Just How Touristy Is Manuel Antonio?

Old Feb 6th, 2013, 11:04 PM
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Just How Touristy Is Manuel Antonio?

We are trying to find a beach location for our family's third trip to CR (I have another post going on that) - and now I am starting to reconsider MA. I have always avoided because it seems so touristy and we like to have some space and we dont like crowds. We have 4 little kids, though, who would love to see some monkeys hanging around!

So, how touristy is it and is it really crowded?

Is it hard to drive from a rental house to the town and down to the park/beaches?

Is parking hard to come by?

We probably wont be walking due to the ages of our kids (they are all for hikes and all....but I don't want to lug beach gear and walk them alongside a road to get to town)

If we are going late April/early May - how dry will it be? We have never been in the dry season - or just as it is ending. Are things actually brown? Or is it still beautiful and green with just less rain? Silly question....but I'm wondering!

Thanks for your input!
sclubb is offline  
Old Feb 7th, 2013, 06:52 AM
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The Tulemar properties (Tulemar bungalows and Buena Vista Villas) would meet your needs. There is an excellent beach with access limited to guests living on the property, lots of wildlife drifting through the property, and walking access to some restaurants and easy taxi access to others. Our most recent trot through the park was met with too much touristy stuff at both ends of park. I didn't care for waiting for one guided group to move on so our group could get a view of some aerial monkey-butt or something similar. It's more fun to be in one comfortable place and have the wildlife scamper by, close up, at a convenient viewing level. One of the beaches inside the park is beautiful and calm, but it can also be crowded, and the cute little monkeys can be very aggressive.

We have experienced lots of wildlife at Si Como No over the years and relatives have stayed on the Costa Verde properties with reports of lots of critters. La Posada gets very favorable reports regarding resident wildlife.

On the downside, MA is getting very built up. The roads are crowded and the competition for upscale dining is increasing. However, if you find the right place to stay, it is still a great place to be.
Kinkazote is offline  
Old Feb 7th, 2013, 07:25 AM
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Here is a list of drivers (in no particular order) recommended both here and on TA. I've personally used Leo Rodrigues on two trips and was very pleased.

Odyssey Tours (Diego and Alvaro) - [email protected]
Oscar Chavarria - [email protected]
Carlos Bogarin - [email protected]
Danny Jimenez - [email protected]
Leo Rodriguez - [email protected]
Juan Carlos and Rubier - [email protected]
colibri is offline  
Old Feb 7th, 2013, 07:27 AM
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Oops - sorry, posted the driver info on the wrong thread - my bad!!
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 10:05 AM
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The advice above seems right to me. I haven't been to Tulemar but everyone seems to agree it is the place in MA to go if you don't want to deal with the more touristy aspects of MA.

The park is very crowded. Or at least it was the day we went in March last year. Lines of people crowding the paths...though it gets lighter the deeper in you go. That said, the park is not that big, so there really are people just about everywhere. The traffic is bad. The monkeys are aggressive, lol, but still cute. To me it is not what I go to CR for, though some of the views are really lovely (not necessarily more lovely than any others I've seen elsewhere in gorgeous CR!), and I'm sure the dining and nightlife are quite a bit more developed than further south. We took a day trip there from Uvita and we were pretty bummed out by the scene. We were glad we finally saw it, but I didn't really see the draw, unless you really want a bustling town or resort feel, which of course plenty of people do. Just not our thing. But really, we only spent one day, focused on the park - so take my opinions with a big grain of salt : ) it is a much loved destination and I'm sure you would have fun.

As for the dryness in April/May, I really don't know, have only been as late as March.
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 10:23 AM
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sclubb, I think I recommend Tulemar on your other thread. Most people who stay there don't even go to the park since they have their own beach and lots of wildlife. There are lots of pics and reviews posted on tripadvisor if you want to see if it's your kind of place. The level of crowd in the park varies by season. We went in rainy season, and it wasn't that crowded. At Christmas or Easter, it would be packed. There's a public bus that I believe you can take to the park if you wanted to go. We had our guide pick us up and drop us off back at our hotel. The units at Tulemar are individually owned, so there are all kinds of room combos, choices, etc.
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Old Feb 7th, 2013, 11:19 AM
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If Tulemar is someplace you're interested in, I'd recommend checking out villa mot mot on vrbo.com. It's the best priced place there and really nice! We stayed two years ago with our son and barely left the property. It had everything we needed- great, kid friendly beach, lots of wildlife, walking distance to restaurants. my only complaint about the area was that the restaurants seemed really overpriced, but we like to eat well, so that may be avoidable. You could also always cook at the villa.
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Old Feb 9th, 2013, 07:49 PM
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You might consider staying in Dominical/Uvita area which is not so crowded, but still had lots fo activities, beaches, and restaurants... and take a day trip to Park in Manuel Antonio. It is only a 40 minute drive now that the road is paved from Dominical to Quepos.
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Old Feb 11th, 2013, 02:25 PM
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td, can you recommend some good things to do in the Dominical/Uvita area?
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 08:51 AM
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Here is a short list of activities in the area: Tours and Activities

Dominical/ Uvita is strategically located to offer you access to the many adventures that capitalize on the natural beauty of Costa Rica's southern coastal zone. While here, your biggest problem will be too many fun things to do and not enough time! So if you are in the mood for adventure check out some of the area's activities before you get too addicted to the pool or have staked out your own private section of a beach.
We will be happy to make reservations at no extra cost to you.

To the north you can:
- learn to surf in Dominical or rent a board if you already know how (10 min. drive time)
- ride horses through the jungle to spectacular waterfalls (20-25 min.)
- Check out zip lines, a canopy tour, and nature walks (15-20 min.)
- learn about Costa Rica's reptiles at a large collection of living snakes at Parque Reptilandia (20-25 min.)
- Go fishing (off-shore and in-shore) by the day, half-day or hour (10 minutes)
- rent scooters and bicycles in Dominical (15 minutes)

Heading south you can:
- see how many types of animals you can spot while cruising the nature-rich mangrove canals
- Hop on a boat to Cano Island Biological Preserve for snorkeling and diving - watch for whales and dolphins
- take a full day boat excursion to Costa Rica's wildest national park, Corcovado, accessible only by foot or by sea
(A last refuge of the jaguar, which you won't see and scarlet macaws, which you most likely will see)
- Go white-water rafting in the mountains around Buenos Aires (about a 90 minute drive)
- Kayak in spectacular waters with tours of the mangroves or ocean caves.
- get a bird's-eye view of the area from an ultra-light (10-15 min.)
- visit a butterfly farm (very interesting commentary and exhibits, but usually in Spanish)
- ATV Tours from easy to adventurous… (15 minutes)

We haven't listed everything there is to do as new activities become available and others change to accommodate the different seasons, etc.

The main tour operators around here are:
- Don Lulo’s
A well-established family-run horseback adventure to the beautiful Nauyaca waterfalls. This day trip includes breakfast, lunch, the opportunity to interact with scarlet macaws, toucans and other interesting creatures not to mention fantastic scenery and refreshing waterfalls. Hands down, this the most popular outing our guests have raved about - very good prices, too. $60 pp includes typical Costa Rican breakfast and lunch. See brochure in the information book #1 among previous guests

Dominical Surf Adventures
They are a relatively new company and from our experience, are VERY responsive to our requests to accommodate our guests. They offer white water rafting, kayak tours, &surfing lessons, They will use us to guarantee the trip and do not require an advance deposit.

Perla del Sur: A variety of partial and full day adventures including Cano Island Biological Preserve for snorkeling. Corcovado National Park via the beautiful mangroves canals as well as the ocean. $95 for Cano Island snorkeling trip-includes boat ride on Sierppe River through mangroves to ocean and lunch. Leave around 7am and return 4pm approx.

- Hacienda Baru
Offering zip lines ( $35pp) nature walks and some canopy experiences. Combo Zipline/Canopy -$55 pp. See brochure in your information book and more detailed Hacienda Baru Information Guide in Rancho or ask us.


- Ultra-light Flight seeing
Located in Bahia (by Uvita) near the entrance to Ballena National Park (see our very unprofessional map in the guest info book) is a small grass landing strip and "offices" for the flights. They have some pre-determined air tours or still might be doing custom flights. Can be booked there or by us. Skyline Nature Flying Tours

- Parque Reptilandia Flyer says “come see the most spectacular reptiles of Costa Rica and other parts of the world. They have quite a nice set-up with snakes in glass fronted cases and larger reptiles in concrete “pits.” You can choose between self guided tours or ask for a guide. Open 9am-4:30pm. Friday is feeding day. 2787-8007 $10

ATV tours Offices in Uvita specialize in taking groups of up to 6 people on 3-4 hour to all day tours on 4X4 ATV’s Some to a beautiful waterfall, and one all the way over the mountains to San Isidro.

Scuba Diving There are three scuba diving operators in the area; none of which seem to be adequate enough to earn our recommendation. They seem to be unpredictable in their scheduling and/or lacking in their customer service. If you don’t care about the extras and you just want to dive, we suggest that you let us know well in advance that we can start working on one of them to organize a trip. Be flexible on your timing.

Osa Canopy Tours: New company to the S., about 1 hour in Cortez. Described by our guests as much more exciting zipline than Hacienda Baru. They also offer waterfall rappelling and river tubing.

We are constantly checking out the new (smaller ) tour operators, to be attuned to the available options. Some are “very tico” (meaning a small “hip-pocket” operation) but offer a good price on a private tour in place of the larger group tours. It generally takes a bit longer to set up something with them so, give us a few weeks to work on it.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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Thanks so much for all the replies. We have been to Dominical in the past and so we were looking for something new. We have decided on a week in Guanacaste plus a week somewhere else - more mountains/rainforest - probably Arenal. We will just have to save up and think about MA again for another trip. We always know we'll be back to CR and will have more places to explore.
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Old Feb 12th, 2013, 11:17 AM
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Thank you, t!
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Old Feb 15th, 2013, 07:54 PM
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sclubb, Tulemar was one of the places I would recommend to you as well. We saw SO MUCH wildlife there, tons of monkeys, a sloth right over the pool, iguanas, and yes, a terciopelo!

The private beach is fabulous for families--you won't want to leave there all day! Totally relaxing and fun. Kids love it.
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 06:02 AM
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Add me to the Tulemar recommenders as well. For a family, it can't be beat. When we went our kids were 7 and 9 I believe and the private beach was perfect. The only time we left the property was for the mangrove tour and for dinner two or three times. It was a perfect relaxing beach part of the vacation with abundant wildlife. And as shillmac said, the kids LOVED it!
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Old Feb 17th, 2013, 08:30 AM
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Just a quick comment on beaches in Costa Rica.
All beaches are Public in Costa Rica.
What makes a beach more secluded is its access. You are not allowed to access public beaches through private property, however, if for example, you boated or kayaked to the beach no one could ask you to leave the beach.

Pura Vida, Ballardo
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 08:21 AM
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If you stay in MA, there's a public bus that runs about every 15 minutes in both directions along the main drag. You can take it to Quepos and beyond. It's very inexpensive and convenient.

We also stayed at Tulemar, in the lower mot mot unit. It's a lovely property and the staff is delightful. Twice a day (around 7:30 am and pm) the monkeys make their rounds (literally). The hope from tree to tree, and onto balconies if they are in their path. Lower mot mot was below the tree line, but upper was right in there. The monkeys had a field day, swinging on the hammock, and jumping around. It was quite a sight.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2013, 02:37 PM
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Good info..thanks
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