Day 5: Drive to Manuel Antonio and Playa Biesanz
We packed up our bags, grabbed breakfast, and headed on the 4 hour drive from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio. This drive was a bit less bumpy than the previous drive, but still more rural than we’re used to. Our route took us through Jaco, a cute coastal town, where we purchased coconuts with straws on the side of the road for $1.
We arrived in Manuel Antonio around noon, too early to check into our hostel, so we drove directly to Playa Biesanz. This is a beautiful local beach that is accessed by a short walk through the jungle (often filled with wild monkeys!).
PRO TIP: There is street parking right near the entrance of the beach path. However, you must pay an attendant to watch your car for $5. We opted for this, as we did not see any available free parking within walking distance. Also, wear sandals with straps/sneakers as the hike to the beach can be a bit slippery.
There were chairs/umbrellas for rent, but we brought our own towels so we sunbathed and swam for hours here. There were very few people, other than some food/drink vendors and a couple of families. The water was warm and clear, and it was great to just relax for a while.
Next we headed to our hostel, Hostel Plinio, to check-in and shower. This hostel was SUPER cute. I felt like we were staying in a tree-house. However, there was no air conditioning and the room was small, so we did get quite warm at times.
After freshening up, we headed to Barba Roja for dinner. As this is a great sunset spot, make sure to get there early if you want a good view! Food and drinks were reasonably priced, there were two Birds of Paradise who built a nest nearby that kept us company, and of course we got to watch the beautiful sunset. I definitely recommend this place!
After dinner, we headed to Bar Jolly Roger for some karaoke! It was a fun way to end the night.
Day 6: Manuel Antonio National Park
We booked a private tour online for Manuel Antonio National Park, as we had previously missed some wildlife being stuck behind slower people in the group in the Night Walk. We had breakfast (included at our hostel) and were picked up by our guide.
PRO TIP: Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Mondays. Other days, the number of visitors is limited (check website for more details). Either arrive EARLY or book your tour in advance. Bringing food into the park is strictly prohibited. There is food available for purchase in the park.
The guide had a special scope that he was able to quickly set up and allow us to view the wildlife close up. If there was time (and there usually was), he let us take pictures on our cell phones of the animals. We got some truly stunning shots of sloths, birds, and monkeys using this method.
Walking around with the guide in the forest was amazing, as he saw many things we could not, and we learned a lot about the different wildlife that could be found there. The tour was supposed to be 4 hours long, and ended up being about 2.5, so after emailing the tour company when we got back, we were refunded some of our money (do not be afraid to do this if the company misleads you).
After that, it was time to check out the beaches. There are 2 main beaches inside the park: Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach. Both are quite close to each other and it’s easy to hop back and forth from beach to beach. We started with Manuel Antonio Beach, as it was closer to the tour end and closest to the food. The water was SO blue, the sands were soft and white, and monkeys ran through the jungles that surrounded the beach (we even saw one lady get her food stolen).
Next we headed over to Espadilla Sur Beach. There was considerably less jungle here, and thus less opportunity to limit sun exposure (and heat exhaustion when not in the water). We swam over here too, as it was just as beautiful as Manuel Antonio Beach, until I got stung by a jelly fish (ouch)! After that, we decided to head back to Manuel Antonio Beach.
PRO TIP: Most people rest in the shade of trees on these beaches. Be sure to avoid the Manchineel trees, which are poisonous even if touched!
The rest of the day was spent on the beaches, relaxing and unknowingly burning our skin. Make sure to wear HIGH SPF – even if you don’t think you’re getting too much sun!
The walk back to the tour guide pick-up at the entrance of the park took approximately a half hour, so make sure to factor this into your departure time. We were brought back to our hostel and got ready for dinner. Dinner that night was at Ronny’s Place, which is also known to have great sunset views (get there early to ensure a good table)!
After another beautiful sunset and great dinner (with more coconut drinks!), we wanted a night out on the town. We were recommended Selina Manuel Antonio, a nearby hotel known for it’s party atmosphere and free dance lessons. This is a must-do if you want a fun, party night! The dance lessons were SO much fun, there was a pool with volleyball games going on, several bars, and LOTS of travelers of all ages around.
After that bar closed, some people I had met decided we wanted to keep the party going at a nearby casino in Quepos. I would NOT recommend this option. It felt dirty and scary, and we left as pretty much as soon as we got there (losing Uber money in the process).
Day 7: The Journey Home
We slept in after a long night, packed up our bags, checked out and headed back towards Playa Biesanz. Our flight from San Jose wasn’t until nighttime, and it was only a 3 hour drive back, so we had some time to kill. We rented some chairs and umbrellas this time (after having been badly sunburnt) and spent the day relaxing.
The 3 hour drive back to San Jose was the easiest yet (mostly paved roads) and left us time for dinner. We made reservations at Mirador Tiquicia, a traditional Costa Rican restaurant in San Jose which overlooks the entire city. Honestly, the drive up to this restaurant was horrifying, but the live performances and delicious food made it worth it.
After dinner, we drove to the airport, returned our rental car, and took our flights home, ready to plan the next big adventure.