Travel: What You Need To Know

We cannot wait to celebrate our love with you in beautiful Costa Rica! We’re getting married at Punto de Vista villa in Manuel Antonio, a region of Quepos (video below). Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Well known for its rainforest, beautiful beaches and hiking trails, it was listed by Forbes as one of the world’s most beautiful national parks.

According to Jetsetter: The town of Manuel Antonio hugs a narrow two-lane road that curls through mountainous coastal rain forest on its way to the area’s namesake national park. The sandy beaches and exuberant wilderness areas have long made this a popular destination, and for good reason: The park is bursting with wildlife — sloths, birds and hypercute squirrel monkeys — while the town delivers plenty of creature comforts.

Planning Your Trip

We have partnered with Latitudes Travel Agency to handle all the hotels, transfers, and tour arrangements for our guests.

For any questions please contact Jessica at jessica@latitudesadventure.com or call 1-866-735-9115 ext. 304.

Latitudes is recommended by our wedding planner and offers their services at no additional charge. We have been comparing costs and contacting vendors directly– Latitudes is indeed equivalent or cheaper than competitors. They can assist you with your planning and make your travel arrangements for no extra fee– please contact them with any and all questions and reservation information. They are located in San Jose, Costa Rica, and are expert planners for Manuel Antonio.

Arrive early and take advantage of everything Costa Rica has to offer!

Fly over the rainforest with us on a canopy tour. Sip champagne as you sail into the Pacific sunset. Rappel down a waterfall. Or enjoy a Cuban cigar after a round of golf on a world-class course. Latitudes travel agency will ensure you make the most of your visit here.

March is a very popular month to visit Costa Rica, so if you are planning on joining us for all the festivities we highly recommend making your travel arrangements as soon as possible! Don’t forget to take into consideration our wedding festivities and optional group activities.

Passports

First thing’s first! Don’t forget to make sure your passports are valid! – Costa Rican law requires your passport to be valid for 6 months after your planned entry into the country.

Getting to Costa Rica

Your RSVP will be confirmed when Latitudes receives your flight information.
 You will fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport — San Jose, Costa Rica, SJO. Flights are available from major U.S. cities on a variety of carriers.

Christine, Greg, and their families will be arriving Monday 3/10 at 11am. You are encouraged to come as early as possible in the week! Latitudes will be recording all guests’ flight information so you can see who you may be arriving with.

Latitudes can assist you with all aspects of travel in Costa Rica (in-country flights, car rentals, tours, hotels), but you must book your international flights by yourself.

Map of Costa Rica–  San Jose to Manuel Antonio:

(Click to see on Google Maps)

mapCR

Shuttle transfer from San Jose to Manuel Antonio (1.5-3 hours): We recommend a private shared shuttle service, shared with other wedding guests, to bring you from San Jose airport to the town of Manuel Antonio. This will be coordinated with Latitudes and can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours depending on where you’d like to stop and sightsee, eat etc. along the way.

Latitudes will collect everyone’s flight information and group the wedding guests who arrive at SJO at the same time on group shuttles. We’ve discounted rates and guests can expect to pay between $30-60 round trip from San Jose to MA. Prices will be based on arrival times of guests (cheaper for large groups arriving at similar times) and will be finalized before any confirmation is made.  Contact Latitudes with your flight info to schedule your transfer.

Charter flight from San Jose to Quepos (35 min):  From SJO, you can take a 35 minute charter flight to from SJO to Quepos (XQP). Quepos is 10 minutes away from Manuel Antonio. Note, this is a small plane and as of this site’s publishing, prices were ~$80 each way. Note there may be different baggage requirements for this flight, so please check ahead.

Car rentals:  see below

Hotel Options

The wedding will take place at Punto de Vista, a private villa in Manuel Antonio.

The bride, groom, and bridal party will be staying at Punto de Vista Monday 3/10 – Monday 3/17 (see map).  Christine and Greg’s parents will be staying with friends and family at two different villas within Manuel Antonio.

We recommend staying at The Falls and La Mansion Inn hotels!

After much research and many referrals, we recommend staying at two hotels:  The Falls (budget/mid priced) and La Mansion Inn (a bit more expensive). Latitudes has blocked rooms at La Mansion, walking distance to Punto de Vista. Rooms at The Falls Hotel are not blocked but you can reserve a room with Latitudes ASAP. The Falls is a 5 minute drive to the villa (see below).

Map of Punto de Vista and recommended hotels in Manuel Antonio:

(Click to see on Google Maps)

mapMA

 

See our GRAC personal Latitudes travel site for more details on booking these recommended hotels or you can contact Jessica at jessica@latitudesadventure.com or call 1-866-735-9115 ext. 304.

Relevant links:

 

Additional Hotel Options

BUDGET

MID-PRICED

HIGH-END

Check out TripAdvisor-rated hotels in Manuel Antonio.

 

Private Villas

Quite a few groups have reserved private villas which is a great way to keep the cost down and travel with a larger group.  Be sure to let Greg or Christine know if you are looking for villa-mates!

  • Airbnb
  • Villas CR – several guests have already booked villas using this service

 

Things to Remember
  • Distance to villa (some villas have steep roads that make vehicle passing very difficult)
  • Shuttle pick-up will be at The Falls & La Mansion, however if a large group is staying at a villa we will do our best to accommodate you
  • Ease of getting to the beach, Wildlife Park, and activities

For any questions please contact Jessica at jessica@latitudesadventure.com or call 1-866-735-9115 ext. 304.

What will the weather be like?

Manual Antonio in March is supposed to be one of the best months to visit. The weather in Manuel Antonio is sub-tropical coastal Pacific, characterized by coastal breezes, temperatures ranging from the 80s during the day to the 70s at night and moderate levels of humidity.

March is the “dry season”, characterized by mid 80s during the day and mid 70s at night– mostly sunny and dry with an occasional afternoon shower and an average 1 cloudy day per week. Humidity is around 80%.

What’s the currency?

The Costa Rican currency is the colón (plural colones, ₡), named after Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus). Bills come in 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 notes, while coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50 and 100. Note that older coins are larger and silver, while newer ones are smaller and gold-colored – this is often a source of confusion for travelers fresh off the plane.

1 US dollar (USD) = ~500 colones (CRC)

Click chart below for the latest rates:

CRCcheatsheet

Paying with US dollars

Paying for things in US dollars should be free of hassle, and at times is encouraged since the currency is viewed as being more stable than colones.  Throughout Manuel Antonio and Costa Rica, you can pay for all tours, park fees, hotel rooms, midrange to expensive meals and large-ticket items with US dollars. Most taxis also accept US dollars. However, local meals, bus fares and small items from “supers” (souvenir stores) should generally be paid with colones.

Large bills such as the $100 may be questioned as they’ve experienced some counterfeiting recently so just bring smaller bills. Newer US dollars (e.g. big heads) are preferred throughout Costa Rica.
Debit and Credit Cards: Most are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica and Manuel Antonio (American Express is less popular than Mastercard or Visa). You can expect a transaction fee on all international credit-card purchases– make sure you check your credit cards international transaction fees ahead of time. Also be sure to tell your credit card companies that you’ll be traveling internationally!

Holders of credit and debit cards can buy colones and sometimes US dollars in some banks, though you can expect to pay a high transaction fee. Cards are widely accepted at some midrange and most top-end hotels, as well as top-end restaurants and some travel agencies. All car rental agencies accept credit cards.

Exchanging Money

Exchanging money is easiest in Manuel Antonio or Quepos at a local bank or ATM. You can also exchange currency at the both at San Jose airport but the exchange rate is poor. Large hotels in Manuel Antonio may also exchange US dollars to colones but again the rate may not be great.

If you decide to exchange dollars to colones, use local banks NOT “money changers” (people on the street who offer to change for you). The local bank will give you the best rate of exchange which is about ¢495 to $1 right now.

All banks will exchange US dollars. Most banks have excruciatingly long lines, especially at the state-run institutions (Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Popular), though they don’t charge commissions on cash exchanges. Private banks (Banex, Banco Interfin, Scotiabank) tend to be faster. Make sure the dollar bills you want to exchange are in good condition or they may be refused. Banks are typically open from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. but try to visit in late morning to avoid before & after work and lunchtime rushes that can cause long lines.

Restaurants may give you a lesser rate so be watchful. If you use US dollars, you will likely receive colones in return so you will want to make sure you receive the proper change when making a transaction. It may be easiest to use the local currency at restaurants as menus are listed in colones (no confusion or math needed).

Taxes
Travelers will notice a 13.39% sales tax at midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants, while hotels also charge an additional 3% tourist surcharge.

Everybody must pay a US$26 airport tax upon leaving the country. It is payable in US dollars or in colones, and credit cards are accepted. Note that some travellers have reported that this fee was charged on their cards as a cash advance, which resulted in a hefty fee.
Tipping
It is customary to tip the bellhop/porter (US$1 to US$3 per service) and the housekeeper (US$1 to US$2 per day) in top-end hotels, less in budget places. On guided tours, tip the guide US$1 to US$10 per person per day. Tip the tour driver about half of what you tip the guide. Naturally, tips depend upon quality of service.

Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, unless some special service is provided.

Top-end restaurants may add a 10% service charge onto the bill. If not, you might leave a small tip to show your appreciation, but it is not required.

 

What’s nearby?

Between Quepos and Manuel Antonio you can find virtually any modern convenience you might need while traveling. Downtown Manuel Antonio is pretty limited. While you’ll find plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants, there’s only one supermarket (SuperJoseth), no pharmacies and no ATMs, so you’ll need to drive to Quepos. It takes 10 minutes to get from Punto de Vista villa to Quepos.

Quepos is the closest town to Manuel Antonio, the commercial hub of the area and the best place to find pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, medical centers and Internet cafes.

There are 8-12 great restaurants all within 10-15 minutes depending on where you stay.

The National Park:

This park has one of the most impressive landscapes of the world and has several coves with many white sand beaches and lush foliage amidst great mountains and forests that reach the beaches. Additionally, it is located in the tropical forest.

It has a large land and marine biodiversity with beautiful coral reefs.

For its excellent climate and scenic beauty is visited by large number of national and international tourism, for which it is currently developing an adequate infrastructure. Lookouts and supporting infrastructure and Trails Master Plan that includes trails : Punta Catedral, Waterfall, Lookout, Beach Espadilla, Beach Manuel Antonio, Congos, Beaches Gemelas, Puerto Escondido, Manglar y trail Perezosos, with universal accessibility facilities, rest areas, scenic overlooks and scientific interpretation.

Four beaches are contained within the limits of the park: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita.

More attractions: There are also other wildlife refuges, waterfalls and more in the area– some are included on TripAdvisor and this website: Manuel Antonio attractions.

I want to see animals!

Good. Because it’s sloth and monkey and biodiversity central.

Although Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, the diversity of wildlife in its  3 sq mi is unequaled with 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Both Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth and Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (perezosos) are a major feature, as are three of Costa Rica’s four monkey species — the Mantled Howler monkey, Central American Squirrel Monkey, and White-headed Capuchin monkey. Black Spiny-tailed Iguana, Green Iguana, Common Basilisk, White-nosed Coati and many snake and bat species are also common in the park. Included in the 184 bird species are toucans, woodpeckers, potoos, motmots, tanagers, Turkey Vulture, parakeets and hawks. Dolphins can be observed there, as well as the occasional migrating whale. Scuba diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking provide opportunities to experience the tropical wildlife that enriches Manuel Antonio. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

The Pacific Ocean in front of Manuel Antonio Park is also world renowned for its fishing.

 

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes, the local tap water is safe to drink in Manuel Antonio and generally throughout the country.

 

How’s the food?

Manuel Antonio is known for its excellent cuisine and also has a supermarket that carries modern amenities and “American” grocery staples.

Seafood is the staple of Manuel Antonio. You’ll find freshly caught shrimp, lobster and red snapper at virtually every restaurant you pass by, and it’s definitely worth a try – go for the whole fried snapper if you’re an adventurous eater who doesn’t mind his/her dinner staring back at you.

But beyond the seafood, you can find your typical mix of Costa Rican restaurants, fine dining spots, pizzerias and more between Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

You can find seafood virtually anywhere in the area and Quepos is no exception. Search along the main road and the oceanfront for seafood and typical tourist restaurants.

Quepos:  the go-to spot for cheap Costa Rican food. Sodas (small, family-owned restaurants) are on virtually every corner in town, but our personal favorites are located beside the bus station in the small market beside the gravel parking lot.

Manuel Antonio:  On the 2 mile road through Manuel Antonio you’ll find the best restaurants for a night out like El Avion, a restaurant known for the giant cargo plane that runs through it; La Cantina, a lively barbeque restaurant with an open-grill; and Victoria’s, an Italian seafood restaurant with nightly live music. But, you’ll also find more affordable and equally sumptuous options including Mexican at Sancho’s, Asian at Ngo and fish and chips at El Gato Pescador. With plenty so many restaurants to choose from, you can really find something for everyone.

Downtown Manuel Antonio: a small strip of restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels that run along the beach back to through to the national park. While you can find a range of seafood, typical Costa Rica, Italian and American classics (like burgers and Buffalo wings), most restaurants are higher/over-priced.

For a bit of the local flavor, try Balu, the only restaurant on the beach; a great local spot for fresh seafood, cocktails and taking in the beauty of Manuel Antonio’s tropical coastline. To get there, walk back toward Quepos along Espadilla Beach until you see an old shack  in the tree line with concrete tables covered with orange and green table cloths.

Of course– knowing Greg’s foodie-ness– the food at our wedding should also be great! We’ll have local Costa Rican flair with lots of inspiration from around the world.

 

Do I need a car?

No, probably not. Public taxis are readily available in Manuel Antonio. Traffic and parking in Manuel Antonio can be a hassle so it may be best to leave your car behind and utilize taxis. A 10-minute taxi ride is $5-6. Official red taxis have a bright yellow sign on the side and are always equipped with a meter, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always use it. Make sure you negotiate taxi fare before you get in to ensure you get the best deal. Example fares:

  • Quepos to Manuel Antonio: $8
  • Quepos to regional airport: $8
  • Manuel Antonio to regional airport: $15

There is also a public bus that goes through Manuel Antonio about every 30 minutes. They run between Quepos and Manuel Antonio carrying passengers to Manuel Antonio National Park and  back. It has several stops en route. Buses run from 5:45 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Buses depart every half hour or so and cost about 65 cents each way.

If you’d like to rent a car, please contact Jessica at jessica@latitudesadventure.com. You can rent one in San Jose though we’d recommend taking the private shuttle transfer from San Jose to Manuel Antonio, then renting a car in Manuel Antonio.

Latitudes can arrange the pick-up and drop-off in Manuel Antonio. They suggest a SUV since the roads in Manuel Antonio are steep and you will have more space in the car as well. Their favorite car to recommend is the Hyundai Tucson 4 x 2 automatic shift. It have room for 5 people (suggested 4 and luggage).

Daily rate is $81 / Weekly rate is $505. Free mileage and mandatory basic insurance included.
There is a full-service gas station in downtown Quepos and several others on the road out of town, heading toward San Jose.

Several hotels and roadside stands offer bicycle rentals for around $15 per day. Both are inexpensive but the road between Quepos and Manuel Antonio is extremely steep and hilly; a challenging ride for even experienced bicyclists.

 

Cell phone service
Cell service is fairly good in Manuel Antonio, though as you head to the National Park it may be spotty.
We recommend that you buy an international calling card for calling the USA. Remember that most hotels and villas have good wifi, so we’d recommend using iMessages, Skype, Tango or Viber to text or call over the Internet.

However, if you want to use your own cell phone, be aware of the following:

  • Your cell phone must be an UNLOCKED, GSM phone with either 3G capacity or at least have 1800Mhz frequency. Most US phones use 950 mHz. Motorola and Sony Ericcson are brands that have models with the right bands.
  • If you do have a compatible phone, you can buy a SIM card at the ICE (the national telecommunications company) booth in the baggage section of the San José airport. At the airport ICE booth, you will pay $4 for a cell phone number and buy an inexpensive 30-day SIM card that will be inserted in your handset and will give you ~60 minutes of calling time.
  • OR you can try international roaming. Please verify with your phone provider the costs– depending on the company it can be very expensive.
When you arrive at San Jose airport, you can also buy a prepaid Costa Rica phone chip which you can use with your phone and have a local number.

 

Medical facilities

The Red Cross provides 24-hour emergency service (Tel. 2777-0116; located next to the Imporadora Monge, an appliance store.) Several bilingual doctors offer hotel and home visits, and can address minor surgeries and urgent care.  The Quepos hospital is located on the outskirts of the regional airport. Tel. 2777-0922. For all major emergencies, dial 911.

 

What to bring

Besides your fun hat and a sense of adventure, make sure you pack…

Your passport

Cash (for the $26 country exit fee, plus any cash for restaurants, food, and souvenirs, though you can usually use USD or debit/credit cards)

Shoes: flip flops or water shoes (water friendly hikers if you’re hiking or rappeling down waterfalls) sneakers that can be dirtied

Sun screen & after sun lotion/aloe vera (it’s going to be hot and sunny!)

Lip balm with sun screen

Bug spray

Hat (plus your fun hat)

Cell phone (you can use wifi which is common in most villas and hotels to call or message over the Internet)

Camera (lots of pretty things and people to see!)

Chargers (don’t be that guy)

Bathing suits

Shorts, skirts, & T shirts (for hot weather)

Pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt (only if you’re like Christine & get cold in ACed rooms– even at night it should be in the 70s!)

Outfit for the All-White welcome party (wear white!)

Outfit for the wedding (it will be formal but keep in mind it will be hot and tropical! Light materials suggested)

Travel first aid kit (though most hotels will provide this for you and there are supermarkets and medical facilities nearby)

Anti-itch ointment

Allergy medication

Medication for upset stomach

Drivers license (if you plan to rent a car)

Raincoat or poncho (only if you really want to– it is dry season in March so rain is highly unlikely

Binoculars (let’s do some bird/animal stalking)

Spanish phrase book (but all you really have to know is “PURA VIDA!”

Beach towel (only if your hotel or villa doesn’t provide it)

Emergency contact information

Copies of your documents (minimally a copy passport, drivers license, credit cards, airline tickets, and any reservations that you’ve prepaid. You need to leave a set at home in case of emergency)

Your Costa Rican colon to US dollar cheat sheet

 

Did you know?

The name ‘Costa Rica’ literally means ‘rich coast’ in Spanish. This marvelous country has shown the rest of the world that peace is the greatest treasure of all. The only country in the Western Hemisphere without an army, Costa Rica has been called the ‘ Switzerland of the Americas ‘ for its visionary belief that weapons and war are not the answer.

As the meeting place of North and South America, Costa Rica has over 6% of the entire Earth’s plants and animals on a landmass that is less than 0.01% of the planet’s surface, making it the most bio-diverse place on Earth. Thankfully, these natural treasures are protected in national parks, reserves and refuges accounting for 26% of Costa Rica’s territory.

In addition to incredible flora and fauna, Costa Rica has 13 different microclimates and a short drive will take you from a misty cloud forest to hot dry plains to lush rainforests. Picturesque mountains, volcanoes, amazing rain forests, cloud forests, jungles, magnificent beaches, mangroves and islands are all here for you to enjoy. Whether your passion is exploring a remote jungle or just relaxing on the beach, Costa Rica fits the bill perfectly.

It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world.

 

Time Zone

Costa Rica is 1 hour behind Eastern Standard Time. Find out what time it is in Costa Rica here.