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The perfect hike paired with a side of delicious food.

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Manuel Antonio is a nature lovers’ paradise; this isn’t the type of place you come to sit on a beach all day or stay confined to your resort.

You can find almost every water and land activity known to man here; whale watching, skydiving, kayaking, snorkeling, zip-lining, off-road jeep and ATV tours through the jungle, waterfall climbing/jumping/swimming, whitewater rafting, canopy walks across suspension bridges, you name it! As you probably guessed there are TONS of great tour companies that provide these activities to tourists, and you should definitely do some of them, but these activities can add up pretty quickly if you are on a budget. We wanted to share with you one of our favorite “day-trips” from Manuel Antonio that you can do yourself for less than $30/person (including lunch) all you need is a rental car.

Rain Maker, located thirty minutes from Manuel Antonio in Parrita, Costa Rica, is one of the best bangs for your buck. $20 USD gains you access to this partial primary rainforest where you can enjoy a two-and-a-half-mile hike while you enjoy some wildlife, cross multiple hanging bridges, swim in natural pools, and even climb a waterfall by rope (if you choose) to access a secret waterfall and cave hidden in the jungle.  The hike is perfectly marked by 12 different checkpoints points so it's nearly impossible to get lost and you can take shortcuts if you prefer a shorter hike.  The first six marks are straight up hill, where you will use manmade tire steps and your leg muscles.  Once you have crossed several suspension bridges with incredible views, you will make your way downhill through waterfalls and swimming holes.

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The best part?  After your long hike you can post up at the Rainmaker’s craft brewery Perro Vida, which translates to Dog Life.  After your 2 ½ to 4-hour adventure and a few brews, chances are you’re going to be ready to eat and we have just the place for you!

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Google maps says that Rain Maker is 42 minutes away from Manuel Antonio, but that's only because everything takes longer then expected in Costa Rica and you have to drive a few kilometers on a dirt road. We usually get there in 30 min tops.  Also note that you do not need 4-wheel drive for this trip.

Tip: Google Maps works even when offline.  If you start your navigation while you're on WiFi, then it will continue with the directions to your destination.

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Next adventure will take you to the best Chicharones (pork ribs) in Costa Rica! Family owned and located on the side of their home, Kokys is the most authentic restaurant we have been to while living here.  Unfortunately, it is unable to be found on google maps, however, if you ask any local they will give you great directions on the spot!  If you're one of those people who have a problem ordering, don't worry, there is no menu and there is only one thing to order.  You also order by kilo, so if you're hungry, you better add an extra kilo of meat to your order!  The chicharones comes with a side of mashed or fried yucca (a potato-like vegetable) and fried plantains.  It is also served with delicious lime/orange wedges and their special, homemade hot sauce.  I promise you will leave here satisfied and in a meat-induced coma.

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After you're done filling up your bellies, head over to the beach and take a relaxing dip at Playa Manuel Antonio while you watch the most incredible sunset you've ever laid eyes on. Remember, it gets dark in Costa Rica around 6:00 PM so plan your day accordingly.

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Kids Saving the Rainforest

This place is just as sweet as it sounds.

My first experience to this non-for-profit organization/sanctuary was nothing short of an incredible memory.  Our family was in town with sloths on the mind.  How could you visit Costa Rica and not see these fascinating creatures?

Without any real directions, we somehow found the sanctuary tucked away in a Palm jungle, through a few turns down a dirt road, only fifteen minutes by car from Manuel Antonio.  The reason why the directions on Google maps weren't accurate is quiet simple;  KSTR doesn't want people to show up without having already booked a tour by phone or email.  We happened to be the ones who didn't follow the typical procedure.  Our advice, book in advance!

We pulled up right as the morning tour was ending, but that didn't stop the owner from being extremely hospitable to our curiosities.  We explained that we came to see Sloths, and he did not disappoint.  Not only did we have one-on-one time with a baby sloth in a laundry basket(!) we ended up on a private tour of our own to meet all of the other animals in the sanctuary.  He explained every animal's situation and how the sanctuary began and continues to grow through the help of donations, volunteers, and veterinarians that specialize in these specific species.  We could feel his excitement and dedication through every word he spoke.

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KSTR was founded in 1999 to help save the rainforest by two, passionate nine-year-old girls that lived in the area.

  KSTR's mission is to sustain the diversity of the rainforest and wildlife globally, through local action, education, and research.

Their wildlife tour teaches about Sloths, Spider Monkeys, White-faced Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys (Titi), Marmosets, Tamarins, Kinkajous, Parrots, Parakeets and many more animals.  In order to maintain a rehabilitation center for the several species they work with, the foundation understands that survival of the fittest is their biggest issue. They also operate as an educational center and reforestation nursery.  Around an incredible 95% of the animals they tend to, are released into the wild at after they fully recover.

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In addition to the sanctuary, Kids Saving the Rainforest manages a Bed & Breakfast to help raise funds to save the rainforest and wildlife in the area.  The Blue Banyan Inn is located on the property so if you're looking for a quaint place to say - you don't have to look far!

If you're planning on a visit to Costa Rica, or better yet, to see us - we'd be happy to book KSTR as a must-see tour!

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM They also have private tours available

Send an email to: info@kstr.org or to book call: (506) 4070-0340

Click here for KSTRF on Trip Advisor 

 


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A Costa Rican Saturday: Organic Seeds + 8th Annual Whale & Dolphin Festival

Along with our friends from Girl in the Raw, we spent the morning taking a glimpse into the Vegan lifestyle at the Organic Annual Seed festival in Tinamaste, Costa Rica, where we learned about the benefits of growing your own organic fruits and vegetables, enjoyed some serious good eats, and picked up some Mangosteen superfood.  (pictured below)

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We then headed over to our days' main attraction: The 8th Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival.

If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, chances are you traveled to Dominical or Uvita where the beaches are untouched and the views are 360 degrees of perfection. Uvita is known for its Ballena Marine National Park (Bahia Ballena) and their famous Whale's tail.  Located about an hour south of Manuel Antonio, it is part of the National Marine Whale Park.  The ecosystem of the park protects the whale-breeding grounds and the Whale's Tail itself is a result of the currents that meet, which creates a perfect bird's-eye view of a whale's tail.  Almost a year ago, we walked out to the end of the tail before the tides met and witnessed the feel of walking on water.

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(ballenatails.com)

The Whale tour prices include a two-hour boat tour of the Ballena Marine National Park, park entrance fee, water and fresh fruit (which was delicious!) Note it does not include transportation to the park. (Credit card is accepted for everything but the park entrance fee)

We opted for the 2-hour tour instead of a private 3 hour tour with a local that was offered to us upon our arrival.  Tour operators offer boat tours departing every two hours between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.  We were one of the last groups to go out at 3:00 PM, which also gave us the pleasure of seeing the sunset through the clouds on the Pacific.

We were prepped in Spanish and off we went with ten other people, two guides, and some choppy water.

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A little weary of what we were getting ourselves into, we took it all in and had an incredible time! We saw 16 different whales during our tour alone.  Although we didn't catch any dolphins, we did see a full hour of breaching whales, baby whales, and even up-close encounters where we were just feet away from all of the action! The guides were incredibly informative and answered all of our curiosities.

The festival also includes live bands, tons of Costa Rican keepsakes for purchase, and a taste of the local culture.  Surrounded by restaurants and lively nightlife, the festival caters to all types of tourists and locals.

More information is available pn the festival’s website: www.festivaldeballenasydelfines.com

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If you’re ever in the area when this festival takes place, we recommend not to miss it!

 

 


Our 5 favorite eateries in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Our 5 favorite local eateries in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is one of the most-visited towns in Costa Rica, and for good reasons. Not only does it house some of the top beaches in the world, unique wildlife, and some of the happiest people, but it also has some of the best restaurants Costa Rica has to offer.

From breathtaking beachfront views to neighborhood digs, Manuel Antonio restaurants have a knack for local flavor.  After visiting here for a month and now living here for longer,  we have developed a love for some fantastic local establishments that tickle our taste buds. Here's a list of our five favorite local spots to feast, relax and take in some unparalleled views, and sip on some spectacular Costa Rica coffee.

Cafe Milagro

Best coffee and breakfast

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Located in the heart of Manuel Antonio, Cafe Milagro not only brews their own coffee (both light roast and dark roast) but they have an impeccable menu serving all-day food with a tropical twist. This colorful and comfortable restaurant is a haven for people who work on their computers and has several different areas to sit down and enjoy a cup of joe.  They have plush outdoor couches, roadside people-watching views, and for a more private and intimate dining experience, a covered back patio. Whether you would like a full-blown Tico breakfast or a personal french press coffee while reading a good book, this is your spot.  Their nightly light-up decor and live dining music makes this establishment stand out on the main stretch.  When you head out full-bellied from Cafe Milagro, don't forget to check out their quaint gift shop full of Costa Rican antiques, packaged Milagro coffee, and unique trinkets for your friends and family back home.  And in the mango season, they offer free mangoes on your way out.  It doesn't get much better than that.

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 Mango crepes with blackberry drizzle

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Personal french-pressed coffee

5 top eateries

Traditional omelet with side potatoes and homemade bread

 

Salsipuedes

Best typical food with a view

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Easily located on the main road through town, Salsipuedes holds the spot for best typical Costa Rican food.  Whether its desayuno (breakfast), lunch or dinner, their fresh food with a view should not be passed up.  Almost everywhere in Costa Rican serves typical Costa Rican-style breakfast but there's something magical about the way Salsipuedes fries their plantains. No seriously.  As a self-proclaimed plantain connoisseur, I can attest to the deliciousness.  Their portion sizes are so large that you can split a meal into two portions or you will most likely have leftovers.  Food aside, Salsipuedes has one of the best views for a Costa Rican sunset.  I am completely in awe at the beauty every time I enter the restaurant from the side entrance.  Noted by visitors as the best restaurant to watch the Costa Rican sunset,  I have yet to find a better view while enjoying my dinner.

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Typical food at Salisipuedes

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The view

 

Express Burrito

Best late night eatery

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If you're looking for local dining that has a plethora of burritos and traditional Costa Rican food, this is your spot.  From the moment you step into the open-air restaurant you are greeted with smiles from the owners, which from the jump makes this local neighborhood restaurant welcoming. Located on a side street next to a tiny supermarket, this isn't your typical touristy dining experience. With over 15 different types of burritos accompanied by fresh salad and homemade plantain and yucca chips, you will never leave unsatisfied. Even though burritos are their speciality, they also have a menu full of traditional plates such as olla de carne (meat and vegetable soup: pictured below), casado (typical Costa Rican dish consisting of rice, beans, salad, plantains and your choice of meat) and some favorites like nachos and quesadillas. All restaurant's kitchens in our town close at 9:30 PM but not Express Burrito, they are open until midnight and deliver all over Manuel Antonio and even surrounding towns.  These owners don't only stick to restaurant cuisine, they also dry their own delicious fruit and hand-package each batch.  These incredible take-aways are packed with dried mangoes, bananas, watermelon, strawberries, and pineapples.  Once you bite into your first tangy fruit, you can't help but finish the entire pouch.

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The owners

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Olla de carne (Costa Rican vegetable and beef soup)

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One of the many burritos

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Beautifully-packaged dried fruit

 

Emilio's cafe

Best dessert with a view

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This brightly-colored and uniquely decorated Mediterranean restaurant with a beautiful panoramic ocean view is located right off of the main drag. The coffee is strong, the pastries are plentiful, and the cuisine is healthy.  Emilio's is a great place to relax and unwind after a day at the beach or to fill your belly before heading out for an adventurous day.  Our favorites are the traditional eggs Benedict and melt-in-your-mouth French toast for breakfast and the homemade Falafel sandwich for lunch.  If I could skip dinner every night for a piece of their decadent peanut butter mousse pie, I would.  It's just THAT good.  Their glass counter display has over 10 different homemade desserts, something for everyone with a sweet tooth.  If you don't have time to have a meal here, don't pass up a quick stop to Emilio's for a cup of coffee and a dessert before you head to bed.

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the view

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 Outdoor menu

Ronny's Place 

Best hidden gem

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This gem tucked away on a windy road just before the peak of Manuel Antonio settled on a 90-acre farm with stunning views, is a classic spot for all types of guests.  Known for its American cuisine with a touch Costa Rican flare makes Ronny's Place a must-try for an first-time visitor.  Speaking of first times, I was blown away at the amount of character this establishment boosted.  On my first trip to Ronny's, I met the Ronny, who made himself available on the spot to chat for as long as I'd liked. There is something special about a man who wants to discuss his love for his restaurant, it's location, and his passion for his customers and all things Costa Rica.  It's romantic lighting coupled with a fun, enthusiastic crowd, sets Ronny's in a different category than the rest.  Our favorites include the vegetable soup,  the coconut shrimp with mango salsa, and any fish dish on the menu.   Their extensive drink menu makes it hard to choose your first drink but when you spot someone sucking on their signature coconut concoction, it's an instant must-have.  Served in a hollowed-out coconut, it is just as delicious as it looks.  Plus holding a coconut alcoholic beverage instantly ups your coolness factor.

Lastly, make sure you ask for the banana flambé dessert, trust me.  I'll leave the surprise for you!

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Cocktails at Ronny's Place

 

 

Note: These restaurants are not in any specific order, our love for them is equally divided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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