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.