This may be the most visited area in Costa Rica. Tried to find a stat to prove that, but failed. Sure felt like it, however.
During the epic rainstorm and on the disastrous road to Playa Santa Teresa, the van flexed enough to cause a pin on a steering rod to slice our radiator hose. Because of the rain, and inertia at the AirBnB we rented, we didn’t notice the leak for several days.
It wasn’t until we attempted to visit Playa Mal Pais one afternoon that I heard what sounded like a fountain firework beneath the car. At first, I thought it was our transfer case, which made me panic. Then my more mechanically-inclined father-in-law informed me it was the hose. And thanks to good ol’ duct tape and stinky man sweat, we were able to temporarily repair the hose to get us to the nearest town with a radiator mechanic.
Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
The world’s first national park. And one of it’s most beautiful. While it’s a miniature park, especially compared to ones in the US, its massive in biodiversity. Over a hundred species of mammals and nearly two hundred species of birds exist in less than three square miles. We saw a few brown-throated three-toed sloths just, you guessed it, hanging out. I hummed Everett’s sloth song (heard here) nearly the entire hike.
Beach Score: 8.5 out 10
Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio has four beaches within the park. The locals, and seemingly the park rangers, refer to the beaches as Playa 1, 2, 3, and 4. Wikipedia calls them Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita.
Playa Manuel Antonio, the most scenic and visited beach in the park, is throned Costa Rica’s best. It deserves its accolades. And crowds. It’s the most scenic beach we’ve seen in Central America. Picture postcard perfect. A cozy cove on a jungle peninsula, replete with silken, cream-colored sand.
This beach could easily be a 9, even a 9.5, if not for the fact that you have to pay ($15 USD for foreigners) to access it and then fight the crowds. (I’m reserving a 10 score for something that challenges my favorite beach, Maho Bay on St. John.)
Espalda Beach Score: 8.5 out of 10
We also spent two afternoons on the public beach just outside of el Parque, Playa Espadilla.
This beach has all the looks — gorgeous bay, whitish sand, lush rainforest, a few picturesque islands in the distance — for all the folks — surfers, loungers, partiers, and adventures. Andrea and her sister parasailed. Andrea’s dad surfed. The kids boogie-boarded. I lounged while testing the fortitude of my gut on beach vendor ceviche.
If this beach had Playa Manual Antonio’s visual quaintness — it’s much longer and wider — I’d rate it higher. Of course, if it was quaint, the crowds would be condensed and then much of its appeal would be lost, but let’s not bother with facts.