MANUEL ANTONIO: CITY BY THE SEA

It’s probably not what you think of as a typical beach town, but it’s beautiful in its own right. If you make it here, you better make it into the national park.

There is a free public beach adjacent to the national park where the waves were rockin’ but nothing will compare to the beaches inside the park’s friendly confines. Costa Rica strives to protect their land and wildlife and it shows.

MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK

This park is everything. It even made TripAdvior’s Traveler’s Choice list of most beautiful beaches. Before I confess all of my love for the national park, let me warn you – do not get played like we did. On our drive into the park, we were stopped short and told that we legally couldn’t enter the park without a guide. Please keep driving. This is not actually a legal requirement, just some locals drumming up business with shady marketing tactics. BUT it worked on us. Yes, we are gullible. We paid them for a guide for the first day. And luckily we actually got one. A really great guide. (An honest-ish scam at least?)

Even though I don’t agree with being forced into our guide, I was happy we got one. It would’ve been nearly impossible to have spotted any of the animals covered by the brush with our untrained eyes. He found all the animals of my dreams. We’re talking teensy bats, sloths, monkeys, toucans, etc. We walked through the park and landed at the beach where we parted ways.

The beach. Take me back. It was truly flawless. White sand. Clear blue water. (Smooth ocean floor – my favorite). I contemplated pitching a tent and never leaving.

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The one surprise we encountered at the beach were some really friendly animals. Like really friendly. Naturally, I loved this, but most people don’t. Fair warning – there are monkeys and raccoons that patrol the beaches for food and people’s things. They will take them. It’s greatly entertaining to watch – as long as it’s not your stuff. We kept everything tightly zipped up in our backpacks. Apparently, they haven’t quite figured out zippers. But be mindful of where you leave your clothes and snacks.

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PSA: Don’t feed the animals. I’m for reals serious when I say it’s a problem. Tourists come in and feed them sugary snacks that aren’t in their natural diets and now they’re getting diabetes! If you get caught feeding the animals, you will be asked to leave the park (as you should be).

Please remember there is a daily entrance fee.

BONUS: You will find the best seafood pasta at El Avión. Which – double bonus – is a restaurant built around a real downed American airplane with its own rich history.

WHERE WE STAYED

We bunked at Hotel California. Since we were here for a shorter time we picked a hotel that was more budget friendly. It was only a short drive from the beach and national park. The digs come with a pool, complimentary breakfast, and an expat owner.

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