Trip Advisor has become a household name, and trusted source for travel information around the world. What better way to get the inside scoop than directly from the travelers themselves? Whether you’re looking for ratings for hotels, vacation rentals, beach homes, top restaurants, or other information, travelers trust other travelers’ ratings and reviews, and Trip Advisor is the go-to source.
Every year, Trip Advisor also puts out the Travelers’ Choice awards– the top-rated destinations, hotels, and beaches according to the very travelers who have visited them. Thus it is an honor and pleasure to announce that Manuel Antonio beach was voted as the #1 Beach in Central America for 2013!
For those who have visited Manuel Antonio beach, this will come as no surprise. The only question is–which beach takes the grand prize? Playa Espadilla? Playa Espadilla Sur? Playa Manuel Antonio? What surprises many people is just how many beaches there are in the Manuel Antonio – Quepos area. You can walk down to Playa Bisanz–a cove beach, and the best beach for snorkeling. You can hike down to Playa La Macha–a lesser-known beach, private, and surrounded by cliffs. You can kayak to Tulemar beach and have drinks in the lap of luxury. You can take a ferry from Quepos over to Playa Cocal–miles of wide, open beach with few visitors. You can go surfing at Playitas. There’s even a Playa Escondida–aka ‘Hidden Beach’.
So whether your preference is lounging on a beach chair under an umbrella and being served drinks by Mari… or tromping through the rainforest to a secluded cove beach to go snorkeling–Manuel Antonio has something for every beach lover!
Most visitors who stay in vacation rentals in Costa Rica are confronted with the possibility of doing a canopy tour during their visit. When it comes to canopy tours in Manuel Antonio, there are several options: Titi Canopy, Canopy Safari, MidWorld, etc. The good news is that all of these tour operators are fun, well-run, and safe.
But to most, a canopy tour is something for the adventurous teenage boy–not the whole family, including children. I recall my first canopy tour in Rincon de la Vieja, many years ago: There was a model American family along with us–father, mother, and teenage son and daughter. The son seemed excited, and the daughter nervous. When we arrived at the very first platform, however, it was the father took one look and said: ‘Whell–see you later! I’ll meet you back at the lodge!’
This Friday afternoon my preconceptions of the typical canopy-tour-goer were completely shattered when my 4-year-old daughter and her friend did the Canopy Safari tour!
18 platforms, 10 zip lines, 2 repel lines, one suspension bridge, and one “Tarzan swing” a hundred feet above the ground! And not once did either of the girls show any hint of fear! By the end they were daring each other to do tricks like the adults!
I think Daddy was the most nervous one there. As an outdoor enthusiast and ex-Outward Bound instructor, I should have been the least nervous. I wasn’t concerned with the safety of the course, or equipment; I’d done the tour before myself, and was impressed at how well it was constructed, and also how professionally it was run. I wasn’t concerned with the ability of the guides–their expertise was evident. I suppose in the end it was just parental querulousness that affected me. And excitement.
Now, in retrospect, I will forever hold an image burned into my memory: Of my 4-year-old princess, zip-lining through the rainforest over a river, hands-free and smiling wider than a tree frog.
So.. if a couple of 4-year-old girls can do the canopy tour, how can you say ‘no’?
Our clients often ask us which Manuel Antonio tours and activities we recommend during their stay at their rental villa or condo. The truth is–outside of an active volcano, Manuel Antonio has everything you’d want to do and see in Costa Rica: Canopy tours, deep sea fishing / sportfishing, rafting, whale watching, surfing, ATV tours, waterfalls, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, mangrove kayaking, sea kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, catamaran cruises, hiking, horseback riding, vacation buggy tours, and a whole slew of things we just haven’t gotten around to trying! The fact is–there’s too much here to possibly do in a single vacation, so you ‘ll have to decide what’s best for you, your friends and family.
The most popular tours are Manuel Antonio national park tours, canopy tours and catamaran tours. Seeing the best national park in Costa Rica is a must; it’s full of wildlife, easy to explore, and relatively uncrowded. (Keep in mind that it’s closed Mondays.) Once you’ve ticked off this check box, it’s time to decide what else to do.
After working for Outward Bound here in Manuel Antonio for a couple of years, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on outdoor activities in Costa Rica. There’s something for everyone. However, I’ll break them down into 3 categories: 1) Adrenaline Junkie; 2) Naturalist; 3) Family Fun
- Rafting – There are 2 rivers rafted near Manuel Antonio: the Naranjo and the Savegre. Neither is a challenging river for experts. The Naranjo is half-day, and a quick buzz, with technical class III rapids. The Savegre is longer, with slightly easier rapids. If you have the option–I suggest doing the Savegre. Also–both rivers become bony and dry from about February to May, so best to hit them after a night rain.
- ATV tours – Driving a powerful ATV up into the rainforested mountains is a great way to explore the area around Manuel Antonio.
- Parasailing – This is one of those ‘you-gotta-do-it-once’ type activities. Amazingly, it’s much smoother and more relaxing than you’d think!
- Jet Skis – The ocean version of an ATV, a jet ski is a big, fun, powerful toy.
- Canopy tours – Anything that involves zip-lining, platforms high up in the canopy, rappelling, and something called a ‘Superman’ is bound to satisfy even the most destitute of adrenaline junkies.
- Sportfishing – Quepos is one of the central American Meccas for deep sea fishing. The new Pez Vela marina provides the perfect launch spot for your fishing adventure. Spend a sunny day reeling in tuna and mahi mahi, and then have it grilled for you at the Gran Escape!
- Mangrove kayaking – This is perhaps one of the most peaceful, beautiful tours around, and a great place to see monkeys, birds, crabs and other wildlife.
- Horseback riding – There are basically two options: 1) a short horseback ride on the beach; or 2) a full tour horseback riding in the mountains. Heading to the mountains, you not only get your equestrian fix, but also get to explore the rainforest and take a dip in a river.
- SCUBA diving – For the casual diver, scuba is one of the most peaceful, quiet ambiences around. While not as florid as the Carribbean, there are some great dive spots within reach of Quepos.
- Spice Plantation – For those who like a laid-back tour and want to learn about the rainforest, the Spice Plantation tour is just right.
- Sailing – While the Pacific ocean is a misnomer, sailing on the Pacific is a peaceful way to get out and relax.
- Canopy tours – These tours are so well run and safe that even your 5 year old can do them!
- Mangrove boat tour – If kayaking is a bit much for the family, you can do the mangrove tour by boat, also.
- Tres Ninas Boat Rental – Rent a 27-foot motorboat and take the family out for a picnic on the ocean!
- Catamaran tour – These large catamarans can accomodate large groups, and are ideal for families–snacks, refreshments, waterslides, and snorkeling equipment available.
- Vacation Buggy – This is a perfect way to see the mountains in a rugged–yet comfortable–way. It also includes a 400-foot suspension bridge over a waterfall, where you can swim, and then have a local lunch afterwards.
Here are a couple of suggestions for planning your itinerary, based on my personal experience:
- Be sure to do both an ocean-related activity and a mountain-related activity. One of the greatest things about Costa Rica (especially Manuel Antonio) is the presence of both beautiful, rugged mountains and the Pacific ocean. Both provide a unique perspective of the area and country.
- Save your last day for relaxation! If you are here for several days or longer–a day lazing by the pool or visiting the beach is the perfect way to end your trip. Don’t go home wired because you didn’t get a chance to relax!
- Book the most important tours ahead of time. Some tours have limited availability and times, so don’t wait until the last minute to reserve those activities you don’t want to miss! (Esp. Vacation Buggy, sportfishing, Nauyaca waterfalls, ATVs and jet skis.)
- If you’re staying during the green season, try to get an early start and book tours for the mornings. While the rains are usually localized and not extremely predictable, it’s more likely to rain in the afternoons. There’s nothing better than a long, active morning followed by a tranquil rain from your balcony!
So… put your adventure hat on! Get ready for sunshine, waves, open beaches, monkeys and more! You may be staying in a luxury rental property in Manuel Antonio, but don’t forget to explore the great, big outdoors! Manuel Antonio is the best place to explore Costa Rica–all within arm’s reach!
In dramatic contrast to the green season in Costa Rica is the Peak Season—namely, Christmas and New Years weeks. Hotels, condos and vacation rental homes fill up months in advance, and prices are often double the green season rates. The most popular vacation rentals in Manuel Antonio are reserved well before the rest. Properties such as the two beach vacation rental homes are impossible to book unless you are planning a year or so in advance. Last minute deals all but cease to exist.
Not coincidentally, the ‘high season’ in Costa Rica coincides with both the coldest months in North America AND the dry season in Costa Rica. January and February are idyllic months in that the weather is sunny and gorgeous every day, while still well before the oppressive heat of March and April.
So when should you book your vacation rental?
If you’re looking at the peak season, then book as early as you can in order to get your pick of the best vacation rental villas and condos. If you’re looking at coming down around spring break, it’s also important to book well ahead of time. Outside of Christmas and New Years, the most popular months are February & March, with April and July being close runner-ups.
Nearly as important as securing your vacation rental property is booking your services and tours in Manuel Antonio. While some tours, such as canopy tours, catamaran tours or rafting, tend to be plentiful, others can fill up weeks before the peak dates. Some examples of these are Vacation Buggy (booked already for Christmas and New Years weeks), boat rentals, and the Nauyaca waterfall tour.
Services, too, book up quickly. Car rentals can be hard to come by last-minute during the high season, and generally cost more. Chef services may be hard to come by—or you may get the ‘leftovers’, so to speak. Even photographers and massage therapists start to turn down business.
So be sure to plan ahead if you are coming during the peak or high season! There are some amazing things to do and see in and around Manuel Antonio, but if you wait until the last minute, you may find the only option is to have Jaime’s cousin Bruno cooking rice and beans for your family, his little sister Berta as your massage therapist, and grandfather Reinaldo as your tour guide!
Any who have researched Costa Rica know that the euphemism ‘Green Season’ is really another term for ‘rainy season’. The average daily rainfall goes up and the number of house rentals at the beach goes down. Looking at the web, most sites date the Green Season from May to November–7 months, which brings visions of a tropical Seattle to mind. In February, the average rainfall is 1.4 inches, while in October it is 25.4 inches. (As a comparison, my home in Colorado Springs ranges from .3 inches in the driest month to 3.3 inches in the wettest!)
But what is the rainy season really like in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?
I often contrast it to the Pacific Northwestern United States–specifically, Olympia, where my parents live. They get 7 months of rain each year, too. Their average yearly precipitation is 50.6 inches. Yet for 7 months in the Pacific Northwest it is overcast and drizzly. You rarely see the sun, and the rain is COLD. Getting caught in the rain without protection is a definite no-no.
In Manuel Antonio, the average annual rainfall is 152 inches–more than 3 times Olympia! But here when it rains, it rains with purpose. The Costa Rican weather gods purge in three hours what it takes the Olympian gods a week to produce. As a result, you tend to get much more of a polarized weather system. Even in the green season, it is common to have beautiful, sunny mornings, followed by an afternoon deluge.
The reverse is true, too. There’s even a saying in Costa Rican: ‘Manana oscura, tarde segura.’ Which basically translates to: ‘Dark skies in the morning make for clear skies in the afternoon.’ Either way, you’ll see a lot more sunshine here during those rainy months than you will in the Pacific Northwest.
Furthermore, unless your main goal is to bring back a Voguish tropical tan, the rain is one of the most beautiful and peaceful aspects of the rainforest. Tropical rain is warm, but still manages to cool off even the hottest day. There is nothing quite as pleasant as spending a sunny morning at the beach in Manuel Antonio national park, and then sitting back in the afternoon in the comfort of your luxury condo or rental villa to enjoy the sounds of the rainforest in action…
And if that wasn’t enough–accommodation prices for Manuel Antonio vacation rentals are about 30% lower than during the high & dry season!
Think about it: Fewer tourists, lower prices, cooler weather, and a nice mix of rain and shine! What could be better?
Welcome to the Manuel Antonio Rental Properties blog! Whether you’ve rented a beach vacation rental with us before, or are just considering the idea of weekly vacation rental home, we hope to inspire you with updates about Manuel Antonio, information about ocean and adventure tours, fun stories, special offers, and maybe even some humor if you look deeply enough! We specialize in luxury villas, condos with an ocean view, and beach vacation rental homes.