Manuel Antonio Trip Report

Old Jan 4th, 2006, 07:29 PM
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Manuel Antonio Trip Report

Here goes a trip report of my Christmas/New Years week vacation in Manuel Antonio with my wife and 2 other couples.

Day 1: AIRPLANES ALL DAY - EVEN FOR DINNER
Wake at 3AM for our 5:20AM flight from JFK to San Jose (the only direct flight from New York to San Jose). After arriving in San Jose, we took a taxi to the Pavas airport where we caught our Nature Air flight to Quepos. Very smooth morning as we pulled up to our villa in MA not much past noon. We opted to rent a villa for this trip as opposed to a hotel because we had 6 people in our group, and the villas looked amazing. The villa was huge, with 5 floors, massive decks, a pool, hot tub, tremendous views of the ocean, and a hike to a secluded beach. Very cool. By the time we got unpacked and acquainted with our new surroundings it was early evening and time for dinner. We went to El Avion for dinner continuing the airplane theme of the day, despite the unpopular opinions around these forums. I honestly didn't think it was as bad an eyesore as some rant about. To a purist, I could probably see their point. There were some guitar players belting out reggae songs as we ordered drinks and dinner. The food was only okay, however we did enjoy the open air atmosphere and fun vibe throughout the restaurant. The staff was nice, and called a taxi for us before we left. Very solid first night.

Sidenote: we decided against renting a car because we didn't want to deal with the hassles of insurance, gas, road conditions, fitting 6 people in, finding parking, etc. Taxis all week long worked out great. We called them from our villa when we needed a ride, and 5-10 minutes later they were there with an SUV for the 6 of us. You just need to be able to speak a line of spanish on the phone that explains where you are located.

Day 2: RELAX and TAKE IT ALL IN
Early morning hike up our road on our way to breakfast as we passed some villas under construction as well as the Hotel Makanda and La Mariposa Hotel. 15 minutes later we were at Cafe Milagros -- without a doubt a must for breakfast or lunch. Amazing coffees, milkshakes, banana pancakes, french toast, etc. We went back several times during the week...it was that good (the one in Manuel Antonio, as opposed to Quepos). We then hit the main beach for much of the afternoon. I've never been in stronger sun. It drains your energy and BURNS you unless you wear spf 30 or higher. The ocean water is the perfect temperature, and its very difficult to get out of the water. All kinds of activities for rent -- kayaks, surfing, boogie boards, massages, etc. Had lunch at the Marlin restaurant across from the beach. Food was not great, and service was worse.

Relaxed back at the villa and watched the white-faced monkey's swing in the trees. Later that night, we went to Karola's for dinner. It was fabulous. Great appetizers we had at the bar included ceviche and sashimi. After we were seated, we had fantastic ribs, lobster, tuna. The ribs were the highlight for most. By the way, it was absolutely downpouring rain during the entire dinner, but we hardly noticed as the different areas of the restaurant are covered despite still being "open air." It was a great night.

Day 3: RAFTING
Got picked up by Iguana Tours at 8AM at our villa and headed to the Naranjo river for a half-day of white water rafting. After a 45 minute drive, and then some instructions, we met our Guide, Michael, who taught us all the paddling commands. We all had a blast, and the rapids were just big enough to give everyone a scare, without completely freaking out the women in our group who had never rafted before. It's a very safe trip. Although, myself and my two buddies jumped in the water when Michael told us we could, and I had some difficulty catching up to the raft (you are not supposed to swim in rapids because you don't want to hit a rock head on, so you have to float with your legs in front of you.) Needless to say, I eventually made it back to the raft after my wife took command and ordered everyone "ALL FORWARD" to go upriver so I could catch up. I was a little scraped up.

The rafting trip was over around 1PM, and we got dropped off at Milagros for a great lunch of club sandwiches on fresh croissants and baguettes. We still had the rest of the afternoon to relax at the villa. We hiked down to our beach where we crashed in the waves for a while, and hung out as the sun started to go down. We quickly showered up, and headed to Barba Roja for amazing sunset views and cocktails. The entire sky was lit up. We then headed to Si Como No for a nice dinner, although we didn't have reservations and it was about an hour wait. More drinks at the bar while we waited. This was a more fancy restaurant, yet still casual. The food was great and the service was great. I had the whole snapper. The resort itself (grounds, pool area, restaurant) looked very nice, and I would definitely recommend the hotel although I didn't get to see any of the rooms. (Later in the week, the women in our group went to the spa at Si Como No, and loved that as well). That night, we had a dance off at the villa and I won.

I'm going to take a break before writing my next installment....
Day 4 (Canopy Safari)
Day 5 (Deep Sea Fishing)
Day 6 (MA National Park)
Day 7 (Beach Day/Parador)

One more quick thing...The people of CR are without a doubt the nicest, kindest, and most genuine people I have come into contact with in my travels. The caribbean islands also derive most of their income from tourism, but they don't have the same warmth as the Tico charm. I'm not one to pick up on this kind of stuff, but after a few days, you feel like everyone is your best friend. Its very unique.

MA2
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 05:47 AM
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Can't wait to hear the rest as we are leaving at end of January. Especially want to hear about the fishing. My husband would like us to do this...worth the money, do you need to book ahead....seasick? questions, questions. Andrea
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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looking forward to the rest--we'll be in MA in February, staying at Si Como No...
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 05:51 AM
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What a great review so far!! You are motivating me to finish mine- we were in MA the same time
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 07:05 AM
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I can't wait to hear more! And I'm glad to hear yet more good comments about Si Como No, as we are staying there later this month...
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 06:34 AM
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Part II:

Day 4: Canopy Safari
We scheduled the 10AM Canopy Safari so we could sleep in a little and relax before being picked up. We heard that "Canopy Safari" is the best and safest of the all the zip line tours. They picked us up at our villa, and we headed into Quepos where we would stop briefly at their office to pay and sign waivers. Then we were off to a very remote location, 1 hour away into the deep forest. We took some beautiful pics on the way out there, although the ride was quite bumpy.

When we arrived, it was the coolest little bungalow type atmoshpere. It felt very surreal. The guides gave everyone instructions as they helped with setting everyone up with gear (harness, helmet, etc.) Then we were off. 9 zip lines and 3 rappels. One person in our group was scared of heights, but after the first zip line, you really get the feeling that you are very safe. The guides were great as they made sure everyone was having a good time. We took some great pics of ourselves soaring through the rainforest. THey also have a photographer snapping shots for purchase at the end of the trip. After a couple hours, we finished up and were served a solid lunch of rice, beans, chicken, plantains, macaroni salad. Well deserved as we were hungry and exhausted. By the way, there were little kids on this tour who loved it. I cannot stress how safe this is, and a must do at least once in your life.

We got dropped off at our villa around 3PM, and basically just relaxed, had some cocktails, showered up for the evening. We went to Bambu Jam for dinner that night because we heard it is a great spot. Don't know if it was an off-night, but this was our least favorite dinner of the week. First they said in plain english that they can't seat us right away. So we waited amidst some confusion, and were eventuall seated after a drink or two at the bar. Then the same person tried taking our order, but apparently didn't understand ANY english. THis was very strange. We all finally ordered as the hostess came over to help. The food was mediocre and service left something to desired. Keep in mind though, that twice a week they have live music so those nights are probably THE nights to go. I'm just telling you from our one dull experience. After dinner, we went home, exhausted from a couple action packed days, as well as several nights of drinking.

Day 5: FISHING!!!

By far the highlight of the trip for the guys. The three of us chartered a boat from a company that got great reviews. We woke at 6:45AM, took a taxi down to Quepos, and quickly met up with the captain and his assistant. A few short minutes later we were headed out to deep sea. The ride took about 1.5 hours as it seemed like we were going FAR. Then all of a sudden, we stopped -- the sun was shining, there were dolphins all over (not kidding), and the captains assistant started to set up all the fishing rods. The trip included sandwiches, beer, snacks, etc. We heard the captain say they found a school of tuna -- which is very rare (no pun intended) -- especially in December. Before I knew it, I was reeling in a large tuna. After a couple hours, we had caught six tuna, and were eating fresh sashimi with wasabi and soy sauce on the boat. It was unreal!!! We then changed our position to try and catch a sailfish or marlin. There were a couple close calls, but they ended up getting away. Around 2:30 - 3PM we headed back to shore. Still can't believe we caught 6 tuna!! It was great. We took half and gave the crew half. We seared the fresh tuna steaks that evening for everyone before we went out for our real dinner.

The girls went to the beach and the spa at Si Como No during the day. According to them, it was very nice (scented candles, relaxing spa music, rooms facing the ocean).

That night we went to La Mansion Inn for dinner. It was right by our villa so a short walk away. This hotel is supposed to be the most exclusive -- there are celebrity photos on the wall in the lobby when you walk in. The restaurant is absolutely tiny. Only about 5 or 6 tables. The service was very good, but none of us loved the food. I had Mahi Mahi in some sort of fruit sauce. It wasn't great.

Day 6: MA National Park

We went to Milagros again for an outstanding breakfast. Then headed to the beach where you enter the National Park. We arrived at about 10:30AM and there was a 30-45 minute wait because the park was packed to capacity. We finally were let in, paid $7 each, and started hiking around checking out all the beaches.

There we people crowding around all sorts of animals. I didn't really like the way a lot of the tourists and locals surrounded some of the wildlife -- giving the animal no place to go. We did not to a guided tour, so I can't tell you the name of some of the stuff we saw, but it was pretty cool. Monkey's, iguanas, etc. We found a beach that looked good and spent a couple hours there, frying in the sun. We eventually just got too hot and headed back to the main Manuel Antonio Beach, before heading back to the villa around 3ish.

Gotta run, will finish up the report later. Let me know if you have any questions!!
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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Would you mind sharing the name of the villa you stayed at and what the cost was for the week? We have stayed at Tulemar and loved it but your villa sounds like it would be a nice fit for the group we are going with on our next trip. Thank you!
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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Would you recommend the Sport Fishing for family with a 12 and 17 year old Is sea sickness a problem?
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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twbuss -- I would absolutely recommend the sportfishing for the family. It was a great day just being out in the open water with the sun shining, dolphins jumping, and taking in the scenery. If you email me at [email protected] I can give you details of the tour company we used, prices, etc. As for seasickness, we each took one tablet of Bonine (similar to dramamine) one hour prior to getting on the boat, just to be safe. None of us wanted to have our day ruined with sickness, so we all took it to basically eliminate that chance. It worked great, and none of us got sick. There's nothing worse than seasickness, so I would recommend taking some over the counter anti-nausea pills, and you're good to go.

cbeck -- shoot me an email at the above address, and i'll gladly give you details on our villa, info, rates, etc. When planning the trip we were nervous about renting villas in MA because we had heard horror stories of double bookings! (people reserving villas only to find out another family rented the same villa for the same week when they arrived) We booked directly through the owner and his staff, who were very helpful, and assured us we would not be double booked.

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