Central Pacific: Manuel Antonio and Quepos

On the edge of the Central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio features astounding beaches, mangrove swamps, clear water lagoons and littoral woodlands. The gateway to Manuel Antonio is the town of Quepos.

In 1934, a prominent banana company moved from the Atlantic coast to the Parrita River near the Pacific because a plague had infected the crops. For nearly 20 years, Quepos, located 15 miles from Parrita, was used to export the bananas. As a result, the village grew as workers arrived from elsewhere in Costa Rica and Latin America .

Today, the banana plantations are gone, replaced by large African palm plantations. On the road to Quepos, you will see many of these curious-looking trees, whose seeds are used for a variety of purposes. You will also catch a glimpse of cattle farms and rice plantations, the region’s other main economic activities.

Quepos is the name of the tribe that inhabited the area before the conquest, and according to researchers, it comes from the word “Quepa,” which means “rain.” The region is rainy and hot throughout the year.

Located just five meters above sea level, Quepos is no longer used as a port for exportations, but it is used significantly by scores of boaters, especially fishermen. Indeed, Quepos is one of the best spots for world-class sportfishing. Restaurants, souvenirs shops, surf stores and bars are part of the attractions to enjoy while in town.

From Quepos to Manuel Antonio, a winding road reveals plenty of panoramic views of the ocean, sea cliffs and tourist facilities. Once in Manuel Antonio, you will appreciate a relaxing atmosphere that includes a bit of everything, sun bathers on the beach, surfers demonstrating their skill and balance, music drifting from sea-side restaurants and bars, and souvenirs offered at a colorful street stands.

At night, the sunset is one of the main attractions, as the sun slowly descends behind rock formations into the seemingly endless blue ocean. The colors are simply splendid. Nightlife is superb, with sea-side discos, casinos and live music.

A national park was born

According to locals, many years ago a man named Manuel Antonio lived on the beach. When he died, others tried to obtain the valued land. But through diligent effort, members of the Quepos community prevented that, and the national park of the same name was founded in 1972. Today, some 1,700 acres of land and 136,000 acres of ocean remain protected, as do its coral reefs with at least 15 species. Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica , but still one of the best.

An estimated eighty percent of tourists who come to Costa Rica visit the park. We invite you to discover it too! Still more beaches are to be discovered in the area, including Espadilla Sur (the area’s longest), Punta Catedral (once an island, but now joined with the mainland by a sand bar), Playa Blanca (White Beach), with tons of soft, white sand, and Puerto Escondido (Hidden Harbour), a genuine marvel in the middle of the park.

The park protects many types of flora native to tropical rainforest, including cedar, bully trees, mosses, ferns, flowers, cow tree and silk cotton tree. The variety of fauna is easy to observe almost everywhere. Be alert – anything could be watching you from atop the trees or below your feet. White-faced, squirrel and howler monkeys, iguanas, raccoons, grey squirrels, sloths, pelicans, jacanas, laughing falcons, black-collared hawks, white ibis, green kingfisher and many others are all hidden somewhere in the forest. The lagoons, by the way, are the home of many reptiles including caymans, lizards and snakes, including the boa constrictor.

Activities abound: hiking tours, surfing, horseback riding, kayaking, birdwatching, dolphin-watching tours, beach volleyball, white water rafting down the Naranjo and Savegre rivers, jet ski tours, mountain biking, snorkeling. the list is never-ending!

Quepos is also a good departure point for other locations. Damas Island , is one good example. Others are just a 25-minute boat ride away, such as distinct canals and mangrove swamps, with their unique contribution to the biological chain-of-life. Other options include the beaches of Palo Seco, Esterillos, Dominical and Bandera.

A visit to the Central Pacific is an unforgettable experience. Of course, you are always welcome to come back anytime when you need to escape from the rest of the world.

Travel Tips

How to get to Manuel Antonio? Take the road from San José via Orotina, Jacó, Parrita and Quepos. Manuel Antonio is 2 miles south of Quepos. Quick flights are also available.

Please don’t feed the animals. Monkeys and other animals are very sensible to human illness, so even though being close to them can be an exciting experience, you can cause them significant harm. The national park offers facilities for picnic areas, fresh-water showers and bathrooms. The park also limits the visitors in order to decrease the impact on its ecosystems, so we recommend you arrive early.


Previous Central Pacific: Puntarenas: Innumerable Possibilities
Next South Pacific: Marino Ballena National Park, Golfito and the Osa Peninsula
Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips

No matter how beautiful a destination may be, it needs easy access and be reachable within the limitations of an average vacation period. Costa Rica is only two and a half hours away from Miami!