Deciding which beach to go to in Costa Rica is a tough decision. Everyone you ask about the perfect beach has a different answer. There are white sand beaches, pills black sand (volcanic sand) beaches, brown sand beaches, rocky beaches, surfers beaches, turtle egg laying beaches, and so on. We had decided to use a little bit of our tax refund and hit the beach for a couple of days, but the more I looked up locations the more I got flustered about where we should go. In the end, we decided on Manuel Antonio, which is a favorite of tourists and pretty well regarded by all of the tour books. I’m so glad we went.

The beach was stunning. We have loved going to the panhandle of Florida and the beautiful beaches there and I expected pretty much the same kind of beach, but this was so different. There were cliffs and tiny islands not too far off shore. The forests came down to the beach. The water was clear and the waves were consistently pouring in. It was gorgeous. In the Manuel Antonio area the expensive hotels are up in the mountains. They boast a beautiful view of the forest and ocean. Although there are many hotels, you are still in the middle of the jungle and monkeys, sloths, cotis and beautiful birds are plentiful. We opted for the Hotel Verde Mar, which is actually a budget hotel because, unlike the others, it’s right on the beach. Another blessing, our ideal hotel was the best buy!

The hotel rented out free boogie boards and we spent the majority of our vacation on the boogies boards in the waves. I say we, but to be honest I got rolled pretty hard by a wave on the second day and I was a little apprehensive to venture out much. I enjoyed a few more tries, but it was more fun to watch Corey, Alex and Maggie catching the waves.

We spent one day at the Manuel Antonio National Park. There are three beaches in the park and lots of jungle. If you knew me as a child you’d know that I always wanted a monkey – at least until I had kids :-). Before we went into the park we hadn’t seen any, but Manuel Antonio is known for monkeys so we were on the lookout. The minute we entered the park we ran into Maggie’s good friend from school and her family. We all decided to hike around parts of the park. This is where the maps and guidebooks are deceiving. The hike was long and tough! We made it, though, and along the way we encountered a bunch of monkeys. They came right up to us and even tried to take a man’s bag that was standing next to us. One had a baby on its back. They were just traveling along through the forest and stopped to play and entertain us for a bit.

We finished the hike and headed straight for the beach. That night when we went for dinner we saw a bunch of monkeys just outside the restaurant. Again, the next day, there were monkeys playing in the trees at the beach near our hotel. It was amazing! We also saw a ton of huge lizards like this little monster below. Alex and Maggie tried hard to catch one!

At the beginning of our break I was sad to not have family visit. Just about everyone either went to the States or had family in and it made us miss our family that much more. But this trip, getting away with the kids, I sat thinking back to the panic I felt last summer, a desperation to make memories before we left the States, but as I sat on the beach watching the kids laughing and playing, I realized that we’ll be making memories every step of the way. We still miss having family around, but what a blessing to have time together away from the stress of everyday life!

We took a ton of pictures. You can see them if you click here – Manuel Antonio Pictures.