Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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July 3, 2015 by kimberlyfenton

This is the stop on my Central American Journey, which, behind Mexico, is the most significant and meaningful for me… In 2009, 4 years ago, I went with Raleigh International to an indigenous community in Costa Rica to help build a school for the community. I was 17 years old and this year marks my 5th summer since I took my first steps outside Europe without my family. My friends and family will know how much I fell in love with Costa Rica, the people and their way of life; not only was it the place which gave me the inspiration and determination to improve my Spanish, but without a doubt it was where I picked up my travelling bug. Ever since, it has been a dream of mine to take my twin sister back to where it all began, to share, in a cliché kind of way, one of the most life changing experiences I’ve had in my little life so far. Pura Vida!

So with that out of the way… Crossing the mess that was the Nicaraguan border, it was with relief and a smile that we arrived in Costa Rica. The country is renowned for its wildlife, rainforests, the 26 National Parks, the many beaches to choose from and good people… what isn’t there to love for the tourists, ahem, backpackers? Even in rainy season, or green season, the weather perfectly complements the dramatic scenery, it really is beautiful. Over the years, it is obvious that the tourist industry has really taken over and driven the prices up sky high. I couldn’t believe it, especially after travelling down from other cheap countries in Central America. The average amount that you would spend on dinner, in one of the tourist towns, is around $20.  And that is getting a good deal. Oueff. Steep.

I picked up Sally Fenton from the airport just before 10pm and she came running out with a big smile on her face. It had been another 6 months since I had seen her! She looked so cute in all her new traveling gear she had bought- her first time backpacking and traveling, with myself replacing her trusty friends. I’ll look after her don’t worry ROSA 😀 Our first stop, was to meet up with Michelle, Marissa and Astrid in Manuel Antonio. After catching the 6am bus from San Jose, we arrived at 9am to see the girls standing outside their hostel waiting for the bus to the beach. I screamed and woke up half the bus. We stayed at Hostel Vista Serena, which is a top pick according to the bible that is Lonely Planet, and with good reason… The hostel is set in the mountains, with the terrace overlooking the coastline giving a great panoramic view to enjoy from the hammocks.

Hostel Vista SerenaHostel Vista Serena
We dumped our bags and took the short bus ride to the beach where we joined the other girls after getting some grub. (Another expensive meal.)  The sea was surprisingly warm although the waves were a little rough, it was perfect for the surfers. It was a boiling hot day and we spent the whole afternoon chilling in the beautiful surroundings before heading back to the girl’s hostel to relax in the pool. Manuel Antonio, I believe, has the perfect balance of preserving the Costa Rican vibe yet still thriving off tourism. The town isn’t over built, nor does it look like it is just built for tourists, which was great. Still tourist prices, just a little more authentic. Loved it!

Manuel AntonioManuel AntonioEl AvionEl Avion
That night we checked out El Avion bar, which is a bar within an old US fighter jet. It was so cool, with a little story behind it… During the border fight between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, they suspected foul play/involvement from the United States. The US denied any involvement, but their fighter jet was later recovered at the border, and supposedly as an “F you” to America, the Costa Ricans moved the plane to Manuel Antonio and turned it into a tourist attraction. You are even able to climb up to the cockpit which was cool, until Astrid pointed out “someone definitely died in this chair you know” haha nice.

Playa Espadilla Playa EspadillaTwins!Manuel Antonio

The next day we headed into the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio and we hiked a flat trail for around 30 minutes to the beach. Along the way we saw a number of white faced monkeys, Capuchins, with one climbing right in front of us, and then jumping back over us again! Incredible! Again, we saw some sloths very high up, only because we were eavesdropping on the groups with guides. The actual Manuel Antonio beach is absolutely beautiful. I can see why a lot of people call it their favourite beach in Costa Rica. Even though it is only around the corner from the beach we were at the day before, it couldn’t have been any more different! Shaped as a bay, there were no waves, and the water was clear with a green tint- probably the reflection of the rainforest which reaches all the way out to the beach.  It really was so serene and like our own little paradise, apart from the racoons who were trying to steal stuff left, right and centre.



Great place to escape the full-on effects of tourism, to appreciate lots of nature and relax in a beautiful bay surrounded by the rainforest.


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