In January of 2016, I went to Costa Rica for my first time for a PaleOMG Retreat. While I was there, I fell in love with the beaches, the plantains, and the water. But the whole time I kept thinking about how I wished my husband was there to experience it with me. So when we got home from our wedding in Jamaica last year and while I was having the post-wedding blues, I decided to book a trip to Costa Rica for our 1 year wedding anniversary so he could experience it himself.
If you haven’t been to Costa Rica, it’s an incredibly lush country with palm tree farms everywhere, fantastic beaches, and incredibly kind people. I went to Manuel Antonio the first time and loved it so much that I decided we should stay there again. Manuel Antonio is about 3 hours drive from the San Jose airport so instead of making that drive like I did my first time, I booked us a little puddle jumper flight through Sansa Air which is a quick 20 minute flight to Quepos Airport. Since we took the redeye out the night before, we landed in Quepos around 2pm and got to our Airbnb in 20 minutes. Easy peasy! The first place we stayed at was from a recommendation by a reader! This treehouse in Quepos is up some hilly and bumpy roads into the jungle. And it is literally a treehouse in the jungle, but it has a full functioning kitchen, running water, full bathroom and an amazing deck to have coffee on in the mornings. But be sure it’s later in the morning because around 5am, you have monkeys playing EVERYWHERE. And I’m sure they would love a little coffee mug souvenir to take with them. What’s super cool about the treehouse, other than it being a full functioning treehouse (like, whaaaaat?) is that it’s all mesh and wire everywhere so you can see out into the night and while the sun is rising and breeze is blowing in. And when the monkeys coming to jump on your roof like a trampoline, you get to see it all! Check out my video here! We saw so many different creatures while we were there, even a little lizard in our room!
Since we landed pretty early the first day, we first ventured out to the Marina which has a ton of shops and restaurants to check out. Since we had just landed and make the hilly walk down to the Marina, we decided we were in major need of a cocktail before dinner. One cocktail turned in two before we grabbed a cab to one of my favorite spots in Manuel Antonio – Café Milagro. I went to Café Milagro many times the first time I went to Costa Rica so I was excited to go back again for their delicious food and another cocktail to top it all off! I tried the pork loin and mojito and both were perfection! After dinner, we headed to El Avión for a cocktail at sunset. This bar has an amazing view overlooking the ocean and beach. And once we were pretty liquored up, we decided to walk to the beach. The thing about Manuel Antonio is that it’s a little town built throughout these mountains and hills, with the beach at the bottom. So if you want to get anywhere, you can take a cab, the bus or you can walk. BUT, the walk can get pretty damn sketchy since there aren’t really any sidewalks and many, many blind corners. But hey, cocktails were pumping through our blood so we walked it to the beach to dip our toes in the sand before our first day came to a close. And what did we do after that? One last cocktail, duuuuuh! And then we ventured our way back to the treehouse.
The only problem we ran into that night was our cab driver wouldn’t drive us all the way to the treehouse because the roads are so rough. So he dropped us off at the marina and we walked our way up the pitch black road. This had bad idea written all over it. I was exhausted from not sleeping, I was 4 or 5 cocktails deep, it was extremely hot that day, we didn’t actually know the roads so we kept getting confused at the forks, and then dogs came running after us barking. The only light we had was my cellphone and the moonlight reflecting off my tears. I seriously lost it. Deep crying lost it. I was so freaked out we wouldn’t be able to find our place, but we did. And all was fine. Dramatic per usual, Juli. And the monkeys waking us up in the morning made it all better! Seriously the coolest thing to wake up to.
The next day we decided to head back to Café Milagro for breakfast before heading to the beach for the day. They have the best coffee drinks and awesome staff so I couldn’t wait to go back. After breakfast, we headed to the beach for the day. Most of our trip was filled with days spent at the beach because both of us love the water so much. I grew up at the pool and my husband grew up at the lake, so both of us were ready to get in the water, on boards, and get our ears filled with sand. At Playa Manuel Antonio, you can rent lawn chairs and umbrellas and staff will even bring you drinks and food. It was less expensive to buy drinks at the Supermarket across the street so we would wander over there when we got thirsty, but we ordered food on the beach and it was seriously delicious! One day I ordered steak fajitas and the next day I got the chicken fajitas. It was never hard to make good food decisions when we were in Costa Rica. They have protein, carbs and fat no matter where you go!
Another thing that is great about the beach is that you can rent surfboards and boogie boards. So that’s exactly what we did! We found someone who would rent it to us for $5 for the entire day so we were able to hang out on the beach with the boards as long as we wanted. After surfing in tiny waves in La Jolla, I wasn’t feeling quite confident enough for the bigger ones in Costa Rica, so I decided boogie boarding would be my new sport of choice. Come to find out, boogie boarding is way easier and WAY more fun than surfing, with a much higher success rate. Pretty much 99.9% success rate. I spent our beach days feeling like a kid in my rash guard and boogie board in tow. It was awesome. I seriously felt drunk from happiness and laughter. And drunk from sun poisoning after being in the water so much. Seriously felt like hell for a while from that sunburn.
After our first couple days exploring the beach and Quepos, we decided that we wanted to be a little closer to town so we booked the rest of our trip at La Mansion Inn. If you are looking for a hotel with the most amazing view, amenities, wifi, and a pool – this hotel is for you.
La Mansion Inn overlooks both Playa Manuel Antonio and The Marina. You get views from both sides of the property! They also have a pool, viewing deck for tanning and lunch, a wonderful restaurant with seriously great food, a bar, amazing friendly staff that is always helpful (especially with setting up excursions) and extremely spacious rooms with the some of the best views I’ve ever experienced. Breakfast is included which was helpful so we didn’t have to head out looking for food while super hungry. We spent so much time in the amazing pool and at their pool bar before heading out to the beach. It was seriously awesome.
When we weren’t at the beach or at the pool…or out drinking cocktails…we were out on a couple excursions. Looking back, both of us agree that we would have probably just stayed on the beach instead of doing the excursions. We love staying moving on trips and getting our exercise in with excursions and exploring different places, but we were getting PLENTY of exercise walking everywhere and playing in the water. But we did try a couple excursions including a catamaran cruise at sunset where you get to snorkel, watch for fun sea creatures, and have dinner on the boat while watching the sunset. We were lucky because they say that the cruise usually has 300 people on it and ours only had 50 people on it that day, so it was super spacious. What made that catamaran cruise worth it was seeing dolphins!! We were able to see a handful of dolphins jumping out of the water and flopping all over the place. I’ve never seen dolphins in the wild like that so that was pretty damn cool.
The other excursion we decided to try out was an ATV tour. This ATV tour took us through these palm tree fields then up a mountain and to the Rainmaker Trail. It’s thing that’s cool about this hike is that it leads you to waterfalls and little swimming holes, which is pretty cool! And you get to see a ton of little creatures throughout. We didn’t know there was a hike included and neither of us like hiking. I get it, there are beautiful things to see when hiking, but I can walk uphill through a jungle without paying for it. So we didn’t love that part. We wanted to go fast like we had back in Phoenix on one of our trips, especially since it was only the 2 of us on the excursion that day. But we got to see some incredible views with the tour guide when he took us off course since it was only two of us and he was trying to waste some time. And at the end, they serve you a traditional Costa Rica meal out of this cute hut and it was seriously the best meal I had the entire trip! So that made it worth it. End a day with food and I’m into it.
When we weren’t watching monkeys and sloths, playing in the water like children, or out on excursions, we simply enjoyed all the food and drink we could. They have a ton of Supermarkets around town where I was able to grab some snacks like these crazy amazing plantain chips and coconut waters with huge chunks of coconut in them. And we also spent a couple nights at a restaurant called Emilio’s Café , which was right down the street from our hotel and right next to Café Milagro. They have seriously amazing coffee and cocktails and we had some great meals there, too!
If you’re looking for an amazing place to visit (or move to, let’s be real), Manuel Antonio is such an amazing place and I highly recommend it. I really want to go back to Costa Rica and visit other areas because I’ve heard great things about pretty much every other city. I can’t wait for us to go back again someday! Until then, I need to start planning our 2 year anniversary. I’m thinking Hawaii!! Planning trips this far ahead of time proved to be not only financially helpful since half the trip was already paid for ahead of time, but it kept us from feeling too stressed out since it was planned for so long. Seriously so excited for another year with my husband and to see what happens! Cheers to love and beautiful exploring!
Manuel Antonio/Quepos Quick Summary:
- Sansa or Nature Air – for an easy 20 minute flight to Quepos (instead of 3 hour drive)
- Airbnb Treehouse – for the jungle experience
- La Mansion Inn – for views and amenities
- The Marina – for shops and restaurants (and amazing sunset when it’s not cloudy)
- Café Milagro – for delicious food and amazing coffee
- Emilio’s Café – for amazing views and delicious food (and dessert!!)
- El Avian – for views and delicious cocktails
- Playa Manuel Antonio – rent lawn chairs and water sports equipment, plus they will serve food and drink to you on the beach
- Ocean King Catamaran Cruise – for whale and dolphin watching
- FourTrax ATV Tour – ATV, hiking, swimming and home cooked meal
- Rainmaker Trail – you can hike this whole trail and it was super cool things to look at, plus homemade beer and food at the end of the trail
Stay tuned on the podcast this week – I’ll be sharing even more details and experiences from the trip!