My 3rd trip to Costa Rica consisted of visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita. Manuel Antonio is known for Manuel Antonio National Park which is a great place to see sloths and monkeys. Uvita is known for its laid back vibe and Ballena Marine National Park. If you plan on visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita, please continue reading for great ideas on where to stay and what to do.
- Flights from BWI Airport to San Jose through Southwest Air
- February 9, 2019: 5 nights at Tres Banderas in Manuel Antonio
- Guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park
- Guided night tour
- Sunset catamaran cruise
- Transportation to/from Manuel Antonio and to Uvita through MorphoVans
- February 14, 2019: 4 nights at Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita
- Transportation from Uvita to San Jose through Oxygen Jungle Villas
- February 18, 2019: 1 night at Adventure Inn in San Jose
- Transportation to Airport through Adventure Inn
DETAILS: VISITING MANUEL ANTONIO AND UVITA
Visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita was not originally on my vacation agenda. This trip to Costa Rica resulted from an auction at a benefit banquet my husband attended. Knowing how much I loved Costa Rica he bid on a 6 nights hotel stay costing $500. There were several hotels to choose from with many of them all inclusives. Turns out it was pretty much a scam. After looking at the all inclusive hotels on their list, the cost of the all inclusive fee was more than the cost of booking the hotel on-line. We would end paying more for the hotel through this auction then if we just booked it ourselves.
Our only other options were two regular hotels: one in San Jose and one in Manuel Antonio. Both are not 4 or even 5 star hotels. I chose the one in Manuel Antonio called Tres Banderas. We still lost money on the deal but hey it’s an excuse to go back to Costa Rica. I decided that 6 nights in Manuel Antonio was way too long so I combined the trip with a visit to Uvita as well. I booked our flights through Southwest (love them!) and off we went from February 9-19, 2019.
Hiring a Driver in Costa Rica
We do not like driving outside the U.S. because 1) It’s hard navigating through a foreign country especially if you don’t speak the language 2) Costs and insurance of renting a car are always sketchy and 3) It’s just stressful. After sending out several emails to transportation companies I got only 1 response from MorphoVans. They turned out to be great! They were there when we arrived in San Jose and for each pick up we arranged throughout the trip. Not all of them spoke English but they were on time with clean, private vehicles.
While visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita, it only cost us $285 (not including tips) which included: pick up from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, pick up from Manuel Antonio to Uvita, and transfer in Uvita to 4 wheel drive vehicle to our hotel outside Uvita. We scheduled our pick up from Uvita to San Jose through our hotel for $220 .
Visiting Manuel Antonio
I did not have high expectation for Tres Banderas. I did read that it was owned by a eccentric Polish man. The hotel met my expectations. The rooms were clean and beds were somewhat comfortable. The pool was nice and well kept. We met some locals at the pool. Seems like this is the hotel to go to if you live in Costa Rica either part time or full. This is where the locals stay when they go on vacation. There were of course others from Europe and the U.S. but at least half seemed to be local Costa Ricans. One thing I enjoy about traveling is meeting the locals and engaging them. We hung out with the owner on several occasions and met some of his friends from Quepos. This hotel ended up being our favorite of the trip.
If you are a foodie (which I’m not) the food here was FANTASTIC. They have many traditional polish dishes made from scratch but also some seafood dishes. Even if you aren’t staying here its worth a trip to the restaurant. I try and eat nachos everywhere I go. For some reason it started to be a thing. The going joke when we were in New Orleans is that the nachos there are fantastic. They were just as good at Tres Banderas!
If you are squeamish about insects then Costa Rica is NOT the place for you. While lounging at the pool my husband got up to re-adjust his towel and found a scorpion on the underside of the chair.
Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park
We took a taxi to Manuel Antonio National Park on Sunday the 10th. The park is closed on Mondays. As soon as we arrived someone asked us if we wanted a guide. All the guides there are certified through the park so as much as this seems like a scam, it is not. I highly recommend a guide. He will point out animals that are hidden in the forest. He pointed out a bird right next to the trail. It was so camouflaged most people would have walked right past it. If you choose not to hire a guide DO NOT try and join the group for free. It is rude! We chose to hire a private guide which is a little more but well worth it.
I will say that visiting Manuel Antonio National Park was VERY crowded. Apparently there are cruise ships docking in Quepos and if you don’t time your visit well you will get stuck with thousands of tour ship passengers. This is what happened to us. The trail was so crowded that several times we had to stop b/c there was a traffic jam. MA is a very touristy area.
If you’re looking to get away from people then visiting Manuel Antonio is NOT the place for you (see my 2017 CR trip for a better alternative). We did see several sloths on the tour. You pretty much can’t go to Manuel Antonio and not see a sloth; however, if you’re expecting to get a good look at one, think again. The picture I took below was one of the better ones I was able to get and still no head shot. Good sloth shots are hard to come by. After the tour we hiked on all the trails and this is where we were able to get away from the crowds. We did see sloth on one of these trails as well as several cool bird species.
We ended the tour at the beach where we saw monkeys and raccoons trying to steal food from people who left their backpack unattended. This is very common. The beach was quite crowded as expected but the monkeys, raccoons, and agoutis running about was entertaining.
Sunset Night Cruise
We decided to go on a sunset catamaran cruise on Monday, February 11th. My husband called it a “booze cruise” which for the most part it was. It included drinks and dinner along with snorkeling for $110 total (cash only). We met some fun people on the cruise. The snorkeling was just “ok” but the food was great and the cocktails went down well. We had a great time!
Jungle Night Tour
If you’ve never done a night tour it is amazing! I would highly recommend the company we chose, Jungle Night Tours. They picked us up at the hotel in the evening of Tuesday, February 12th. Within 10 minutes we saw several Fer-de-Lances and even one eating a frog. Our guide Gregory was quick to hear the shrill of the frog as the snake had just bitten into it. The Fer-de-Lance is a highly poisonous pit viper. As long as you stay on the trail you are fine. Gregory was quick to spot any threat he saw along the way. There is a bit of an adrenaline rush as you are walking with flashlights through the rainforest! Gregory was very patient with me as I had just gotten a fancy new camera (Canon T7i) that I was learning how to use!
On Wednesday we decided to walk to the nearest beach. Looking back we should have taken a taxi but the very long walk was well worth it. One thing to note at MA there are lots of hills so if you choose to walk everywhere be aware that you need to be somewhat physically fit. Also there are no sidewalks so basically you just hope no one hits you. We sometimes ducked into the adjacent concrete drainage channel (it was dry) to avoid a mishap.
We finally found a beach off the beaten path called Biesanz Beach. It was through a trail and opened up into a cove. My husband went snorkeling while I lounged on the beach and drank Imperials (local beer). You can rent an umbrella and chair from the locals for a small price which we did. Beers were super cheap as well! We took a taxi back.
On February 14th MorphoVans picked us up and drove us to Oxygen Jungle Villas outside Uvita for our 4 night stay. I wanted to stay somewhere upscale after visiting Manuel Antonio and this place looked perfect according to the TripAdvisor reviews. A side note, most if not all of my trips involve research on TripAdvisor. I can sincerely stay I’ve never been disappointed with a hotel/resort from my research. One thing to note about Oxygen Jungle Villas- they are outside of the town of Uvita and they recommend 4 wheel drive to get there. Also nothing is within walking distance so you will need to hire a cab to get you into the town. This was very easy as the hotel staff made arrangements for us (more on this later).
Hiking Around the Hotel Grounds
There are several trails at Oxygen Jungle that you can take. One of them leads to a small waterfall. We saw a bunch of strawberry poison dart frogs here, lots of millipedes, some dragonflies copulating, and several lizards sunning themselves on the rocks.
There is a great infinity pool at the hotel. The view was amazing. I will say one thing about this hotel. It was a bit stuffy. Except for the last day we were there, the other guests were not friendly and stuck to themselves. There was little to no conversation at the pool even among couples. It was a little uncomfortable for us as we are used to people drinking and having fun on vacation. The people here looked like they were ready to pose for a Vanity Fair magazine. We did end up meeting some friendly people on the last day. Too bad they weren’t there from the beginning.
If you like to bird watch you can lounge by the pool and see tons of birds in the vicinity. We even saw a Great Curassow perched up on a tree. This is the Costa Rican version of our turkey.
Unguided Night Tour
The last night we decided to go on our own night tour. Little did I realize how scary (and probably not allowed) this was. It was pitch dark except for our little flashlights. A few minutes into the hike there was what looked like large glowing eyes running toward me. My heart was pounding. We then realized they were huge lightening bugs. We have them at home but these were on steroids and very bright! Towards the end of the hike, we heard what sounded like a large cat. A couple months later we noticed there was an ocelot spotted on the hotel grounds.
Waterfall Rapelling Tour
We decided to do a waterfall rappelling excursion while we were here. It was outside my comfort zone for sure but I feel like you need to push yourself to do things your wouldn’t otherwise do. The hotel booked it through Bahia Ballena Kayaks (they do more than just kayak tours) for $100 per person. We ended up having our own private rappelling trip. The first waterfall was a little intimidating but our guides (2) were wonderful. They even pointed out poison dart frogs and other flora and fauna along the way. I think we went on maybe 10 waterfalls. At the end they supplied snorkeling gear for a large water hole with several fish species. He brought homemade food from his mom or wife (can’t remember). My husband loved them (I have food allergies). It really was an amazing adventure!
Overall I would highly recommend the Oxygen Jungle Villas. Their service was amazing as was the food. We were there for Valentine’s Day and they had a small band playing while we ate dinner. We got an amazing couples massage while we were there, did some hiking, lounging by the pool, and just relaxing at our villa. One day, my contact broke inside my eye. I slept with it all night long and the next day my husband went to the receptionist and asked about going to see a doctor. They booked a taxi and an appointment with a nurse practitioner (I think) in Uvita. The employees there are very pleasant and quick to help. Below are a couple more of the things we saw while at Oxygen Jungle Villas.
Hotel in San Jose
We had a great time visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita but it was time to go home. Our last night in CR was in San Jose at the Adventure Inn on February 18th. The hotel was clean and check in was quick. There customer service is also great as I had issues with getting confirmation from them (went to my spam) and they went out of their way to make sure I got the reservation confirmation email.
There are no good choices for hotels in San Jose that offer shuttle service. I had thought that the Adventure Inn was tucked away in a small neighborhood. Nope. It was next to several other hotels along a major roadway. This seems to be the American hotel as most of the guests seemed to be from the U.S. and many of them had children. It was not my ideal hotel but the people watching was fantastic. We ate dinner there and had drinks at the bar. I don’t remember everything I got but it was NOT GOOD. We got chicken wings and the wings were terrible and the celery and carrots were wilted and brown and should have been thrown away. On the positive the airplane shuttle picked us up as planned and got us to the airport on time.
Would I choose this same itinerary? No. Did I have a great time visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita? Of course! My next adventure to CR (not yet planned) will be during whale watching season which I am told is August and September. If you have an interest in visiting the Osa Peninsula (which has amazing animals) or other parts of Costa Rica please visit the links provided. If you have any questions about visiting Manuel Antonio and Uvita please let me know in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
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