Hitting the Water

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 swimming, but with no entrance fee, it’s the most popular beach with locals and visiting Ticos. Shops by the water rent 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. For a lesson, check with Manuelk Antonio Surf School ((tel) 2777-4842; https://manuelantoniosurfschool.com), which provides excellent attention for individuals, small groups, and families.

Boating, Kayaking, Rafting & Sportfishing Tours: Iguana Tours ((tel) 2777-2052; www.iguanatours.com) is the most established 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) 877/393-8332 in the U.S. or 2777-0082 in Costa Rica; www.amigosdelrio.net) offer full-day rafting trips for around $70 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 $69. Depending on rainfall and demand, they will run either the Naranjo or Savegre rivers. The Savegre River ★★ is highly recommended for its stunning scenery.

Another good option in this 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 lots of wildlife. The cost is usually $65 to $70. Manuel Antonio Expeditions ((tel) 8365-1057; www.manuelantonioexpeditions.blogspot.com) is a good choice 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) 800/943-9161 in the U.S. or 2777-1647 in Costa Rica; www.planetdolphin.com) offer these tours for around $80 per person, depending on the size of the group and the length of the cruise. Most tours include a snorkel break, and you may see dolphins. For more of a booze cruise experience, you could try the 100-foot Ocean King ((tel) 4000-5740; www.catamaranadventurescr.com).

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, hook up with Blue Fin Sportfishing ((tel) 2777-0000; www.bluefinsportfishing.com) or Luna Tours Sportfishing ((tel) 272/242-5982 in U.S. or 2777-0725 in Costa Rica). A full day of fishing should cost between $400 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) 401/385-6598 in the U.S. or 2777-0114 in Costa Rica; www.scubadivingcostarica.com) offers both scuba diving and snorkel outings, as well as certification and resort courses. Because of river runoff and often less-than-stellar visibility close to Quepos, the best trips involve some travel time. Tours around Manuel Antonio run $109 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 is highly recommended. Trips to Isla del Caño run about $125 for snorkeling and $170 for two-tank scuba dives.

Other Activities in the Area

ATV: Midworld ★★ ((tel) 2777-7181; www.midworldcostarica.com) offers a range of tours through forests and farmlands at its center on the outskirts of Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

Butterfly Garden: Greentique Wildlife Refuge ★ ((tel) 888/742-6667 in U.S. and Canada or 2777-0850 in Costa Rica; www.sicomono.com/refugeatrium) is across from (and run by) Hotel Sí Como No. A nice bi-level butterfly garden ★ is the centerpiece 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 $25 per person. This is also a good place for a night tour ($39).

Canopy Adventures: The most exciting local canopy tour is Midworld ★★ ((tel) 2777-7181; www.midworldcostarica.com). Its main zipline tour features 10 cables, including the longest cables in the area. It also has a face-down “Superman” cable, as well as a ropes course. 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 cables and suspension bridges, with a “Tarzan swing” and two rappels. The on-site butterfly garden and serpentarium are an added bonus. A canopy tour should cost around $85 per person, and up to $125 for a combo package that includes lunch.

About 20 minutes outside of Quepos is Rainmaker Park ((tel) 540/349-9848 in the U.S. or 2777-3565 in Costa Rica; www.rainmakercostarica.org; daily 7:30am–4:30pm). Its 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. Entrance fee is $20, plus $15 additional for a guided tour.

For Kids: For a taste of local Tico rural culture, mixed in with 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 (p ###) and then takes you to a local farming village in the mountains outside of Quepos. Here you can tour coffee and citrus farms, go for a horseback ride, hike trails, swim in rainforest pools, fish for tilapia, or see how sugarcane is processed. A traditional Tico lunch is included. Rates are $155 per person, depending on the size of your group, and $99 for kids under 12.

Horseback Riding: Although you can sometimes find locals renting horses on the beaches outside the national park, the crowded beach is too short to enjoy a nice ride, and the horse droppings are problematic. Better yet, head back into the hills and forests. Both Finca Valmy ((tel) 2779-1118) 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 cabins in the Santa María de Dota mountains.

Parasailing: Aguas Azules ((tel) 2777-9192; www.costaricaparasailing.com) sets up shop every morning on Playa Espadilla right in front of the souvenir store Caycosta, offering parasailing rides behind a speedboat. Prices start at $75 for a single ride, which lasts around 15 minutes.

One-Stop Adventure Hot Spot: The ADR Adventure Park ★★ ((tel) 877/393-8332 U.S./Canada or 2777-0082 in Costa Rica; www.adradventurepark.com) is an excellent one-stop spot for thrill seekers. Billing itself as a 10-in-1 adventure tour, ADR offers a 7-hour tour that includes a zipline, waterfall rappels, a high plunge into a jungle river pool, horseback riding, and 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) offering a wide range of treatments, wraps, and facials. Holis Spa ((tel) 2777-0939; www.spaholis.com) has open yoga classes ($15) daily at 8am in their wellness center near the entrance of Parador Hotel, and also offers 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 its open-air botanical gardens and spice farm. The commercial vanilla operation is the centerpiece, but you’ll also learn about a host of other tropical spices and assorted flora, and you’ll sample some sweet and savory treats and drinks. The half-day guided tour runs daily at 9am and 1pm and costs $50, including round-trip transportation from any area hotel. A small shop sells 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.