A July 2005 trip
to Manuel Antonio by SFPhotocraft
Quote: The family went off to Virginia and allowed me the chance to travel alone. I picked the beaches and rainforest of Costa Rica. I picked Manuel Antonio, since this was my first trip, and I fell in love with it!
Manuel Antonio is the most popular area of Costa Rica, and it walks a fine line of development and keeping the rain forest and jungle pristine and pure. So far, I have to say it's doing a marvelous job.
Just a few years ago, this area was remote and had just a few small hotels tucked away in the jungle. Today you can surely say Manuel Antonio has been discovered. The road between the fishing town of Quepos and the park is full of hotels, spas, restaurants, language schools, discos, and shops. It's popular and busy. However, just beyond that, the rain forest is kept pure and natural. The number of tourists allowed into the park each day is kept at 600.
Costa Ricans understand that nature gave them a gift and it's their duty to protect it. They have not allowed large development here and have kept the hotels in the area friendly to the surrounding jungle. So far, that delicate balance between tourism and ecology seems to be working. Both camps seem to be doing fine here.
You can visit the park and be amazed at the number of wild animal sightings you will encounter. Surely you will see white-faced monkeys in the trees, and you may also see squirrel monkeys, crocodiles, and even wild pigs. The rain forest is alive and thriving here.
However, you can also get a treatment at a local spa, eat a world-class meal, and dance the night away at a disco. Manuel Antonio also has a thriving gay community. There are luxury gay hotels and clubs in the area. It's seems Manuel Antonio is an area that has it all!
The delicate balance is working - at least for now. Costa Rica is a hard trip, because there are so many areas of the country to consider. However, no matter where else you venture, I urge you to spend some time here in Manuel Antonio. You will see how nature and creature comforts can balance and thrive together!
Hotels I looked at quoted a rate and then quickly added that they could make me a better deal. What did I want to pay? A lot of rooms sit empty off-season, and the hotels are willing to deal to fill them.
Several buses run between San Jose and Quepos. They are cheap and run often.
I chose to rent a car in San Jose. The drive was amazing, and it was nice to have a car to explore on my own. Rental car companies are also located in Quepos and near the national park.
Hotel | "Hotel Parador"
When you arrive at the gates to the hotel, it's a bit surprising. Here is a world-class resort hotel tucked away at the end of this tiny, local dirt road. I explained to the guard desk that I was not staying at Hotel Parador but wished to look around. They sent a hotel staff member to greet me and give me the tour. The staffer was very friendly and happy to welcome me. You could sense the pride the staff has in this fine hotel.
The hotel is spread out over 12 acres. The lobby imitates a Spanish villa, and the main building is loaded with Spanish antiques and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish oil paintings. In the main building, there is also one of the area's best restaurants, serving not only guests but visitors to the area.
There are a number of pools on the grounds, from family pools to adult-only pools. All the pools were large and very luxurious. The adult pool was one of my favorites! The hotel also has a wonderful, posh spa and a private beach 500m from the grounds. They even have a monkey path, where in the morning you can take a walk down the trail to view monkeys.
I was less impressed by the rooms than I was by the main building and grounds. The rooms were small and very average. The standard rooms I saw had small balconies and looked like any mid-level hotel room you would find in the United States.
Overall, I was very impressed by the Hotel Parador. The grounds are stunning, and it seems like a good choice for families, as there is so much to do here. The staff was very helpful and very friendly, and from my brief encounter, they gave me the impression they work hard at making a stay here comfortable. The rooms were a bit plain and small but by no means offensive or uncomfortable-looking. This seems like a wonderful pick for the Manuel Antonio area and one I would choose to stay with my family on future visits. The summer deals started at $130 per night, and the price can be compared to other area hotels that have far less to offer. In season, the rates start at $175 per night and include breakfast.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 28, 2005
Hotel Parador Resort and Spa
Near the town of Quepos
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Twenty years is a long time, and things change. Manuel Antonio is now built-up. La Mariposa, once alone in the jungle, is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, and clubs. La Mariposa was discovered, and the hotel found a need to continue to add rooms and buildings. Today, the little hotel has outgrown itself and even feels a bit crowded and packed into a small space of land.
My room was in the older section and down a long tile stairway. One night we had massive rains, and the path to my room was poorly lit and extremely slippery. This would not be a good fit for someone elderly or who had trouble walking. My room was large, but sparse. The furniture was handcrafted wood furniture, and it was interesting, but very uncomfortable. They needed cushions or pillows to make it a more comfortable. My king-size bed was two doubles held together by a top sheet. When you rolled in the middle, the beds pulled apart and you found yourself on the floor. The sheets and towels were low quality and paper thin. Overall, I was very disappointed with the quality of the room. It was in desperate need of renovation. I did see some of the newer rooms, and they were much nicer.
The one complaint I did not have with my room was the view. I am a sucker for a good view, and I can forgive a lot. My view looked out to sea, and I could see a little island. In the morning, monkeys chattered in the trees outside my room, iguanas roamed, and colorful butterflies were everywhere.
The hotel has two pools, but both were very small and not heated. They were too cold to swim in, although a few people were in them. The hotel does have computers off the restaurant to check email. The grounds are beautifully maintained and very tropical. They have a small parking lot that is often full. If you are unlucky, you will have park down the road, which is dark and muddy, and it did not feel very secure.
Overall, I think the popularity of La Mariposa has hurt it. It's grown too fast, has not kept up with the growth, and has grown beyond what would keep it quaint. I also feel the older sections are in desperate need of renovation.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 2, 2005
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Looks are deceiving. It appears to butt up to the road and looks like a fairly uninteresting motel from the road. This is only the front office. Once you enter, you realize that you are on top of the resort and the rooms, pools, spa, and restaurants all are down below.
Si Como No marvelously incorporates the rain forest into the resort. Some of the rooms even looked like tree houses hanging above the top of the rain forest.
I strolled around the grounds and was impressed by how you felt like you were in the middle of the jungle and not off the main busy road near Quepos!
The hotel has a wonderful spa. I did not use it, but I picked up a brochure and it looked top-rate. The hotel has a restaurant, spa, extensive gift shop with local treasures, and two pools. The pools looked great. The adult pool had a busy swim-up bar and the kid’s pool had some fun-looking waterslides. Both pools were full of happy guests. By the kid’s pool I spotted the biggest iguana I had seen on this trip, just soaking up the sun, like one of the guests!
This hotel is environmentally friendly. All the wood used is farm grown, there are solar Jacuzzis, and all the water is recycled into the landscape. They seemed serious about protecting the environment.
This would be a great choice for a family with kids. It has a super location, and rumor has it that grounds are full of wildlife: monkeys, sloths, and frogs. Also, right across the street is an excellent butterfly farm. The room rates from $150 to $270, depending on type of room and season. These rates are in line with other hotels in the area. I was happy I took the tour. Next time I hope to be a guest here. This is a top choice for this area.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 14, 2005
Si Como No
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
The hotel is a nature lover's paradise. As a matter of fact, their slogan is "More Monkeys than Humans," and from what I could tell, it was not false advertising!
The hotel is an extensive property. The many buildings that house rooms are spread out, and you take well-groomed paths through the rain forest to get to your rooms. This may not be a good hotel choice for elderly guests, as there is a lot of walking and some steep inclines. There are several areas, and one area of rooms and pools is for adults only and another area is for families with kids.
There are two pools, one for adults and one for families. The adult only pool has a small bar and some of the best views in the Manuel Antonio area. The views from here can only be described as stunning, and the photos I posted only do pale justice to the dramatic scenery. When I was at this pool, all the guests were looking off into one corner, into a tree where a mother sloth was cuddling her baby. Scenes like this are not uncommon here at Hotel Costa Verde.
The hotel also has a top restaurant, where I enjoyed a wonderful lunch. The bar here is also popular with guests and area tourists.
The check-in area is in a train car. It's a little odd seeing this train car sitting in the jungle, but this is the main office for the hotel. I went in to check rates, and I did find the desk clerk to be less than helpful. He was reading a newspaper and seemed annoyed that I would disturb him with questions about room rates. He told me to look on the Internet. I take this was one bad employee, and I hope this was not the whole staff.
I did feel this hotel has the best rates in the area. There are a number of choices of rooms, some with air-conditioning and some without. There are studios and even bungalows that can house a group or a family. The rates ran from $60 off-season to $118 in high season. The bungalows ran from $85 in summer to $157 in winter. I felt this was one of the best values I saw in the area.
If you are coming to Costa Rica to explore nature, this may be the best hotel choice for you. The hotel is surrounded by nature and wildlife and has the best room rates in the area.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 15, 2005
Hotel Costa Verde
50 Manuel Antonio Highway
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
I asked if I could look around and maybe even see a room. The front desk could not have been more helpful or friendly with my request. The operations manager, Alejandro, gave me the deluxe tour.
The hotel is very open, and the front desk is small but modern and sleek in feel. The lobby is the hotel’s restaurant. It is open and overlooks the rain forest and ocean. The views are some of the best in the area - and that is saying a lot, as most places here have good views. The hotel was contemporary, with a clean feel to it. It incorporates the inside with jungle. Just below the lobby is the hotel's pool, which seems almost to float in the treetops.
The staff showed me a few of the rooms. The hotel was full, but they allowed me a peek in as the maids were cleaning. Each suite is slightly different, with a different shape, view, and size. Their webpage does a great job describing each suite. The higher you get, the better the view. The two top-floor suites are breathtaking. You look out over the jungle to the azure-blue ocean. The suites have a lot of glass and the views are a big part of the rooms here. I found the rooms to be large, and many have a Jacuzzi tub near the beds, very romantic. Being that this is a new hotel, the rooms all looked modern and very comfortable. Room rates run between$245 and $325 per night, depending on suite booked and season. The rooms all did have a TV, something rare here in the jungle. I thought that it was hardly needed with a killer view just beyond. I would prefer the window to the TV any day!
The hotel has a top spa and the rates seemed very reasonable. A one hour massage only cost $75. The spa, again, was modern and clean, and had a luxurious quality to it. Guests not staying here at the hotel can book spa time here.
I was very impressed by what I saw at Issimo Suites. They still were working on bits and pieces to finish up the last few details. However, by the time I write this, I am sure the hotel is finished and going strong. The staff was great, professional and friendly. I am hopeful that some day soon I will be a guest here, as they appear to have it all!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 27, 2005
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
The restaurant at lunch and at dinner turns into a French restaurant, and I was told that it was one of the best in the area. So rather than venturing out one night, I decided to try the restaurant for dinner. The space is lit by candles at night and linens are on the table, but other than those changes, it's the same rather plain breakfast area I ate at each morning. The only problem is that at night, the view is gone with the darkness and the space seems rather plain. Papillon is far more interesting and more appealing before the sun sets.
When I arrived, the place was empty, and the server seating guests tried to place me at a horrible table right by the entrance. As the place was empty, I asked if I pick another table. He threw up his arms in disgust and walked away from me.
My server was friendlier, had a big Costa Rican smile, and made me feel welcome. However, when I ordered, I found that they were out of many of the items on the menu. It was a bit frustrating. When I finally ordered my third choice, a lobster tail, the waiter said they were out, but that I could get lobster if I ordered the seafood platter. The menu had some unusual choices, like crocodile and quail (both were sold out).
The seafood platter was okay, but not great. I have been eating a lot of fish all week here, and this meal fell somewhere on the bottom of the list. The mahimahi was overcooked, and the lobster was just leftover pieces and not very good.
The highlight of the meal was the dessert, a papaya crème brulee, and with that I ordered a layered Costa Rican coffee. Both were as tasty as they were as pretty.
The bill came, and I was shocked that my meal ran $130 for just one person. Even by American standards this would have been high, but for Costa Rica, the price was through the roof!
You can find better meals at night all around the area. However, the view in the daytime is numero uno. If you are a sucker for a wonderful view, like I am, I suggest hitting Papillon at breakfast or lunch. Even if the food disappoints, the view will not!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 27, 2005
Hotel La Mariposa
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
The plane does have an interesting history. It was purchased for the Nicaraguan Contas by the U.S. and was being readied in a hangar at the San Jose airport. But when the Iran-Contra scandal broke, the plane never made it to Nicargua and stayed in San Jose. In 2000, the plane was bought and brought piece-by-piece to Manuel Antonio to be reassembled here as a restaurant. Most locals know this place as "Ollie's Folly", for Oliver North's illegal activities in the area.
The bar is inside the plane and the cockpit is still open for viewing. It makes for some fun photos. The bar is very popular and seems to be a local hangout for tourists and locals. There is entertainment some nights, and I understand the bar gets pretty frisky later in the evening.
The main restaurant is in back and built up over the jungle on a patio at treetop level. During the day, you have great views from back here, but during the night, there is not much to see. The restaurant has wooden furniture, celiling fans, and tropical feel to it. At night, you can hear the wildlife just a few feet away.
I had calamari, which was very good. There was a lot of it, and it was cooked just right, although it was just a tad more greasy than I like it. My main course was spaghetti and shrimp. I can't complain about my main course; it was good, just not great. It was pretty plain, but the shrimp was fresh, and the sauce was a little too thick for my taste.
My waiter was not very friendly. He was rather deadpan and seemed to be dragging a bit. He got my order right and got it to me quickly. I don't have a lot to complain about the service, but it was just not what I would call friendly.
This place is more gimmick than substance. The food and service were just average in every sense of the word. El Avion was packed in the middle of the summer, so I guess bringing this plane here in the middle of the jungle was worth the risk. The bird certainly seems to be a draw for tourists who just can't miss this huge aircraft sitting on the side of the road on the way to the beach!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 28, 2005
22 Manuel Antonio Road
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Inside, the restaurant is open and seems to blend right into the rain forest that is just beyond the open windows. The place has a distinct Central American feel to it and has a large open bar near the front door. There are ceiling fans to keep the air moving and flora that seems to be creeping into the restaurant. I was offered a nice table with a huge wooden rocking chair for my seat. It was very comfortable, but a tad hard to eat at a table from.
The wait staff was a little too laid-back for me. My seating area was a small alcove off the main room. The waiter did not spend a lot of time in this area, and I and the other tables around me seem to spend a lot of time trying to flag him down.
I had a tropical cocktail. It seems appropriate to have one of these rum drinks in the middle of the jungle. For lunch I had a nice Costa Rican dish of shrimp over rice. My lunch was outstanding. The shrimp was served over rice and was swimming in butter and garlic. The shrimp seemed fresh and I enjoyed this local dish.
Just off to one side, several huge iguanas were begging for left over breads. They kept a keen eye in case I should drop any morsel. Just outside I could hear monkeys or sloths in the treetops, although I did not see any. A picture at the bar showed that sometimes the monkeys come in and explore the bar. This adventure did not happen while I was here.
I enjoyed lunch at Anaconda. The service seemed a bit off, but what the heck: you are on holiday, so what's your hurry? This is a wonderful local pick, and one that is unique to this wild area of Costa Rica.
50 Manuel Antonio Highway
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
El Gran Escape looks very local, very rustic, and there is not flash and pop here, just an honest building on one of the main corners in Quepos across the street from the ocean. Inside, it's typical Central American. Great music is playing, ceiling fans are turning, plants are invading from outside to the inside, trophy fish hang on the walls, and two lazy dogs mill around, looking for hand-outs. One of the dogs wears a sign around her neck NOT to feed her, since she is on a diet.
I came at an odd time: mid-afternoon. The place was almost empty. However, the waitress greeted me with a broad smile and gave me a wonderful table with a street view. The service throughout the meal was friendly and attentive. They also have a small patio. On this hot and humid day, most folks seemed to pick sitting under the ceiling fans indoors.
I ordered a local beer and got the Red Snapper, which the waitress strongly recommended as being fresh. It came and it was outstanding. It was served in an olive sauce and the fish was indeed fresh, firm and cook to perfection.
This is a popular place with fishermen; you are allowed to bring your fresh catch in, and El Gran Escape will clean, cook, and serve your catch to you.
The bar is called the Fish Head Bar, and I understand it gets very popular late at night. Whenever I asked around to locals about where I should eat, El Gran Escape always was on everyone's list of top restaurants in the area. I understand why--of all the great meals I ate in Costa Rica, I can tell you this was the best meal I ate.
I love it when the food gods steer me in the right direction. Let me do the same favor for you; when you are in in Quepos or Manuel Antonio, do not miss a meal at El Gran Escape - it's the best!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 17, 2005
El Gran Escape
Main Road, just across from Banco Nacional
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
In front of the park is a public beach, vendors selling handicrafts and foods. There are also some shops and restaurants here. The atmosphere is one of a fair. This is a popular spot for folks coming down for the weekend from San Jose and everyone seems to be in a party mood.
The park opens every morning at 8:00am. If you want to catch some monkey action - the earlier the better. The monkeys are most active in the morning and at dusk. During the heat of the day they tend to nap and relax. Early in the morning the beaches are not crowded, some of the perfect beaches had nobody on them. Later in the day they fill up!
The park costs $6 to enter. They also will only allow 600 visitors to enter each day. So when they reach that magic 601 mark, you are out of luck and will have to try again tommorow!
Entering the park was rustic. You had to wade across a small stream to get in. The night before it had rained and the stream was massive, it was over my waist. You can pay a boater a few coins and they will take you on a short ride over this deep water.
The park is beautifully maintained. The paths are well marked and very well groomed. The first part of the park is flat. Further into the park the paths start to get hilly and are less groomed.
The beaches in the park are pristine. They have fine white sand and the ocean here is azur.
I came for the wildlife. I saw a ton of those cute white faced monkeys swinging in the trees. I also saw hundreds of colorful red and purple crabs, amazing butterflies and some kind of wild pig ran in front of me!
You can take guided tours of the park with a nature guide. These tours are all over Quepos and the hotels around the park.
I chose to hike the park on my own. I picked a trail called Punta Catedral and it took about 30 minutes to do it round-trip. The view was spectcular. The path can be steep in places and because it rained the night before it was muddy. This is a great path to spot monkeys on and I did see a lot. It also will take you past some secluded white sand beaches.
A trail I did not hike is Punta Surrucho, which has some sea caves. I was warned this is not a good trail to hike alone, as you can hike in during low tide, get stuck there at high tide.
Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica's second smallest park, but the most popular. The views and the wildlife here make this a park worth visiting.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 16, 2005
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio Park Road
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Attraction | "Butterfly Botanical Gardens"
So one day at the beach, the clouds started to roll in, and on the way back to my hotel, I stopped in for a look. The farm is a few about 100 feet from the check-in building and you walk to the enclosed space through the jungle. Inside the sceen cage it was amazing. I saw hundreds of colorful butterflies. If you are still they will land on you. My favorite was the Blue Morpho, a large butterfly with bright blue wings. I was amazed at what I was seeing and didn't notice it was now starting to rain, and then it started to pour rain. I also was the only guest out here in the butterfly gazebo! But just as I was starting to fret, one of the guides rushed down from the main building with an umbrella for me. Now, that was service!
While I was waiting for the rain to quit, the guys at the front office, convinced me the Nocturnal Jungle Tour was the way to go. You never know what to expect walking the jungle at night!
So the next night I paid my $20 and joined a small group of three other Americans and we headed up the trails, armed only with flashlights.
This night we did not meet many mammals, we only saw a sloth, watching us from a high perch. However we saw snakes, frogs, and insects galore!
I soon learned if you were quiet and just waited out here in the jungle you would see all types of wildlife.
Our guide, Brian, was excellent and really knew his wildlife. He was a bit of a Costa Rican Jeff Corwin! He had no problem picking up a posinous snake or small dart frog.
We spent about two hour in the jungle and I came away with a better understanding and appriciation for what is out here. This tour runs nightly, but every night it's a different show, as it's up to Mother Nature what she wants to share with the group on that night.
TIP: Wear long pants and good walking shoes. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and flip-flops and was eaten alive by gnats and other insects.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 26, 2005
I can proudly say I have driven all over the world, in many major cities and remote parts of the globe, so I was confident I could easily handle the roads of Costa Rica.
I had taken an all night flight from LAX to San Jose and I was a little on the punchy side by the time we landed in the morning. I first off urge anyone taking the all-nighters NOT to do as I did. The drive takes your full attention and being alert. If I ever did the all-nighter again, I would make sure I was very rested, and I would get a room in San Jose before I made the perilous drive to Manuel Antonio.
I was surprised as I went into the Avis lot to pick up my car. The bus had to drive through a huge iron gate with an armed guard allowing us in. The entire lot was surrounded by massive barbed wire. It was a little daunting. The agent gave me a verbal and written warning on numerous scams taking place on the highway. He warned us to always get to a gas station with a flat, or if anyone hits you, not to pull over but head to a police station instead. Some of the robbers throw nails or glass on the road in hopes you will pull over to change your tire or even pour sugar in a not-watched car at a filling station. Again, it made one a little anxious to hear so many warnings and scams. But soon, I was on my way with the warnings seared into my brain.
Just getting out of San Jose was a challenge. You share the highway with vendors, dogs, horses, ox carts, and just folks on foot. The ticos did not slow down a bit. I felt nervous being on this fast-moving obstacle course. I have to admit, I saw numerous dead dogs who did not fare so well.
Soon, I was out of the city and learned that not all roads are well- or clearly marked. Even those with signs don't give you advance notice. The first time you will see a sign is when you are at the place you need to turn. I learned I had better keep a sharp eye and watch what looked like a sign up ahead. It would have helped to have a navigator on this drive!
Soon you are beyond the city limits and the road goes through some magnificent country side. You start climbing the steep hills, and down below, you can see the green, green rain forest. Rapid rivers and streams poured down the hills below me. It was so scenic, it was hard not to take my eyes off the road to just gaze. Unfortunately, these roads are narrow and curvy, and there is no place to pull over and just soak in the view.
The traffic is bad and the road often gets clogged behind large trucks hauling everything from lumber to oil up this mountain road, and at times the traffic barely inches along. The "ticos" take unbelievable chances on these roads. They will pass anywhere. I have seen cars charging around blind curves, passing a truck. They go well beyond the speed limit and fly around the mountain curves. It made my heart skip a beat more than a few times, watching these daredevils pass. A few times, I too had to pass a truck that was barely moving, but I tried to keep it in areas where I could see a few miles down the road for other cars. This part of the road takes a lot of concentration and a lot of skill.
One of the must-stops enroute is Crocodile Bridge. You can't miss it. It's a large bridge that has cars parked by the dozens on both sides. You too should park on either side and walk on the footpath on this bridge. Look down, and you will see what all the fuss is about. Below you are dozens of crocodiles just basking in the sun. Actually, the merchants on both sides of the bridge keep these crocs well feed. It's good for business, as when you stop your car to observe, you may end up buying a Coca-Cola or even lunch. It's a win-win deal for the crocs and the merchants. I stopped and was amazed at these fat and happy crocs; there were at least twenty of them, and I was thankful they were far below while I had the safety of the bridge!
Soon the hills start to flatten out and you come to the beach town of Jaco. Jaco is surf-central, and the town has the same buzz as on of the surf towns in California. It's full of young men and woman with blonde hair and dark tans. The city has tons of surf shops. The local traffic is more Californian than Costa Rican. You will hear awesome, dude and very little Spanish on the streets. Like any surf town, Jaco is filled with fun bars, cafes, and restaurants. This is about halfway to Manuel Antonio and a great lunch stop. I ate here on my way back and it was great to watch the surfers master some awesome waves.
When I got back on the road, I no longer had to worry about ox carts, but skateboarders. The highway was clogged with young guys, all challenging the cars with their skateboards.
From Jaco, the road flattens out. It looks like on the map this should be an interesting drive as the road hugs the coastline. However, you are just far enough away from the coast that you don't see it. Every once in a while you get a treat an a small peek at the ocean, but mostly you see the farm land. Here the rain forest has been cut away for farms. This used to be the biggest banana growing region in Central America, but a disease wiped all the banana plantations away. Today they grow coconut oil here. You will get behind large trucks hauling hundreds of coconuts to the refinerary down the road. This area is not scenic and very uninteresting. Many large vacation home developments have also marred the landscape here.
Coming near Quepos, you will cross several bridges that look more like something from the set of Indian Jones. They are rusty, missing most of their wooden boards, and you can't imagine safely crossing them. But you must--this is the only way to get to Quepos. I bit my lip and pressed on. The vehicle ahead of me was a large truck--it made it, and so did I. I had to stop and take a photo of one of these bridges, they were really in bad shape!
Soon, you have made it to Quepos, and from here, Manuel Antonio is just up the hill. It took me about four hours without any stops, and I was exhausted.
On the way home, I was pulled over by a policeman near Jaco. I was going 88km (54mph) in a 80km (49mph) zone (although a lot of traffic was passing me). The officer told me the fine would be $40 and was to be paid in cash to him. He did not write me a receipt or a written ticket. But what was I to do? I had a flight to catch. So I gave him two twenties and was on my way. When I got back to Avis, the agent confirmed this was a scam. He told me often local cops will clock speeders and let the Costa Ricans off with a warning and a wink. The tourists are asked to pay a fine on the spot that goes right into the officer's pocket. The agent told me I was lucky--he has often heard of fines of $100 or more.
I was happy I drove the route. I saw some sights that I would not see by air. The countryside here is breathtaking. My only warning is to stay alert and be well rested before taking the four-hour drive through Costa Rica. You will need all your senses!