The Reto MAE: Manuel Antonio’s 10K Coastal Trail
A couple of years ago, Manuel Antonio introduced a new extreme race to Costa Rica: The Reto MAE. In fact, the acronym ‘MAE’ stands for ‘Manuel Antonio Extreme’, and it quickly rose its way to the top of the country’s numerous challenging races.
It’s a 10-kilometer trail that winds along the dramatic coastline between Quepos and Manuel Antonio national park, snaking through the rainforest, over bluffs, along cliffs, and visiting every one of its seven beaches along the way.
Every year, 300 participants zoom along this rocky, viney, root-enmeshed track from the national park to Quepos to the finish line–the Pez Vela Marina. Amazingly, this year’s winner traversed the entire shebang in just 45 minutes!
But all racing aside–the Reto MAE is more than just a competition. It is Manuel Antonio’s newest attraction. Quite simply, it puts Manuel Antonio among the top ten destinations in the world for active nature lovers, and gives the area a feature as appealing as the national park.
When you take your time along the trail, you are treated to spectacular sights and vistas, deserted beaches, and a host of wildlife. This morning I did it in just under three hours at a brisk walking pace, taking time to stop and smell the ‘flowers’ along the way.
You can also break it up into parts, and create hikes of any length. Traversing Manuel Antonio’s principal public beach, Playa Espadilla, alone is 2 kilometers long, and a great way to start the day. One great, hour-long segment is from Playa Bisanz to Playa Vaca–ending up for sunset sangria at Ronny’s Place.
A luxurious 2-hour hike is to start at Quepos and end at the Makanda, to soak your muscles in a hot jacuzzi and take a dip in their pool before having a nice lunch or dinner. Or you can do the whole Reto MAE, and treat yourself to Z’s breakfast buffet at the marina, as I did this morning. Every part of the trail is spectacular, and it’s rare that you’ll see another person hiking along the way.
Each beach also has its own character: Playa Espadilla is long and touristy, with plenty of services. Playitas is where the local surfers go. Playa Bisanz is known for small waves and good snorkeling. Playa Makanda is nearly always vacant, but with great areas to chill out.
Playa Tulemar has all the services of a resort beach. Playa Vaca is rocky… and well, cow-y. Playa La Macha is sandy, but strewn with huge boulders, creating a dramatic scene. Playa Cocal is long, with rough seas, an unspoiled local community, and rarely visited by tourists.
We’re fortunate to have this beautiful, new feature here in Manuel Antonio–both for tourists and locals alike. The Reto MAE has made it possible to simply step outside your door anywhere in Manuel Antonio, and walk to any beach in the area. It has brought all of the elements of the national park to our doorsteps. It is a fantastic way to both appreciate the beauty of nature AND get some exercise.
I cannot think of a better way to sum it all up than with the words of Henry David Thoreau: ‘Walking is the means by which to travel the farthest… in the shortest distance.’