Manuel Antonio is a popular spot for visitors who are interested in the eco travel that made Costa Rica famous. However, there are plenty of other types of activities just outside of Manuel Antonio. If you have seen everything there is to see in Manuel Antonio, make your way out of town on some of our suggested day trips. Everything listed below can easily be done in a day and give you plenty of time to get back to your lodging in Manuel Antonio.
Be sure to check out: Fincas Naturales Manuel Antonio
If you are on a budget, check out these free things to do in Costa Rica.
If you have any other suggestions for day trips from Manuel Antonio, please leave a comment in the section below the post!
Highway 34 to Dominical and Beyond
Going south of Manuel Antonio reveals miles upon miles of paved road that winds through beautiful palm oil plantations. The sights and sounds along this route will take visitors back in time where cars are replaced by cycles and people are unaware of anything called Internet. This tricky road is better traversed with the help of a 4WD. Just be careful to replenish fuel at every gas station.
DOWNLOAD OUR TRAVEL GUIDES
Just 26 km from Manuel Antonio is the town of Dominical which is popular for its deserted beaches covered by thousand years old virgin rain forests. It is a town where tides crash into the nearby rugged cliff face. If you leave early then make it a point to spend a couple of hours at famous beaches just a few miles farther south. These beaches are relatively calm and abound in natural beauty. Along the way, you can stop at numerous coves, waterfalls and other picnic spots. It is best to hire a local guide who is well aware of the local places and will make sure that you get back in time for dinner. If you ever get late, stay at one of the comfortable budget lodgings and do not try to get back after dark.
Ballena Whale National Park
The park is home to one of the largest coral reefs in this part of the World. It will take a little more than an hour to reach this marine wonderland. The park provides ample opportunities to see Green Iguanas who feed on the abundant algae. Bottle nosed dolphins and hawksbill turtles are frequent visitors to the mainland. It is among the few places on earth where humans can come close to the breeding packs of humpback whales which congregate in large numbers near Las Tres Hermanas. The best time to see these giant mammals is from January to April.
To enjoy all that this park has on offer, try hiring a boat to take you to the remote fishing hamlets or ask someone to arrange a trip to Isla Ballena coral reef where you will be able to savor the splendors of sea caves and a large variety of migratory birds. Come equipped with all the camping facilities and fill up bottles of water at the Ranger station. The guides are available at nominal prices in and around Palmar, Uvita and Dominical. Just be careful who you wish to accompany as guide jobs are mostly unregulated.
>> Check out our review of Ballena Whale National PArk
White Water at Rio Naranjo
For adventurous and brave at heart, no side trip is better than facing the thrill of riding a class III or IV rapid along the winding stretches of Rio Naranjo River. The only pre-requisite to such tour is to have a little experience of rafting because elevation along the route can swiftly change from shallow pounds to fast moving currents. The best time to visit is between June and October when the season is ripe for riding along the most treacherous but rewarding patches of Naranjo.
Most tours operate from the town of Manuel Antonio where participants have a chance to select from half or full day journeys. The trips usually stop at halfway point near the tiny village of Londres which allows rafters to enjoy a well prepared meal and interact with native inhabitants. Due to the sheer competition, each company may provide other side trips free of cost. Feel lucky if your group stops at one of the lovely shallow lagoons to drench under the multi colored waterfalls. You should be physically fit to undertake this journey and be able to spend a little extra cash on buying accessories which may not be readily available with all tour operators.
Jaco is the party capital of Costa Rica. If you ask locals, they will definitely tell not to visit the town as it is infested with beautiful prostitutes, drugs and many crazy people. While some of it is true, most westerners are tempted by the variety it offers to its international clientele. There are all those fine delicacies which are attributed to local cuisine. For the most delicious and low cost meal try the ever popular Gallo Pinto made of rice, onions, coriander and beans. For meat lovers, rice served with steak or pork with a fine blend of fried plantains, beans and salad is a Must.
For surfers, it is a paradise which provides safe year round surf and for sunbathers there is not a better place than lounging by warm waters. You can easily find a secluded spot on the beach even in the most crowded months. All along the beach and town center, numerous gift shops sell antiques not available anywhere else in Costa Rica. Things are usually expansive therefore beware of tourist traps and haggle on everything from Taxi ride to buying a Horcheta at seaside stalls. Once there, do not forget to take a romantic horse ride to the beautiful natural habitats north of the town.