Arenal to Manuel Antonio
December 28, 2019
Today we enjoyed our traditional Costa Rican breakfast and coffee, said goodbye to our new friends at Heliconias and met our driver Jonathon who would transfer us from Arenal to Manuel Antonio.
Our 5 hour drive took us back through the cloud forest and then down through the mountains onto the coast. Driving in Costa Rica is not easy. The very curvy single lane mountain road for the first 2 hours, sometimes with single car bridges we were very happy to not be driving. We also got to enjoy the views along the way and having a driver meant we could easily hop out for snack, bathroom and sightseeing breaks.
After about 3 hours and a bit of traffic, we reached the Tarcoles River, home to the largest population of American Crocodiles. We knew we arrived from the long line of cars crossing the bridge with surrounding souvenir shops and restaurants. Our driver navigated the parking situation so we could walk the bridge to see the crocodiles (when in Rome). It was pretty amazing seeing the large number of massive crocodiles sunbathing along the river bed. If you want to skip the tourist train crossing onto the bridge, the restaurant adjacent to the bridge has views to grab a bite while viewing the crocs.
After our brief visit to Tarcoles, we knew we were hungry but ready to move on to a less crowded area. We decided to drive another 30 minutes to Jaco. Jaco is a coastal town, popular for its beaches and surfing. It reminded us of Lahaina Town on Maui with that same beach/surfers vibe. We found a great casual tropical restaurant/bar to stop for lunch, Tacobar Jaco. Just off the main strip in the town of Jaco. Offering fresh seafood, salads, meat entree’s, smoothies, custom lemonades and of course tacos. You choose what item you want, how you want it prepared (grilled or fried) and you pick from a large assortment of options as to how you want it seasoned. This gave us many choices and we each enjoyed our creations. It was also very reasonable, we paid the equivalent of $70 for 6 people some of us ordered premium options and had fancy smoothies. Highly recommend the mint coconut lemonade. It sounds weird but was really yummy. We liked Jaco and will definitely be making a point to spend more time here when returning to CR in the future.
We headed on for the last leg of our trip approx. 1 hour and 15 min. until we reached Manuel Antonio. This last part was the most scenic as you are driving along the coast for most of it. When we finally arrived at our hotel, Costa Verde, the sun was setting and we could see the spider monkeys playing in the trees around us. After saying goodbye to our driver Jonathon and getting settled in our room, we took a tour of our hotel.
Hotel Costa Verde is perfectly located in Manuel Antonio and is very close to the National Park. They have many unique options for accommodations including an old jet and bungalows with great amenities, plenty of restaurants, multiple pools including an adult only pool and children’s pool, nice coastal views and beach access to Manuel Antonio Beach. The 2 bedroom bungalows that could accommodate our family of 5 was a great option and as we expected the rooms are dated. The coastal view from the patio with rain forest views and the chirping and howling of monkeys made a unique experience and made up for the room decor.
We headed out for dinner at the resorts iconic El Avion restaurant ( an ex cargo plane that was used in the Iran Contra affair is their centerpiece and bar). We grabbed a table overlooking the Pacific and had dinner before heading back for an early start the next day.