Most tour activities require prior reservation and deposit. Most include the taxi or microbus pick-up at your door and return as well as a meal. Some are cash only. Many have "Gay Days." Be sure to inquire.
- Our property manager can set you up with reservations and handle deposits.
- Beaches: At the south end of Manuel Antonio there is access to four beach areas. At the entrance to the main strand there are several "Sodas" (casual al fresco restaurants) and native souvenir vendors. At night one of the soda pavilion, Mar y Sombra, is a popular outdoor dance club by the main beach. To the left of the main beach, across the small tidal sandbar you'll find the entrance to the National Park. In the park there are two more secluded beach areas. To the right of the main beach (between high tides) is another secluded beach that is gay popular and clothing optional. Each is a wonderful piece of remote paradise.
- Tours through the Manuel Antonio National Park (opens at 8:30 am, best to see animals before the heat of day) $7 entry fee (reservations suggested in high season), you can hike on your own through the hilly forest, with cliff vistas and more secluded beaches or guides are available for about $10/hour at the entrance. They have telescopes, a keen eye and lots of fascinating information.
- Sunset Sailboat Cruise - $69 - Delightful. Leaves mid-afternoon from the dock in Quepos. See the view from the Pacific. Snacks, beverages and dinner are included. Stops twice for swimming, snorkeling and maybe some dolphin watching. Concludes with sunset.
- Villa Vanilla Farm Tour - rainforestspices.com What a fantastic surprise! $39 (picked up at your hotel) $25 if you find your way there (a few km past Naranjito) You will enjoy this fascinating walking tour of a working vanilla bean farm (did you know they're
- Sport Fishing - there are several boat operators that leave from Quepos.
- Jet Ski Tours
- Sea Kayaking, Rafting (float > class IV), raft surfing
- Horseback Riding thru the jungle and waterfalls
- Hang Gliding
- ATV Adventures
- Snorkeling & Dolphin Watch
- Canopy Tours (zip line through the forest!, includes lunch or dinner)
- Surf School
- Rainmaker Aerial Walkway (walk over the trees! includes breakfast and lunch)
- Safari Mangrove River Boat Tours
- Alligator River Boat Tours
- Real Estate Hunting - we find it interesting to go out and look at what is being built or sold. You get to see a whole different side of the surrounding terrain, some gorgeous views and homes to dream about. We reccomend Harrison Hitt harrison at century21cr dot com or by phone at 1-800-346-8142 or or (011)506-777-2121.
PARADISE RESTAURANT GUIDEOpen and print our Casa Restaurant Guide
Good Eats in San José, Manuel Antonio and Quepos, Costa Rica
My oh my, how we love a good restaurant. When the food, service and mood create some sort of magic - when all the stars align - that's what we call entertainment! And we have found a treasure trove of such places in Costa Rica. This edition is just the start for us. The pictures are not the best, the details are a little sketchy - but we just had to share our adventures and get the info out to you. Good times and good food can make or break a vacation - and we want you to have the best time for your visit to paradise. Enjoy!
Let's start in San Jose. -- For those times your connections require a layover - make the best of it and have a great meal. As you can see our exploration is in it's infancy - but that only gives us room to grow. Our first two entries were great finds - we hope you will enjoy them too.
- Café Mundo - just north east of center city, this popular restaurant is in a large charming house and garden. It's kind of hip, the food is varied, casual and pretty darn good. The whole package has kind of a buzz about it without being deafening - so it is a nice place to start or end an evening. Calle 15 and Av. 9, 200m (2 blocks) east and 100m (1 block) north of the INS building, Downtown San José 222-6190 +++1/2 $$ !!!
- La Esquina de Buenos Aires - just south east of center city - this gem was recommended to us by the hotel concierge. Just GO! The food was marvelous, the waiters charming - it was empty when we arrived but the music and the place felt special. And the menu had so many temptations - well, we just ordered double the normal. Native (BA) appetizers, create your own salad from a list of ingredients (I opted for a niçoise thing - beets, potato, green beans - who has these things when you really want them?) - it took a moment to realize the strong Italian influence to BA cuisine - so we ordered three unusual ravioli dishes from a list of at least a dozen (I remember smoked swordfish...) The beef and fish entrees were totally satisfying as were the desserts and thick rich coffee. In spite of our lack of Spanish skills and an ordering snafu, we will surely return for an encore performance! Calle 11 & Ave. 4. Tel: 223-1909 (M-Th from 11:30am to 3pm +++$$$!!!
There are lots of sodas/cafes in downtown Quepos - even if they look scruffy, the native food is usually a good choice.
- Cafe Milagro downtown in Quepos is to the far right if you are facing the seawall. A few doors down is their coffee roaster, so you might want to pick up a few bags to take home or have shipped. Can't beat that smooth, robust and chocolatey Costa Rican bean. ++$$!!*
>> Dos Locos - downtown across from the Gallo Mas Gallo furniture store - open air and great for watching life on the street go by while noshing on great nachos, gazpacho, arroz con pollo, frozen lemonade, cervasa or cocktail. This is a good one with no pretense. +++$$!!
>> El Gran Escape (that's: Es-cah-pay) - downtown also on the avenue by the seawall -- this place definitely has an ocean angler's bar theme, a humorous menu and one of the best breakfasts we had (with terrific gringo homefries!) The town hops at night so try this place for dinner as well. The fajitas are terrific. ++$$!!*
- Escalo Freo - Okay, finally! Real PIZZA! Wood fired, great cheese and sauce. Excellent Italian fare and the best handmade gelatos and ice creams ready to go. (next to Dos Locos) +++$$1/2!!
- The Pastry Café at the Euro/Italian clothing store next to Costa Rica Properties Realty Office - We hope this one lasts! Stop in and say hello to Arlene - the inimitable tica from Limon and her stylish Italian pal who makes the most delectable home made pastries in the Italian style. Cheesecake - the light fluffy cottagy cream kind, apple strudels, tiramisu, and other confections - couple that with a nice espresso or some San Benedetto iced green tea. +++$!!
- Best Western Kamuk - an upstairs cafe across the street parallel to the seawall - good salads, sandwiches, fruit drinks and Latin-American rice dishes. ++$$!!**
Manuel Antonio -- along the road starting from Casa Tres Palmas down to the beach.
>> Plinio - Near the house. Native, Italian, Indian, Thai, and even Austrian! We sampled some of everything and were surprised that is was reasonably good, though skip the pizza. The chef's specials are generally great and the Bolongese is awesome. The remarkable sound of bamboo chimes come from little frogs bellowing as they nest in the folds of the giant palm leaves. The 'chorus' is especially robust after an afternoon rain. The Plinio hotel also has a large private eco-forest trail through their grounds. ++$$!!
- Bambu Jam - Near the house. It may look a bit run down from the road, but this restaurant is really a good find with an adventurous menu, dance lessons during the week and weekend jazz combo entertainment. ++$$$!!
>> Mono Azul - Near the house. We really like this place for native or gringo breakfast. Since the casual porch area also serves as the reception area for the hotel, there are frequently native expats or guests to exchange news, restaurant or activities tips with. Mono Azul is also good for a light lunch or dinner. They also host the local AA meetings. ++$$!!
- Hotel California - take the first (very obscure) left after Mono Azul and travel up hill over dale - it's worth it! At the end of the gravel road is a splendid hotel and a marvelous view of the other side of the mountain and the coast up toward Jaco. Great poolside balcony setting, great usual native fare at a good price. ++1/2 $$!!1/2 *
- Villa Mymosa - you will have passed this place on the left on the way to Hotel California. The café is poolside and we hear the chef is great.
- Villa Club/Restaurant Terranée - first right after Mono Azul and down the road a stretch - a grand space - under appreciated and off the beaten track. While it was very empty, the food was good - but the place needed music, a buzz and some bread with dinner. ++1/2 $$!1/2
- GAIA - Another accomplished dining experience is at the relatively new hotel complex called Gaia. Enter on the left side of the main road at the man-made waterfall and the attendant will open the private gate. Park on the lower level and they will take you up the hill in an electric golf cart. At the interim restaurant we had the chef's sampler dinner, rather pricey at $65 per, but quite an adventure with a dozen utensils. I'd give it almost three stars out of four. The main restaurant is now complete, a large verandah at the very top of the complex with probably the highest vantage point around. (Reservations suggested.) +++$$$$!!!***
- Hacienda - Surrounded by jungle, there is a large open dining deck out back and a new one on the side at one of the dressier multi-level shopping arcades. Moderately accomplished menu and a variety of good desserts. ++$$$!!
- Ronnie's Place, Mi Luger - a drive down the rambling road & past the cows you will arrive on the bluff with a perfect view, casual dining, good food and drinks. ++$$!!***
- Mar y Luna - according to the chef from NYC on our sunset cruise - some of the best seafood he's ever had. (and he seemed rather a particular sort) We tried it, and he was right! Casual atmosphere, nice view, good food. ++$$$!!*
>> Barba Roja - great for dinner, lunch and breakfast. The nacho platter is spectacular. There are new owners and the chef from Bambu Jam, so the menu is actually a bit improved. ++$$!!*
- La Colina - fairly good, live music, nice setting. Extraordinary frozen lemonade. We had another for dessert. (the restaurant is closed in the heart of the green season) ++$$!
- Milagro Coffee House - great coffee, frozen fruit drinks and light sandwich fare. About a third of the way from our house down to the beach. Coffee roaster for fresh beans and a collection of interesting lotions, balms and soaps. ++$$!!
- Mariposa Hotel / Papillon Restaurant - On the side road heading toward the sea, perpendicular to Milagro. This is likely the highest vantage point and best view out to sea on the right side of the road heading toward the beach. The food is French, reasonably okay, though maybe the entrees are a bit filling. (Reservations suggested.) +$$$!!!*
- Agua Azul - top of the hill above the relocated Latitude( real estate offices. spectacular view, great creative and well executed cuisine. +++$$$!!***
- Poolside Bar - take your first right after Agua Azul and go around down the hill to this little nothing place on the left. Here you will find the best breakfast and lunch in town. Paul, the Irish Tico has set up 'camp' here (let's hope he stays). No dinner yet, but you can order fresh roasted chicken or pork stuffed with native fruits and herbs, the day before to pick up and go. Try it! +++$$!1/2
- Pizzaria Napoli - at Byblos Hotel and Casino - no ocean views, but a beautiful lush setting with as good a pizza as you'll find in MA - also good for breakfast. You'll like it! ++1/2 $$!!1/2
>>> Si Como No - what a treat and one of our favorites! This is quite the hotel, almost Disney-esque except the jungle is real. There is a casual Tex-Mex restaurant, Rico Tico, to the right off the reception area - good for breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. The view is one of the best, and the native food is very good. Go ahead and order the Bananas Flambè if you want a spectacular surprise that engages the entire venue, musicians and applause from your fellow patrons. +++$$!!!!**
Also at Si Como No, to the left of the reception area is a more formal and outstanding restaurant, Claro Que Si! Off season we didn't have a reservation, but were well taken care of at the seating area off the swim-up bar area (it was delightfully peaceful)which served from the same menu. Good dessert. The view from the main area of Claro Que Si! is even more spectacular than Rico Tico and the menu is quite accomplished. Very nice for a special occasion or a dinner treat. (Reservations suggested.) Si Come No also has a movie theater. +++$$$!!!!**
- Kapi Kapi - Pacific Rim influenced cuisine - quite accomplished in a beautiful new open air pavilion. There is a sunset view in the distance across the parking lot, but the food is so interesting it really is the star of the show. +++$$$!!*
- Tulemar - don't be put off by the gate and guard at the entry - drive on thru for an interesting loop past Balinese pavilion cabinas to the restaurant which has one of the best views. The menu is a bit pricey but extremely well executed and worth the trip. Leave room for dessert! +++$$$!!!!**
- Gato Negro (the Black Cat) simple good Italian. Great verandah with a great view. Nice live guitar music. Located half way toward the M.A. beach. Maybe a tad more expensive than most. ++$$$!!*
- Bar Titi (upstairs, way up, on the roof of the Black Cat) Great views - go up for happy hour and the most spectacular sunset view, popular gay bar scene later in the evenings. Dance music. The mixers out of the bottle were flat, some of the patrons were not! $!!!***
- Avion (across the street from the Black Cat) Yes, it's an entire old airplane from the Ollie North days. Out back there is a large terrace and a large balcony dining area above that. The views are spectacular. It is a great place to hang out for libations and the food is fairly good too. ++$$!!!*
- Anacondo at Costa Verde - a different spectacular view - this one toward the Manuel Antonio peninsula - in this lofty breezy space. Often a very good burger, salad and lemonade. ++$$!!
At the Manuel Antonio Beach
>>> Playa Espedia - As you approach the beach area, you can go right or straight ahead. (To park, it cost a few hundred colones or a dollar) If you go right and walk under the vine canopy for a bit there is a large 'soda' or cafe right on the beach. It is great to sit under the canopy of palms above and watch the denizens play on the playa, or show off at volleyball. The salads, chicken and rice and frozen lemonades are wonderful. Life just doesn't get any better. +++$!!!***
>>> Marlin Restaurant - popular for a reason. The local food, seafood and specialties are great. So are the drinks, the view and location. It is a great place to hang out . (Picture on upper right front cover) +++$$!!*
There are many more restaurants at the beach as well as shops, vendors and craftspeople. There are trinkets, jewelry, t-shirts and some good finds. The surfer dude who sells his hand-painted t-shirts from the back of a pick-up truck -- they look like they came from a surfer dude instead of some commercial factory -- and shrink up just right. I love them. There is an Ecuadorian family - the mom and daughter can crewel a mean streak - a bit pricey - but often irresistible and worth the bucks for a month's worth of needlework. I also like stocking up on Indian cotton throws (not those rayon ones) which i turn into some soft and wild print PJ's. If you start early (8?) with a hike around the preserve, maybe with a guide and telescope, you can follow that with lunch, a nap or a game on the beach, some shopping, happy hour and dinner. Spend the whole day down there and end it with applause for a spectacular sunset around 6!