Beaches Outside the Park -- Playa Espadilla, the gray-sand beach just outside the park boundary, is often perfect for board surfing and bodysurfing. At times it’s a bit rough for casual swimming, but with no entrance fee, it’s the most popular beach with locals and visiting Ticos. Some shops by the water rent boogie boards and beach chairs and umbrellas. A full-day rental of a beach umbrella and two chaise lounges costs around $10. (These are not available inside the park.) This beach is actually a great spot to learn how to surf, because several open-air shops renting surfboards and boogie boards are along the beachfront road. Rates run $5 to $10 per hour, and around $20 to $30 per day. If you want a lesson, I recommend the Blue Horizon Surf School (tel. 8994-1424; www.bluehorizonsurfschool.com), which provides excellent attention for individuals, small groups and families.
Boating, Kayaking, Rafting & Sportfishing Tours -- Iguana Tours (tel. 2777-2051; www.iguanatours.com) is the most established and longest-running tour operator in the area, offering river rafting, sea kayaking, mangrove tours, and guided hikes.
The above company, as well as Amigos del Río (tel. 2777-0082; www.amigosdelrio.net), offer full-day rafting trips for around $90 to $95. Large multiperson rafts are used during the rainy season, and single-person “duckies” are broken out when the water levels drop. Both companies also offer half-day rafting adventures and sea-kayaking trips for around $65 to $90. Depending on rainfall and demand, they will run either the Naranjo or Savegre rivers. I very much prefer the Savegre River ★★ for its stunning scenery.
Another of my favorite tours in the area is the mangrove tour of the Damas Island estuary. These trips generally include lunch, a stop on Damas Island, and roughly 3 to 4 hours of cruising the waterways. You’ll see loads of wildlife. The cost is usually around $65 to $70. Manuel Antonio Expeditions (tel. 8365-1057; manuelantonioexpeditions.blogspot.com) is my choice operator for this tour.
Among the other boating options around Quepos/Manuel Antonio are excursions in search of dolphins and sunset cruises. Iguana Tours and Planet Dolphin ★ (tel. 2777-1647; www.planetdolphin.com) offer these tours for around $80 per person, depending upon the size of the group and the length of the cruise. Most tours include a snorkel break and, if lucky, dolphin sightings.
Quepos is one of Costa Rica’s sportfishing centers, and sailfish, marlin, and tuna are all common in these waters. In recent years, fresh- and brackish water fishing in the mangroves and estuaries has also become popular. If you’re into sportfishing, try hooking up with Blue Fin Sportfishing (tel. 2777-0000; www.bluefinsportfishing.com) or Luna Tours Sportfishing (tel. 2777-0725; www.lunatours.net). A full day of fishing should cost between $600 and $1,900, depending on the size of the boat, distance traveled, tackle provided, and amenities. With so much competition here, it pays to stop by the marina and shop around.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling -- Oceans Unlimited ★ (tel. 2777-3171; www.scubadivingcostarica.com) offers both scuba diving and snorkel outings, as well as certification and resort courses. Because of river run-off and often less-than-stellar visibility close to Quepos, the best trips involve some travel time. Tours around Manuel Antonio run $99 per person for a two-tank scuba dive.
However, Isla del Caño is only about a 90-minute ride each way. This is one of the best dive sites in Costa Rica, and I highly recommend it. Trips to Isla del Caño are $125 for snorkeling and $165 for two-tank scuba diving.
Other Activities in the Area
ATV -- If you want to try riding a four-wheel ATV (all-terrain vehicle), check in with the folks at Midworld ★★ (tel. 2777-7181; www.midworldcostarica.com), who offer a range of tours through forests and farmlands at their adventure center on the outskirts of Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
Butterfly Garden -- Manuel Antonio Nature Park ★★ (www.manuelantonionaturepark.com; tel. 888/742-6667 in U.S. and Canada or 2777-0850 in Costa Rica) is just across from (and run by) Hotel Sí Como No (p. ###). A nice bi-level butterfly garden is the centerpiece attraction here, but there is also a private reserve and a small network of well-groomed trails through the forest. A 1-hour guided tour of the butterfly garden costs $15 per person. This is also a good place for a night tour ($39).
Canopy Adventures -- The most adventurous local canopy tour is Midworld ★★ (tel. 2777-7181; www.midworldcostarica.com). Their main zip-line tour features 10 cables, including the longest cables in the area. However they also have a “Superman” cable, which is very long, very fast, and ridden in a prone position, as well as a ropes course. Their ATV tours through the surrounding rainforest stop at a waterfall pool for a dip. Canopy Safari ★ (tel. 888/765-8475 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2777-0100 in Costa Rica; www.canopysafari.com), is another good option, featuring 18 treetop platforms connected by a series of cables and suspension bridges, and the tour features a Tarzan-type swing and two rappels. The on-site butterfly garden and serpentarium are an added bonus. A canopy tour should run about $85 per person, and up to $125 for a combo package that includes various adventures and lunch.
About 20 minutes outside of Quepos is Rainmaker Park (tel. 8860-3836 or 2777-3565; www.rainmakercostarica.org). The main attraction is a system of connected suspension bridges strung through the forest canopy, crisscrossing a deep ravine. Of the six bridges, the longest is 90m (295 ft.) across. The refuge also has a small network of trails and some great swimming holes. The refuge is open daily from 7:30am to 4:30pm. The entrance fee is $20 and $15 additional for a guided tour.
For Kids -- For a good taste of local Tico rural culture, mixed in with some fabulous scenery and adventure, sign up for the Santa Juana Mountain Tour & Canopy Safari (tel. 888/742-6667 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2777-0777 in Costa Rica; www.sicomono.com). This full-day tour starts off with a visit to the Canopy Safari and then takes you to a local farming village in the mountains outside of Quepos. Depending upon your needs and interests, once you arrive in the village, you can tour the surrounding coffee and citrus farms, go for a horseback ride, hike the trails, swim in rainforest pools, fish for tilapia, and see how sugar cane is processed. A typical Tico lunch is included. Rates are $129 to $155 per person, depending upon the size of your group, and $89 for children under 12.
Horseback Riding -- While you can still sometimes find locals renting horses on the beaches outside the national park, I discourage this, as there are just too many crowds, the beach is too short, and the horse droppings are problematic. Better yet, head back into the hills and forests. Both Finca Valmy (tel. 2779-1118; www.valmytours.com) and Brisas del Nara (tel. 2779-1235; www.horsebacktour.com) offer horseback excursions that pass through both primary and secondary forest and feature a swimming stop or two at a jungle waterfall. Full-day tours, including breakfast and lunch, cost between $70 and $75 per person. Finca Valmy also offers an overnight tour for serious riders, with accommodations in rustic, but cozy, cabins in the Santa María de Dota mountains.
Parasailing -- If you want a good view of Manuel Antonio’s spectacular scenery, you might want to go parasailing. The folks at Aguas Azules (tel. 2777-9192; www.costaricaparasailing.com) set up shop every morning on Playa Espadilla right in front of the souvenir store Caycosta, and offer parasailing rides behind a speedboat. Prices start at $75 for a single 15-minute ride.
One-Stop Adventure Hot Spot -- The ADR Adventure Park ★★ (tel. 2777-0082; www.adradventurepark.com) is an excellent one-stop spot for adventure travelers and thrill seekers. Billing itself as a 10-in-1 adventure tour, the 7-hour full-day tour here includes a zip-line canopy tour, waterfall rappels, a high plunge into a jungle river pool, horseback riding, and much more. The cost is $130, and includes transportation and lunch.
Soothe Your Body & Soul -- The best of the local day spas is Raindrop Spa (tel. 800/381-3770 in the U.S. and Canada, or 2777-2880 in Costa Rica; www.raindropspa.com) which offers wide range of treatments, wraps, and facials. Holis Spa (tel. 2777-0939; www.spaholis.com) has open yoga classes ($15) Monday to Friday at 8am and Saturday at 10am in the event center at Hotel Costa Verde and also offer private classes. Sivana Yoga ((tel) 8899-2987) is another option for private classes.
Spice Up Your Life -- Located 16km (10 miles) outside of Quepos, Villa Vanilla ★★ (tel. 2779-1155 or 8839-2721; www.rainforestspices.com) offers an informative and tasty tour of their open-air botanical gardens and spice farm. Their on-site commercial vanilla operation is the centerpiece of the show, but you’ll also learn about a host of other tropical spices and assorted flora. You’ll even sample some sweet and savory treats and drinks made with the on-site bounty. The half-day guided tour runs daily at 9am and 1pm, and costs $50, which includes round-trip transportation from any area hotel. Be sure to stock up at their small shop, which offers pure vanilla, cinnamon, and locally grown pepper.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.