If youre visiting Manuel Antonio on your next trip to Costa Rica, youre no doubt looking forward to spotting wildlife in the national park, doing adventure activities in the nearby mountains, and relaxing on the beach. But a trip to this area wouldnt be complete without experiencing the magnificent Pacific coastline by boat. We recently went on a catamaran cruise from Manuel Antonio with some family and friends. In this post, will tell you about our experience and how you can enjoy it too.
What to Expect
We started our tour at the brand new Marina Pez Vela in Quepos. Although Quepos has more of a city feel and the downtown isnt very scenic, the marina has amazing facilities. Some of the best restaurants in the area are located here, and the views of the bay, especially at sunset, are outstanding.
After waiting for everyone to arrive, it was time to board the boat. There are a few different options for cruises out of Manuel Antonio/Quepos. Since our son, Sam, was only one, we felt the most comfortable going out on the biggest boat, the Ocean King.
The Ocean King is a 100-foot catamaran with two decks (upper and lower), big open areas to relax, two Jacuzzis, a full bar, bathrooms, and waterslides off the back. After boarding, we were given a safety talk by the crew and were briefed about what our morning would entail. First, we would head south to the shores of Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way, we would be looking for whales (seasonal), dolphins, and seabirds. Next, wed go to a secluded cove for some snorkeling, swimming, jumping, and water-sliding. And finally, wed enjoy lunch (or dinner depending on your tour time) on the way back to the marina.
A Party on the Water
As the boat left the marina and headed into the ocean, the staff put on some upbeat music, set out fresh fruit and light snacks, and opened up the bar. Everyone was allowed four beers and four cocktails each, as well as unlimited juice and soda. Even though it was still mid-morning, the bar got busy with fruity cocktails being handed out with big smiles.
What Youll See
The views of the hilly green coastline are amazing from out on the boat. While on land it seems like there is a lot of development, from the water you can really appreciate how much of Manuel Antonio and Quepos remains engulfed in thick jungle. Adding to the scenery, we passed small rocky islands and local fishing boats too.
Along the way, we saw some seabirds like the Brown Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird. For those of you into birding, these species are considered pelagic. This means that they spend most of their time over the open ocean, with only short periods of rest on tiny islands or drifting wood. Some of them were showing off and got very close to the boat, which was cool for us birding geeks.
The captain and crew were keeping a lookout for dolphins and humpback whales too, but we werent lucky enough to see any on our trip. Dolphins, we were told, can be seen any time of year, but the whales have distinct migration seasons. (Check out our Whale Watching post for more info.) We were at the very start of the December to April migration, which typically has lower numbers of whales. Nonetheless, we had plenty to look at with the islands, birds, and stunning coastline.
It was also interesting to get to see Manuel Antonio National Park from a different angle. As we motored close to shore, one of the crew members told us a little about the park over the P.A. system. Things like how Manuel Antonio National Park is among the smallest parks in the country but also one of the most visited. He then explained about the diversity of wildlife that can be found inside, both on land and in the adjacent area of protected ocean.
The snorkeling and swimming part of the trip was probably our favorite. We stopped in a tranquil cove of the secluded Biesanz Beach. Near the boat there was a rock protruding out of the water that attracted a lot of fish. Although Costa Rica isnt known for having the clearest water for snorkeling, we were surprised that we could see a lot when we got close up.
The swimming was nice since the water was warm. With the boat parked, the crew opened up the two waterslides off the back and a jumping-off point from the top deck. The slides were a hit with kids and adults alike and really shot you out into the water at the end. The jump from the deck was just scary enough to be fun too. It was about 15 feet high and some of the more adventurous people even dove head first!