Manuel Antonio Andrea Abroad

When I was studying in Costa Rica, I had to make the most of my weekends to explore the beautiful country. Check out my top weekend trips from San Jose, complete with transportation details, accommodation options, and can’t miss sights and activities.

1. Manuel Antonio

What to do: When in Manuel Antonio, the main attraction is the National Park, a beautiful preserve that mixes beach and jungle landscapes. It costs $16 to get into the park (no discount for students). I recommend hiring a guide to take you through the park and help you spot wildlife. The park is not teeming with animals, you really have to search for them in the main park area. The park has tons of jungle trails, as well as miles of beachfront. The main beach has capuchin monkeys everywhere that will come dangerously close to you, so put your snacks away and keep your distance. You can also opt for hiking Punta Catedral. The trail goes up and down a lot of stairs, but worth it for some great views. Then spend the afternoon chilling on one of the pristine beaches. Also be sure to pack some food because there isn’t anywhere to buy food within the park and you are not allowed to exit and re-enter.

After you’ve explored the park, clean up and head out for happy hour at Ronny’s Place. Located way up on a cliff, you have to check out this incredible spot for a ceviche, a cocktail, and the most beautiful view of the sunset.

The next day I recommend venturing off the beaten path to Playa Biesanz. You can take the city bus and then walk a ways to the beach. You have to take a hidden trail that cuts through a fenced in forest area that is difficult to spot from the road. I rented a paddle board and a beach chair for 8000 colones. It was the perfect spot for a more local beach experience.

Getting Around: We took the bus from San Jose Tracopa to Manuel Antonio. Make sure you ask if the bus is directo and not colective. The colectives take forever and the ride is already long enough (4 hours give or take). Be sure to buy your round trip ticket a few days before your trip because the buses fill up fast. Then don’t lose your ticket before your trip!  Upon arrival in Quepos, I recommend using a taxi to find your Airbnb or hotel. The taxis are very expensive in Manuel Antonio and Uber doesn’t really work, so staying closer to the park and bus station would be more economical. It is not a pedestrian friendly area because the streets are so narrow, curvy and busy. I recommend using the city bus that runs on the main road every half hour. 

Accomodations: There are tons of great Airbnbs in the area, as well as local hostels. Backpackers Hostel was popular among students visiting the area, but we stayed at a great Airbnb. 

Manuel Antonio

2. Jacó

What to do: Jacó has a bit of a reputation among Ticos for being a party town. They will say the beaches aren’t clean and everyone just goes there to get wasted. There is some truth to this, but for a girl who had just arrived from the Minnesota tundra, these beaches were paradise. I would totally recommend Jacó as a quick weekend getaway if you are just trying to get in some beach time. We had a great time floating around in the waves and soaking up the sun. Be careful because there can be a riptide and very strong currents. It will also get sweltering hot in the middle of the day, but around 4 o’clock it becomes perfect beach temperature.

When in Jacó, you have to hit the town and see what all the hype is about. We started the evening at Swell nightclub because it was attached to the hostel where we stayed. We ended up at a fairly popular night club, Orange Pub. It was full of people dancing the night away.

Getting Around: To get to Jacó, we took the bus from Terminal 7-10. It was about 2400 colones each way. The ride there was a little under 2.5 hours and the ride back was a little over 3 due to traffic. When we arrived in Jaco, we took a taxi to the hostel, then walked everywhere the rest of the weekend. 

AccommodationsWe chose the budget, party lodging option of a communal surf hostel, Beds on Bohio. This was a fun experience but definitely not where you want to be to get a good nights sleep or if you are with a family. It was also hot and muggy with no A/C.


3. Monteverde

What to do: The main attraction in Monteverde is the Monteverde Reserve. I recommend spending your first day hiking around the preserve and taking in the incredible scenery. You can use the city bus (600 colones each way) to get to the reserve from the main town. The trails were clearly marked throughout the preserve, but it also provided peace and tranquility with the crowds being fairly spread out. There is a stunning view point, a suspension bridge, and a double waterfall.

On your second day, I highly recommend ziplining in Monteverde as a great way to see the beautiful landscape. I went zip lining with the Original Canopy Tour. It was the best deal we could find and well worth the cost! The guides are great and we requested them to speak to us in Spanish the whole time. We did a Tarzan swing, tons of cables, rappelled down, then climbed up inside a huge Ficus tree and rope ladder. The company even included transportation to and from our Airbnb. 

In the evening you can check out a night hike with Kinkajou Night Walk Tours. A guide will lead a short hike pointing out sloths, black porcupine, kinkajou (SO COOL), lots of bugs and birds. This also includes transportation to and from our accommodations.

Getting Around: We used a local bus from Terminal 710 in San Jose to get to Monteverde. It lasted 5 hours. There was bad traffic, no A/C, and poorly maintained roads. It was an adventure to say the least. Within Monteverde, we used the city buses and a couple of taxis, but there are no Ubers.

Accommodations: We stayed at Maple Tico Guesthouse and it worked out perfectly for our big group. With 13 people (in the 11 person house), it ended up being extremely economical and we had a comfortable place to chill. It was easy walking distance from everything we wanted to do and the host, Jose, was awesome. He made us a welcome drink when we got there and helped us with anything we needed.


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