Hello 2018! New Year in Manuel Antonio

Where has 2017 gone?!?? It’s flown by crazy fast but it’s also been an amazing year for us and we’re so lucky to be starting 2018 in the middle of our big honeymoon adventure!

We spent a few relaxed days over New Year on the outskirts of Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, which is the most visited national park in the country. And we can vouch for that! It was super busy when we were there and probably a lot more busy than normal with it being New Year.

Luckily we’d booked ourselves into the lovely Hostel Plinio, just outside the main town of Quepos and on the road leading to the national park, which was really nice and chilled out. It also had a POOL!! And it was cheap (for Costa Rica) – we paid $17 each per night in an 8 bed dorm, including breakfast. The dorm was big and airy, and the breakfast was gallo pinto (traditional rice and beans), scrambled eggs and fruit. Very yummy!

Manuel Antonio National Park

The main reason people travel to Quepos is to visit Manuel Antonio NP, famous for its diverse wildlife and nice beaches. A popular way to see the national park is to do a guided nature walk, where the guide takes a telescope so you can see the critters more easily.

We booked a morning nature walk through our hostel, which ended up being with Iguana Tours, and cost us $40 each. We decided against doing a night tour because of my fear of spiders! But if you like creepy crawlies, snakes and frogs then a night tour might be right up your street.

We were picked up at 8am and by the time we got to the park and queued for entry, it was about 9am and the tour lasted for about 2 and a half hours.

Despite the HUGE numbers of people who all seemed to descend on the park the same time as us, we still managed to see lots of wildlife including monkeys, an iguana, and frogs. Our guide also pointed out some sloths through his telescope but they were so far away, we definitely got better view of sloths during our time in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.

After the nature walk we spent some time exploring more of the park (and getting away from the crowds) and chilling out on one of the beaches. Playa Manuel Antonio is the main beach and was really busy so we went to Playa Espadilla Sur instead – much quieter and we still got great views.

So what are our thoughts on the national park? If it was the first thing you visited in Costa Rica you would probably be impressed. However if we’re honest, we were a bit underwhelmed – the crowds were annoying and just seemed to scare the wildlife off. We had better experiences elsewhere in Costa Rica where the crowds weren’t so big. It’s a nice national park to visit but in our opinion, not worth the hype!

Info and Tips

  • Save yourself some money and take the local bus to Manuel Antonio. The local bus leaves Quepos regularly to go to the park and is only around 310 colones (about half a dollar), much cheaper than a taxi, which can cost around $10.
  • Entry to the park costs around $16 per person. Often the entry price is included in the cost of a guided tour.
  • Get there early to make the most of the park before the crowds get there, especially if you’re just going for the beaches.
  • The rangers at the ticket booth are very strict and won’t allow junk food into the park because the monkeys and racoons regularly steal from unsuspecting tourists. Turns out it isn’t just junk food the rangers confiscate, we were told we couldn’t take our homemade pasta salad lunches in with us. We had to leave them with a guy selling coconuts until we left the park! Luckily the coconut man took good care of them. Moral of the story – if you’re in any doubt, save lunch until after your visit.
  • Following on from that, do watch out for the monkeys and racoons and hide your belongings – if they think you have food they will steal it!
  • Tap water is drinkable in most places in Costa Rica, including Manuel Antonio. The park has lots of taps where you can top up your bottles for free.

New Year Celebrations

There are loads of other things to do in the area including ziplining and visiting other conservation parks. Hiring a car would have been a good option to get off the beaten track, but unfortunately our budget wouldn’t stretch for it. Instead, we visited a local beach on New Year’s Eve called Playa Bisanz, which was good for swimming and a lazy day in the sun. It was easy enough to get to, we got the local bus to Altos and walked downhill to the beach for about 20 minutes.

Altos is also a great spot to watch sunset and on New Year’s Day we went to a bar called La Rojo Barba for happy hour cocktails and a great view. Not a bad start to 2018!

New Year’s Eve was a lot of fun an even though we were both nodding off at 10pm, we powered through (with the help of beer and Connect 4) and went into Quepos to join in the celebrations.

And the atmosphere was great! There was a live band playing Latin American music with lots of people in the crowd doing salsa and dancing. We even gave it a go! Then an MC on the stage ran a dance-off competition with locals and gringos joining in, which was hilarious. A little old man totally showed up a young American guy with his amazing grinding skills. The crowd were pretty happy when the old man won!

At midnight there was a big firework display and lots of other random fireworks going off as well. Such a fun night and a great way to bring in the New Year!

Let the good times continue in 2018!

Happy New Year to you all! What did you do to celebrate? Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica? Or have you been before? Leave us a comment and let us know! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to see more of our travel updates.

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