my son in law with his sports store later in the day,i am the amo de casa–so i do a lot of housework and cooking.

        if you had asked me three years ago if i had ever thought i would be married again after 30 years of blissful batchelorhood
        and living in this equatorial paradise, i would have had a big laugh.

        someday it would be great to meet you and greg and justa.

        ps. dreaming of gringo chow.

        pps. am having a big laugh watching the antics at the teletica in san jose. a very professional coverage of an absolutely crazy holiday festival.



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