Off the Beaten Path in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio has MORE than enough to do along the well-trodden path to keep the typical visitor busy and entertained for any length of stay. Yet–for the adventurous soul, getting off the beaten path is a way of life. To feel like you’re going where most tourists don’t go–or experiencing a side of Manuel Antonio that most people don’t even endeavor to experience–adds a pinch of spice to any activity, whether your taste happens to be gastronomy or adrenaline.
I’ve lived in Manuel Antonio for over 10 years, and got the adventure bug early. Through the years I’ve worked as an Outward Bound wilderness instructor, real estate agent, travel consultant, rafting guide, concierge and business owner. Through these experiences I’ve had the fortune of getting to know more about Manuel Antonio and its surrounds than most locals do. There are some great, hidden treasures in this town!
- Ronny’s Place: Located in the middle of Finca Lopez, in central Manuel Antonio–Ronny’s is rustic and local–with a priceless location and sunset views. The menu is mixed fusion and local cuisine, and their speciality is sangria.
- Equina de Sabor: Located in downtown Quepos, the Esquina de Sabor is about as local and cheap as you can get. Pick your dishes from a buffet and pay for what you eat–usually anywhere from $5-8.
- Cevicheria del Mercado – The cevicheria located in the central market of Quepos is a great place to stop, pull up a stool, and enjoy a quick, plastic dish of fresh ceviche. Stay away from the piangua.
- Coqui’s Ribs: For those meat-eaters out there–Coqui’s barbecue pork ribs is a local treasure. You have to drive 15 minutes out to Naranjito to get to the smoky shack where they’re made, but any rib-connoisseur will tell you the bumpy ride is worth it.
- El Arado: El Arado is known as the best grill in town, locally. It’s pricey, but good.
- Quepos Farmer’s Market: Every Friday evening and Saturday morning there is a beautiful farmer’s market down by the waterfront with the best and least expensive produce around. Fresh orange juice and coconut water!
- El Salto Waterfall: From Valle Pura Vida (yes–‘The Valley of Pure Life’), walk 20 minutes down the creek, and it will take you directly to a 15-foot waterfall on Manuel Antonio’s back side.
- Quepos Point: (With permission from the owner of the property) one can walk out past the Parador hotel to a veritable private wildlife park, webbed with trails. As very few people ever visit Quepos Point, it is like having one’s own little national park!
- Rainmaker: A 20 minute drive from Quepos to Rio Seco, at the foot of the mountains, the Rainmaker is a 1500-acre private reserve with hiking trails and hanging bridges, waterfalls, pools–and even a microbrewery on the premises!
- 10-km Beach Walk: Get a local to show you the 10-kilometer hike through every beach between Quepos and the national park: Parque Nahomi, La Macha beach, Lopez beach, Tulemar beach, Bisanz beach, Playitas, and Espadilla beach!
For the Kids
- Parque Nahomi: From Quepos, past the marina, there is a little, poorly-kept park called Parque Nahomi. The attraction is its setting: surrounded on three sides by water, with a gorgeous view of the coastline–it’s a nice picnic spot. (Bring sunscreen.)
- Si Como No Wildlife Refuge: Right in the middle of Manuel Antonio is a nice, little wildlife refuge with both butterflies and crocodiles to satisfy both the girls and the boys. 2777-0777
- Si Como No Movie Theater: Every night at 8:00pm, the Si Como No hosts a different movie in its cozy theater. Eat at either the Rico Tico or the Claro Que Si restaurants and entrance to the movie is free. Call 2777-0777.
- Kids Saving the Rainforest: The KSTR wildlife refuge is located just 10 minutes outside of Quepos, at the Blue Banyan Inn. There are some rescue animals and an information center. A great way to show the kiddos how they can make a difference! 2777-2572
- Playitas Beach: The northwestern end of Espadilla beach, just past the big rock–is called Playitas by the locals. It’s the local surfer’s beach, and tends to have the best and most consistent break. There is great shade, and few vendors. You can also get there down the Quepos Point road, turning Left down the dirt road before Arenas del Mar.
- Bisanz Beach: Bisanz beach is a quaint, cove beach on the northern side of Quepos Point, near the entrance to the Parador hotel. It has become more mainstream in the past few years, which means more people, but is still a great alternative to the big surf at Espadilla beach. Best at low tide.
- La Macha Beach: A gorgeous, little-visited cove beach surrounded by cliffs, La Macha is accessible only via a 20 minute hike down a rainforest trail. Trail head is: turn on to the old road to Quepos next to the Blue Monkey. Take the next Left in front of the Hotel Villa Teca. Take the immediate left down towards Villas Kristina, and park at the top of the hill. Best at low tide.
- Playitas Beach: The Real Playitas beach is located on the southern side of Punto Serrucho, near the mouth of the Naranjo River. Only accessible by boat, it is a beautiful, secluded beach–at low tide only. Guide recommended.
- Cocal Beach: Oddly, one of the most accessible and least visited beaches in the area. From the little bridge at the northwest entrance to Quepos, catch the local ferryboat across to the other side. Cocal is in fact an island, and the beach is over a mile long.