Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Trip Recap

I recently took a trip to Costa Rica, and here are the details of my trip. I'll share the day by day recap with details for each day then provide an overall summary of my thoughts at the end. The trip was only about 2.5 days, so not long at all, but definitely worth it.

If you prefer a video version, check out my Youtube Video.

Day by Day Recap

Day 0

I left my house around 9 PM on a Friday night. My flight was supposed to leave San Francisco around 11 PM, but we actually left around 11:30 PM. My layover in El Salvador was only an hour, so I was concerned I was going to miss a connection because of the delay. However, we actually ended up arriving 30 minutes early. I’m not sure how exactly the pilot did that, but we arrived in El Salvador around 6 AM central time so that was about about five hours of flying to El Salvador. I ended up arriving an San Jose, Costa Rica around 9am on Saturday.

Day 1

The only international airport is in San Jose, and most of the places that people visit are a bit of a ways away from there. I was staying in Manuel Antonio, and the drive from the airport is pretty long. It’s about three hours maybe four if you count the time it took us to stop and they drop other people off before I got here. There are other places that are a shorter drive from the airport, but there are places that are a longer drive from the airport. You can either rent a car and drive yourself, take a short flight, or book a shuttle. I opted to book a shuttle through Easy Ride which was recommended by my hotel. Be aware of the travel time (and cost) to the place that you’re actually staying when you’re planning your trip because you may not have as much time at your destination as you think.

The shuttle route was pretty scenic. You can see hills in the distance in the initial part of the drive, and the later part of the route to Manuel Antionio is along the water which is nice. We also stopped at a rest stop where you can use the restroom, buy some food/drinks, and go to a nearby bridge overlooking the water to see some crocodiles.

After I arrived on Saturday, I basically ended up laying around for a while, but I did go and get something to eat at El Wagon with some of the girls that I met on the shuttle. I had some pizza which is pretty good. There were monkeys hanging out in the trees right next to the restaurant, so it was cool to be able to see them while we were eating. After we ate, we picked up some snacks and drinks from the "mini supermarket", then I headed to El Avion to watch the sunset. I spent the rest of the night at my hotel pool.

Day 2

On Sunday, I started my day with some avocado toast at my hotel. Then, I had an activity which was a catamaran and snorkeling tour. My activity was originally booked for 2 PM because I wanted the sunset version, but the activity provider messaged me on Saturday asking me if I could come in the morning instead. Not too long after we left the dock, they informed us that one of the engines had failed, and we ended up having to go back. One of the other people on the tour asked if there was another company that we could go on that afternoon which is what we ended up doing. I ended up going on a company called Sunset Sails at 2 PM which is what I originally planned to do. We ended up seeing some humpback whales, and being on the catamaran was fun. Food and drinks were both included (including alcoholic drinks). The snorkeling was just OK. It was probably my worst snorkeling experience so far just because there really wasn’t anything to see besides fish, and it was hard to even see the fish because the water was kind of murky. I enjoyed the activity overall, especially the part where we saw the whales so that was probably the highlight of the trip. After that, I just showered and got dressed, met up with the same people that I met on the way there, and hung out with them for a little bit. Finally, I came back to my hotel and had some ceviche, a brownie with ice cream and a glass of wine, and that was pretty much it for the day.

Day 3

On Monday, I went to the beach and pretty much spent my entire day there. I took the bus there even though it was technically walking distance from my hotel, but I didn’t really feel like walking all the way down there because of the hills and stuff like that. It’s about a mile walk so it’s not a very short walk. The bus was pretty easy. It picked up pretty close to my hotel, and it dropped off literally right in front of the beach. It cost 385 colones which translates to about $.75 in US dollars, so it’s pretty inexpensive to take the bus. They also have pre-counted change ready for common denominations, so don't worry about having the exact change. Once I got to the beach, there was a guy named Brandon who was affiliated with one of the restaurants near the beach. He approached me and asked me if I was looking for a chair and umbrella, which I was. I asked him how much it was. He said it was free if you order from the restaurant. I thought this was a really good idea to drive business to the restaurants because people are not going to want to sit out in the sun all day. I was planning to eat anyway, so it worked out perfectly for me. I ended up ordering a mango margarita and some fish tacos, and later in the day, I ordered a tropical smoothie which had pineapple and mango and I think orange in it. After leaving the beach, I showered and changed and grabbed dinner at Qui Si Sana which was right down the road. They had really amazing views of the sunset overlooking both the hotel pool and the ocean. The food was pretty good as well. This pretty much concluded my trip since I left pretty early the next morning.

Overall Summary


I flew on Avianca which I probably would not recommend for an overnight flight since the seats do not recline. The seats were otherwise comfortable enough. Even though seat selection and bags were not included, the ticket price was low enough that flying on Avianca was still the most affordable option for me even after adding on those items. Additionally, I believe Avianca routes most flights to Costa Rica through El Salvador which is not really the best place to layover.

The El Salvador airport is very interesting, so if you ever have a layover there, I would definitely be prepared. I’m not sure what it’s like to enter the airport, but at each gate they have mini security at the gate itself. In order to enter the gate area, they have to screen both you and your bag. When I was traveling there, it was a person who just looked in my bag and wanded me. Traveling home was pretty much like TSA in the US where they put your bag through the machine and have you walk through a metal detector.

It's important to keep in mind that you cannot bring in food or beverages. Traveling to Costa Rica, I think the woman said that you can bring in things that you purchased at the airport if you have the receipt, but you can’t bring in your own like water inside of your personal water bottle. There also isn’t anywhere to refill a water bottle after you go through the security, so I guess you have to purchase water from the airport and keep your receipt if you want to have water on the plane. On the way back, it was different. They would not even allow me to bring in the water that I purchased. Thankfully, they did pass out bottles of water as we boarded the plane, but I still ended up wasting the money I spent on water. The employees in that airport don't really speak English, so I wouldn't really recommend flying through El Salvador unless you know Spanish. I remembered a bit from high school, but it was pretty difficult to communicate.

I had a much better experience at the airport in San Jose even though it is not very well set up for arrivals. There’s not really anywhere to wait besides this one café, so it got pretty crowded. It kind of worked out because I met some people in the café that I ended up hanging out with while I was there. This is definitely beneficial if you’re traveling by yourself I guess, but just be prepared for that. It’s definitely not the type of airport that you would just hang out in for a while while you’re waiting for a shuttle. You definitely would want to be out of the airport pretty much as soon as you get here.


I stayed at The Falls Resort in Manual Antonio. Overall, I had an OK experience here, but there are definitely nicer hotels in the area. My room didn't really have any amenities, and you could tell that the property is a bit older and could use a bit of a revamp. I booked it in a rush without thoroughly researching. My intention was to go back and do some additional research, but that never actually happened which is how I ended up staying here. I will definitely research more for future trips. There is nothing wrong with the hotel. You can definitely stay there and be comfortable, but if you are looking for more of a luxury experience when you travel, I would recommend staying somewhere else. 

Cost Breakdown

  • Flight: $385 including paying the fee to reserve a window seat on the way there to improve my sleep (still couldn't really sleep...)
  • Hotel: $580 for 3 nights (breakfast was included)
  • Shuttle to/from airport: $135
  • Activity: $83
  • Misc: $263 for food, drinks, souvenirs
Total cost: $1450

General Experience

Overall, I enjoyed my trip. I wish that I would have been able to stay longer, so I will definitely be going back to Costa Rica and to Manuel Antonio specifically. I didn't make it to Manuel Antonio Park which I heard really good things about. If you decide to visit Manuel Antonio, make sure that you make a reservation for the park in advance to ensure that you'll be able to visit on your desired day.


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