Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is family adventure at its best…. BUT you need to have a somewhat adventurous side to you!  It isn’t your average “posh” place… It’s another world and it’s FANTASTIC! Be ready for monkeys, bumpy roads and no A/C (the bedrooms had it).

It all started when my sister and I decided our kids didn’t need anything for Christmas from my Dad…

A few days later, on Christmas morning, I handed the whole family a folder saying

“Get ready, we are going to Costa Rica!”

In it were some pictures, a brochure I found online and some flight options that was as much as I knew… I didn’t know where or when we were going! The kids went crazy… they had no idea where it was but the pictures looked REALLY AWESOME!!!

After several crazy weeks of endless internet searches, planning and hoping I wasn’t being taken for a ride by some rental company in a foreign country, I had it all lined up (not kidding… I was super nervous). I looked into all kinds of options, tours that took us all over the country and hotels overlooking volcanos. That is the amazing thing about Costa Rica… you can experience SO much all within a small country. Once I considered the point of this trip was family time and because we all had different interest and abilities with kids from 5-12, I decided on a villa in Manuel Antonio was the way to go.


Chasing monkeys

I wanted  place where the kids could wander around the property and get lost (they did, scary few minutes) and where we could all sit down to meals together(we did, and there was only one family argument). It’s not that I don’t like other people, but we had a large enough crew that we didn’t really want other people in our pool(or my pictures, personal pet peeve)!



I can honestly say, half of the adventure is getting there… After Being incredibly car sick on my last trip to Costa Rica and having to hold my puke while the bus waited for cows to cross the road… We  decided with the little kids in tow (one especially prone to puking on her dad), it was best to take a little flight from San Jose to Quepos (a close little fishing town). It seemed reasonable enough and I knew we would be ready to get there! The main flight isn’t that bad… Its only 4ish hours from Atlanta to San Jose.

Then the real fun began… We walked out of the San Jose airport into the sweltering heat and walked over to the Sansa airport. They were super accommodating with the kids and Dad’s wheelchair. I had called a hundred times to be sure it was ok! (visions of an overweight plane crashing into the Costa Rican rainforest had been flashing though my head)


This was the PERFECT way to start the trip… It was incredible!  First of all, we had 9 people and the plane only holds 12, so it was as close to flying private as we have ever been (future goals)!


The plane sweeps you up and over the mountains and before and you know it you are seeing miles of palm plantations and the Pacific Ocean… Twenty minutes after take off, you are landing in the middle of the jungle and feel like you just landed in a scene from Jurassic Park! It sure beat the drive on some hot bus(I hate buses and vans)!


Jules and Mom at the little airport




Villa Vigia in Manuel Antonio

Arriving at the house was perfect… As soon as we pulled in the driveway, you knew you were at a special place. We met with the house concierge and set up some fun things to do and we explored the property!


This guy was a little braver than the others. P.S. When they get mad they throw things at you… Ask my youngest! She is still hoping it wasn’t poop!!


a morning swim





View from the master bedroom at sunrise


This is the link to the house… There was a house keeper who was so special… and a concierge who was the reason any of the fun stuff happened! Jonathan was on point… One day the girls wanted to ride horses and he had the company picking us up within an hour! I seriously can’t say enough about this house! It is a bit removed from town so having a car was nice!


That night we had our first meal with the Chef… Willie! I don’t think this was his typical gig, but he didn’t fail to deliver!

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Every night we had an amazing meal. Most were local style and one was “sushi”. We had a blast… Willie was Tico living in Sweden as a sushi chef… This made for a great combo! Fresh fish in Costa Rica is easy to come by!


The house concierge set this service up and it well was worth it! After wild and crazy days, it was so nice to not have to come back and cook or get all of us out to dinner. The one night he was off we were pitiful… We didn’t seem to know how to find food on our own (there are TONS of places to eat locally but somehow, my husband and  I ended up in some crazy pizza place in Quepos waiting over an hour for crap pizza)!







As for the rest of the week… Everyday was an adventure… I am accustomed to the tropical vacation of… Laying on a beach, drinking, cooling off in the crystal blue water, napping, eating and occasionally going for a snorkel trip… NOT HERE!!!! As with most places I’m MA, you aren’t “oceanfront”. We started most days at the pool then headed out for fun.


Manuel Antonio Beach… It’s not your typical tropical island crystal clear water beach… However the waves aren’t too big and the water is nice.

My girl’s favorite part: the vendors selling stuff

Slightly annoying yet very convenient!

YES, we ate ceviche on the beach… YES, it was AMAZING… NO, we didn’t die!


Coconut water… She loved  it there, can’t get her to drink it at home! Maybe because it’s not quite the same out of a can!


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Another beach purchase

  • Horseback Riding:

Looking so cool

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My sisters horse got tangled in barbed wire… It was a scary few minutes… No one was hurt and the guides handled it so well!


This was so much fun… They were so good to work with our family and once we flew through the canopies they had a meal that I would fly back to Costa Rica for tomorrow. Plantains just don’t taste the same in NC! Seriously,  best meal of the trip (maybe because of how insanely hungry we all were at this point)!


Olivia showing off that she did the Superman Line


a little dazed after the superman line

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My Dad… He lost his legs 45 years ago but hasn’t slowed down!!



This was the perfect adventure for this crew…. I grew up on a farm and most of my family still lives there. We love getting dirty!!

The only problem was… Try telling my 12 year old nephew who has been driving any and every vehicle under the sun that he has to ride with his mom!! UNHAPPY BOY

We rode to the top of the mountain for an unreal view of the Pacific  and then back through the jungle to play in a waterfall!


Me after being in my sister’s dust trail for way too long.





We were surprised by seeing what was happening down in the palm plantations. These guys were working hard!





Worth the visit and the extremely hot hiking. Even though my oldest had multiple meltdowns, she has the best memories from here! Like the raccoon they saw sneaking into a trashcan and stealing people leftover lunches. We saw wild animals EVERYWHERE!! There were tours you could buy but we opted out and just went hiking. They spot animals you would never see. So when we saw them showing a group something hidden, we just ran over and peeked!

The beach here is nothing short of INCREDIBLE!!! Very different from the main beach in town… This was calm and blue and hermit crabs were everywhere!!


Hunting for Hermit Crabs

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The face a little girl makes when she spots a baby monkey on its mama’s back!












I didn’t personally go fishing, but my dad and my nephew wanted to go… I will say, they said it was AWESOME!! He is QUITE the fisherman and I am not, so I will take his word on it!


So… To sum up a Costa Rican Family vacation…


Would I go again? TOMORROW

I can’t say enough about this trip… Everyday was like an adventure that brought us closer together and we could watch the kids learning things they could never learn in a desk at school! It was watching my niece (super shy) lead the group on the horses while her mom and I were in the back or the kids taking the leap off a waterfall or having the courage to walk up to a vendor selling coconuts or almost being attacked my a mama monkey with her baby on her back…  We could just see the new found confidence in the kids!

“This is like 10 times cooler than Disney World!” ~Peyton 12

There ya have it… 12 year old adventure junkie approved!


  • Family adventure for kids and adults (Jules is a very adventurous 5 year old so it worked but she was on the border of being too young)
  • The Costa Rican people (Ticos) are INCREDIBLY nice
  • Something to do for everyone
  • Amazing views and wildlife EVERYWHERE (saw a sloth hanging from the power lines)
  • Action packed
  • Can be a bit pricey… All of the activities cost per person so we were spending a decent amount per day on top of the other costs of being there
  • Not many beachfront accommodations (there are in other areas of Costa Rica but not as much in Manuel Antonio)
  • It’s not the Ritz (but that’s the great part)
  • Not for the weary or the skiddish
  • Not your “lounge on the beach vacation”





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