Manuel Antonio Beach
It was the middle of February, and I was sitting with a group of friends in a restaurant overlooking the Pacific. A long,
palmfringed beach stretched out into the distance as far as we could with dazzling strength. Two members of our group
were com?plaining about the heat. We consulted a thermometer and found that the temperature was 85 degrees.
Suddenly they broke into laughter as they realized that Baltimore, their home town, was buried under four inches of sleet
and snow. Two weeks of Costa Rica's idyllic weather had turned them into indignant complainers over an ordinary 85-degree
day at the beach! We all ordered a cold beer served over ice cubes (a summer tradition here) and looked out over the
panorama with renewed appreciation for where we were: Costa Rica's famous Playa Manuel Antonio.
Doesn't that seem to be an odd name for a beach? According to legend, a husband, worried about his pregnant wife,
placed her in a dugout canoe and headed north for Puntarenas, hoping to find a doctor to deliver the baby. But before
they could go very far, the wife went into labor and they paddled ashore to camp in the shelter of the protected beach.
She gave birth to a healthy child whom they named Manuel Antonio, and the beach has been called that ever since.
Travelers who have visited beaches all over the world swear that Manuel Antonio is the most beautiful of all. The coastline
north of Manuel Antonio is a long beach of golden sand that catches the full force of the Pacific's waves as they roll in from
China. Then at Manuel Antonio park, a narrow peninsula juts out into the ocean, curving about to form two protected
coves on either side of the land. The waves suddenly become gentle. You'll often find a sailboat or two anchored here,
gently swaying, resting on the way to the Panama Canal or the big voyage north to Acapulco.
Originally United Fruit Company banana property, the area was made into a national park in 1972 with almost 700 hectares
of land, partially expropriated, partially donated. The park contains three beaches, each with its own character. The first is
Playa Espadilla Norte which sees occasional riptides?although many people swim here anyway. Next is
Playa Espadilla Sur and then Playa Manuel Antonio, both quite safe for swimming and snorkeling. From the
beginning, the emphasis has been on preserving the natural beauty and protection of wildlife. Whiteface Capuchin monkeys
frolic in the trees, competing with arboreal iguanas for food. A tropical storm in 1993 ripped up some of the trees, causing
the sloth population to go elsewhere, but other than that, the damage was minimal and long forgoten by know!
One of the earlier tourist developments, Manuel Antonio soon became a popular place for retirement and vacation homes,
hotels and restaurants. To protect the area from total development, the government demands that new construction must
be connected with tourism in some manner; buildings cannot be over three stories high and must provide a minimum of
three times the square footage of green space for each foot of building. To satisfy the requirement that development is
tourist related, several North Americans have built homes with rooms or apartments which can be rented out to tourists;
they keep an especially nice part of the house as living quarters.
Since Manuel Antonio's fame makes it an almost obligatory part of a tourist's itinerary, a bed and breakfast or room rentals
can be a very viable business. Rooms will likely be rented solidly through the summer (December, January and February) and
have low vacancy rates during the rest of the year. During a recent trip, we rented an apartment from a lady who came
from Florida 18 years ago to build a small house for herself. She added a couple of rooms for extra income during the tourist
season. As the volume of tourism during the off season increased, she added more rooms, until she now has a pleasant 10-
room hotel plus two apartments across the road, all with a splendid view of the ocean. "I hadn't considered becoming
a hotel owner when I came here," she explained, "it just happened to work out that way."
The biggest development at Manuel Antonio is the present condition of the highway. The stretch north to Parita is 25
kilometers is in a good state with a continuance drive through new bridges ( no one lane bridges any more). The next 50
kilometers north to Jaco beach is paved,
but the best news is that from there on the new highway go straight to San Jos?. making the entire trip from
Manual Antonio to San Jos? a 2 hr smooth drive.
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