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- 19 Aug 2019, 3 nights
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Manuel Antonio is a small village on Costa Rica's western coast. It may be tiny, but this little gem has dense rainforest, a lively atmosphere and impressive biodiversity to spare. The nearby National Park of the same name is home to several species of monkey, brightly coloured birds and sun-lazy iguanas. Its location by the turquoise waters of the Pacific makes it a great place to taste some of the freshest seafood around.
You can stay in a Manuel Antonio hostel with a pool, or one visited by adorable titi monkeys. There's a hostel with a roof deck, giving panoramic views of the coast. For a peaceful retreat, choose a hostel surrounded by jungle, or pick a place in the town centre to be in the heart of the hustle and bustle. Lots of Manuel Antonio hostels have air con so you can beat the heat, and some have on-site bars where you'll get to know fellow travellers.
The town of Manuel Antonio is a delicate balance between untamed nature and human development. Lively bars and restaurants serve cuisine from around the world, while birds and monkeys can be spotted outside. It's a perfect base for exploring the national park and paradise beaches, with fun nightlife to come back to. Nearby Quepos is famous for its sport fishing, and it has a booming nightlife scene too. You'll find mangrove islands around Isla Damas, and a day trip to Dominical takes you to see the Nauyaca Waterfalls.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the jewel in the region's crown. It contains three white-sand beaches where you can sunbathe, snorkel or surf. They're well-known for their particularly colourful sunsets, too. With tours of the protected jungle you can spot plants and creatures you might not notice otherwise, including sloths and scampering agoutis. View the ocean part of the park on a catamaran cruise – these have a party atmosphere, and some even have trampolines and slides for jumping into the sea.
Quepos La Managua Airport is the closest place to fly into, though you'll need to catch a connection at a domestic airport first. Once you land, you're a 15-minute taxi ride from town. You can also get a bus from San José, the capital of Costa Rica, for around 8 USD, or a shuttle bus with air con for 45 USD. Local buses will take you to the other towns in the area, or you could rent a bike or scooter – just remember that the terrain is hilly.