Manuel Antonio is pure jungle meets ocean, with rivers nearby; a veritable water park for the adventurous.
With the sparkling warm waters of the Central Pacific beckoning, a vacation in Manuel Antonio inspires the urge to get out on the water. Fortunately, there plenty of ways to do that and see still experience the spectacular views, biospheres and adventures of a day on the water—all just minutes from your hotel, resort, or vacation rental.
There’s really no excuse for missing the water sport adventures just outside your door. After all, that’s one of Manuel Antonio’s two main attractions (the park is the other). Here’s just a taste of the opportunities for excitement.
Green season is prime time for whitewater rafting on any of the three rivers within a short drive of Manuel Antonio—the Savegre, the Naranjo and Division. Difficulty runs the gamut from leisurely and mildly exciting Class II rapids to heart-stopping, hair-raising Class VI+. Tour operators provide equipment and safety training. First-timers or old hands can enjoy the rush; all of it is just a short drive from Manuel Antonio.
A kayaking tour of the Damas Island estuary is a fascinating way to explore the mangroves. The estuary is an important eco-zone and delicate interface between fresh and salt-water environments. Mangrove wrens, swallows, shore birds and crocodiles are common. Boa constrictors sometimes hang out on the mangrove “knees” and Sally light foot crabs frequent the banks of the estuary while silky anteaters and white-faced monkeys live higher up in the mangroves. Several tour operators in the area offer tours, usually half-day tours that include bilingual naturalist guides and equipment. Ask your concierge for her recommendation and don’t forget to take sunscreen and insect repellant.
At Quepos’ new marina, Pez Vela, catamaran tour operators offer morning and afternoon tours, as well as sunset cruises. Most of the half-day tours include coastal cruising, with stops for snorkeling and swimming along the way to enjoy the multitudes of colorful reef inhabitants. Just a short stroll from the hotel, Playa Biesanz fronts a secluded cove—perfect for snorkeling on your own. Whale and dolphin watching tours are plentiful, as are other marine species such as sea turtles, manta rays and sea birds. Tours include snacks or lunch, depending on time of day and often combine stopping for a quick dip along the way.
Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is famous the world over for its first-rate sport fishing, including sailfish, marlin, yellow fin tuna, wahoo, snapper and more. Fishing grounds are a short, hour cruise from the dock and experts rate the bill fishing (marlin and sailfish) here tops in the world, with more than 40 fishing world records registered in the area. Sport fishing tours for beginner or expert anglers are plentiful with well-equipped fishing boats available for half or full day and weeklong charters, including equipment.
If you fancy solo cruising, wave runners are a great way to get out on the ocean and explore around the small islands. Two-hour rentals are available right off the beach in Manuel Antonio. You can stop to enjoy the marine life or have a dip at your leisure. You can also join a coastal tour.
Quepos/Manuel Antonio boasts the only 5-star PADI scuba diving center on the Central Coast. The center’s fully certified dive crew and instructors can set you up to explore the volcanic formations just offshore. Even beginners can take advantage of lessons and guided dives available at the center.
If you prefer touring the coastline under your own steam, guides can take you out on single or double ocean kayaks for a different look at the Manuel Antonio coastline’s impressive cliffs and rock formations. Fully trained in water and ocean safety, the bilingual guides can show you all the best views.
You can also explore the Manuel Antonio coastline under sail for a peaceful sensation of the wind in your hair and a chance to “sneak” up on shier ocean inhabitants. Tours are usually half-day, with morning tours dedicated to observing the marine life, while afternoon tours include the added benefit of Manuel Antonio’s spectacular sunsets.
While the pros hang ten on the big breaks farther north, Manuel Antonio’s surf is better suited for novice and intermediate surfers. Board rentals and lessons are readily available; look for certification by the International Surfing Association. Parasailing off the beach offers a bird’s-eye view and an adrenaline rush—you can soar out over the ocean alone or in tandem with up to two more people.