Saturday, October 23, 2021

[PUNTARENAS] Tell Them Manuel Antonio Sucks


A.K.A “How to Pick a Fight with Your Costa Rican Friends”. I don’t think you will go that far, though. There’s just no hating Manuel Antonio. No, Manuel Antonio is not a campy villain from a Costa Rican telenovela. Manuel Antonio is a national park located in the southern region of Puntarenas, a small tropical jungle along a beach on the country’s Pacific Coast. Ask anyone, may they be local or tourist, which one place you should visit while in Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio will most likely be the definitive answer.


And so, the verdict, did Manuel Antonio, indeed, sucked? Not really. It is probably the smallest national park the country has on offer but what it lacks in size it makes up for through its natural charm. Since I’ve only ever been to Manzanillo on the Caribbean side, it’s the only comparison I can think of. Think of that national park as the Indiana Jones version of Manuel Antonio. On the other hand, Manuel Antonio is the convenient and touristy cousin, catering and adjusting more to the whims of the tourist.


That’s not meant in a bad way anyway. But first, how do we get here? I saw direct pink buses from San José to Quepos. Think of Quepos as the downtown area. To get to Manuel Antonio from there, a 15-minute taxi or Uber ride will suffice. Even so, Manuel Antonio has no shortage of restaurants and accommodation options. Quepos is just where the bus terminal to and from the rest of the country is located. Just book your ho(s)tel at Manuel Antonio, although I don’t think you have to.


I already mentioned that the place is kinda small. However, if you are a legit beach bum and would just like to laze around, then you can spend a few days there even without having to buy a ticket for the national park itself. If your main goal is to visit the park, then I’d say a day trip should suffice. If you hate plants and animals that much and you’ve already visited other bigger Costa Rican national parks, then I’d say just skip, OR make Manuel Antonio that one national park on your itinerary.


In our case, we decided to establish our base in Jacó, which has been badmouthed by practically every other person I’ve talked to about it. Jacó is also in Puntarenas but strategically located right between San José and Manuel Antonio, each way just a 2-hr bus ride away. Jacó is more of a surfing mecca a la La Union. People just go there to learn how to surf, but because of its central location, you will never run out of accommodations and restaurants there. That’s why I chose it, along with its location because I’m heading straight to the airport after checking out on Monday.


Back to Manuel Antonio, there are walkways both in gravel and wood to facilitate a smooth tour. These pathways are placed in the middle of the green areas and usually connected with viewing decks that provide info on what you are supposed to see in that particular portion of the jungle. My only disappointment is that the lazy sloths were, once again, a no-show. You will find a group of people or two pointing up to the trees sometimes, but the sloths are just so hard to see.


The sloths boycotted but the iguanas showed up. Those lizards just come out of nowhere and then stay catatonic in front of you. What their deal is, I don’t really know. I think I spotted around six that day, including two that were frolicking at the beach. Hey, at least dem lizards have a love life. Do you? Flora and fauna abound, the beach comes as an added bonus to the legit nature enthusiast. Costa Rica seems to be an expert in combing both jungle and beach in one itinerary, and Manuel Antonio has perfected this technique.


In the end, I was neither amused nor disappointed. My reaction is similar to visiting any lazy beach in the Pacific. This time around, though, I found myself on the other side of the ocean. I still like Manuel Antonio more than I did Manzanillo, or perhaps it’s just some sort of Pacific Islander bias?

[PUNTARENAS] Tell Them Manuel Antonio Sucks

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