Costa Rica

Our fifth and sixth stop in Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio National Park & Dominical

March 20, 2020

After Santa Teresa, we went to Manuel Antonio, where is located the eponymous national park, one of the most famous and most visited park in Costa Rica and South America. We spent 2 days there before heading to Dominical for two more nights.

Where to sleep in Manuel Antonio

Millenium Hostel Manuel Antonio – a confortable hostel with different rooms for all budget: dormitory, double rooms and family rooms (up to 4 people).
The staff is friendly and helpful, the hostel is very clean and decorated with taste. You have access to a small pool, jacuzzi, sun beds and a shared kitchen (with complimentary tea and coffee).
Millenium hostel is located about 30 meters from Manuel Antonio National park entrance, very convenient to buy your tickets the day before and not to have to queue in the morning with everybody else. It is definitely the perfect spot to stay while visiting Manual Antonio National Park.

The hostel does not provide any food but you will find another hostel, the Art Hostel Costa Linda, 4 min away, with food and drinks all day long. Very friendly staff, very cheap and very good, we recommend the fajitas with a guanabana juice.

View from the kitchen of Millenium hostel - Manuel Antonio
View from the kitchen of Millenium hostel – Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park

About Manuel Antonio Nation Park: We loved the park! It was quite busy even early in the morning. We would advice to get there as early as possible. The park costs 16$ per person, is open from 7am to 6pm and you are not allowed to bring anything else in the park than sandwiches and beverages (snacks in plastic bags will not be allowed, same for cigarets).

Viewpoint overlooking one of the beach of Manuel Antonio National Park
Viewpoint overlooking one of the beach of Manuel Antonio National Park

You can buy some sandwiches, fruit salads and drinks next to the park entrance, in front of the building where you buy the entrance tickets. The food is okay, but prices quite high (expect 20$ for a picnic for two).
Toilets are available in the park (in the coffeeshop) and you have enough time do all the itineraries if you do not fear walking up and down (be careful for your knees) !

The main trail of Manuel Antonio National Park
The main trail of Manuel Antonio National Park


What to bring in Manual Antonio National park: A picnic, a hat, hiking shoes, a bathing suit and water, water, water ! Count at least two litters per person. There is a coffeeshop in the park where you can refill your bottles, however you will be charged for it. If you are ensure what to bring in your trip to Costa Rica : check our article on what to pack in your bag to visit Costa Rica.

It will be a long walk in the park and the heat will be almost unbearable especially from 11am.
Our advice: walk as much as you can in the morning and finish with the beaches
You can count 6 to 7 hours to spend in the park including picnic break and beach time.


Our itinerary We started with the waterfall trail (Catarata Estacional Trail ) followed by the central Perezoso trail.
Then, choosing to go left to the Miradores trail, Congos trail and Puerto Escondido trail will take you to some amazing viewpoints. Start with these trails, it will not be too busy in the early morning.

Then, the trail around the beaches will start: Choose to do first the Playa Gemelas Trail (where you will see many iguanas on the beach), thus, go straight to the Punta Catedral.

One of the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park


By following this itinerary, you will be able to finish with the beaches: Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur beach, with well deserved rest and bath!
The beaches are the busiest areas of the park but you should manage to see monkeys, snakes, iguanas, alligators, … Keep an eye open (or two)!

The king of Iguana !
The king of Iguana !

What else to do in Manuel Antonio National Park

Go to Espadilla beach, even if not as gorgeous as the one in the park, it remains a beautiful beach you should not miss!
Stay away from the sollicitation and choose a spot on one of the edges.
If you feel adventurous, you can do some amazing parasailing. You can ask one of the informal info point on the beach. Count 100$ for two for 15/20 min. Do not hesitate to negotiate for parasailing, we got over 50$ discounted on the price advertised.

Rafting on el Chorro (on the Rio Naranjo) with los Amigos del rio. It was the second rafting we did in Costa Rica and from far the best ! You will be 2-3 per raft plus the guide. Accompanied by a safety canoe as well in case here is any issue, you will find 4 rapids, each one coming with its own challenges ! Don’t fear to fall in the water, because you will and always listen to your guide. Lots of fun for the most adventurous ones are coming for sure (and you may get the jitters out!).

Breakfast and lunch are included, transportation in and out from hotels around Manuel Antonio. 90$ per person for half a day of rafting.
Our tip: plan your rafting day on the morning of your departure from Manuel Antonio. Our guides dropped us at Quepos train station after the rafting, and from there we went straight to Dominical.

Dominical

We stayed at the Tribe boutique hotel and we really did not like it. The pool is nice but that’s about it, we would not recommend this overpriced hotel in the village.

About food, we loved everything we tried !

Phat Noodle For great thai fusion cuisine.some delicious cocktails. The restaurant has only an open terrace and is very busy. Make sure you book before, or drop by and come back 1h later.

Cafe Mono Congo Very busy in the morning (many kids running around, spoiling a bit the quiet atmosphere), it’s better to come back later in the day to enjoy the great river view. The juices are amazing ( we loved the strawberry mint juice, very refreshing) and the food is good. For the ones working remotely, the wifi is good and that’s the best spot around!

Cafe Mono Congo - Dominical Costa Rica
Cafe Mono Congo – Dominical Costa Rica


El pescado loco Not far from the Mono Congo Cafe, you will find a very small place run by a sweet couple. The food was so good and prices so low ! Our only disappointment was not to have any meal left to come back ! Definitely a must go, even if you are not so much about fish as they have lots of other options.

What to do in Dominical ?

Dominical is not super exciting as a village but a very chilling one. Everybody there is wandering around wearing only flip flops and bathing suits. We had chosen to stop there to rest for a while and it was perfect for our program.

Dominical beach in the afternoon  - Costa Rica
Dominical beach in the afternoon – Costa Rica


Long walk on the beach. Not the most beautiful one in Costa Rica but as a black sand beach, it worth to see it. And, you will not be bothered, apart from some surfers, the beach is empty.

Surf lessons. In the village and near the beach, you will find many classes. All level and about 60$ per person per lesson.

Yoga classes. Our favorite! The ecolodge Danyasa is offering some retreats and classes every night. 14 dollars per person (mat included), classes are in english and on an open classroom upstairs. You will love the great feeling to do yoga at night with candle light !
Check with Danyasa if you stay for long, they have some membership offering a big discount for 10 lessons.

Evening yoga class in ecolodge Danyasa - Dominical Costa Rica
Evening yoga class in ecolodge Danyasa – Dominical Costa Rica
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