Saving The Best for Last: Quepos & Manuel Antonio National Park

My zip-line fiasco aside, the cloud forest was beautiful and not-to-be-missed fun. Our hotel was great and—thanks to being surrounded by coffee plantations—we had some of the freshest, most fantastic coffee I’ve enjoyed. As we left Monteverde, we wondered if maybe our trip had peaked. What, after all, could top this? Thankfully, our tour company Adventure Smith Explorers planned ahead, and indeed saved the best for last: the town of Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park. What though, could beat an active volcano, a bird/butterfly sanctuary, or cloud forest?


Quepos, is a small town on the Pacific Coast of Coast Rica. It sits right outside Manuel Antonio National Park and is home to some of the world’s most beautiful, trash free, picturesque white-sand beaches. I do have one caveat. While we were visiting Costa Rica, Quepos was on the front end of a development boom (thanks to the country’s growing eco-tourism industry). As a result, some visitors now prefer to stay outside of Quepos.

That said, within the Quepos town limits I recommend staying at the La Mariposa Hotel. It’s a gorgeous hotel conveniently located in Quepos, but not smack in the middle of everything. It is an easy walk down to the beach, or to local restaurants. If you don’t want to walk, the hotel offers 5-10 minute drives to either Manuel Antonio park, or Quepo’s “down town” area where more restaurants and local shops can be found. When I was there, the streets outside of downtown were narrow. For that reason, I would not advise walking because there are no sidewalks to move away from oncoming traffic. Costa Rican drivers are not bad/crazy drivers, but hairpin turns are not uncommon, and we never saw locals walk the roads.

For those who don’t want to do anything but have cocktails, La Mariposa has a pool, wonderful restaurant bar and fantastic staff that will track down just about whatever your heart desires. Need more convincing? Take a look at these photos.

Costa Rican sunset from La Mariposa Hotel. copyright: Stamps on my Passport

My only other tip is be aware of the monkey’s. Being surrounded by nature means exactly that. No matter where you stay in Quepos, these little guys are up running on rooftops, and up to general monkey shenanigans beginning around 5:00 am every day.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is another much visited national park in Costa Rica. The landscape is significantly different from Arenal. Unlike the dry and rocky grassland that surrounded the volcano, this is a rainforest. As such, it’s much more humid, lush and is considered one of the most beautiful natural parks in the world.. It’s also home to several different species of monkey’s, including the capuchin, momma, howler and endangered titi. You may also see iguanas, two and three-toed sloth and vegetation from stunning flowers to bamboo.

Seen in Manuel Antonio, this yellow crowned nigh heron stalking it’s lunch. Copyright: Stamps on my Passport

Check with your local hotel or guide for visiting hours. There is a half-mile trail (appropriate for all fitness levels) that offers a “taste” of the park. If you are interested in exploring further, there are five different trails that wrap through the park, some ending at the beach.

After spending time in Arenal and the Cloud Forest, some of the rain forest discussion was repetitive on our tour of Manuel Antonio. But in retrospect, I realize that we were not only enjoying nature, but retaining key facts and improving our overall knowledge of some of the amazing exotic sights and wildlife that filled our vacation.

Also seen in Manuel Antonio: this two-toed sloth who refused to do anything but sleep. Copyright: Stamps on my Passport.

A Visitor

A challenge with ecotourism, not just in Costa Rica, is finding the balance between observing wildlife and engaging with wildlife. You can tell this guy has been fed by visitors before (a big no-no) because he came right up to our car. We desperately wanted to feed him but  our guide, Maria, insisted we not. Her commitment to not interfering with animals and nature is another example of how protective Ricans are of their country.