Ponce de Leon, in his search for the fountain of youth, discovered Quepos in 1519. Named for the Quepoa Indian population he encountered, this seaside gem has evolved through the banana industry, to palm oil, to tourism; which is now the area’s leading product. In the late 1800’s, vast banana plantations were developed throughout the region. Bananas were shipped to world markets from the docks that now service the renowned sportfishing and diving operations. In the 1980’s the focus became the hearty African Palms with their high quality palm oil. Throughout all this transition the area has maintained marvelous charm and Quepos has established itself as a premier vacation destination, boasting the distinctions of world-class ecotourism and sportfishing to name just a couple of highlights.

Quepos is the gateway to perhaps the most popular National Park in all of Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio. The trails within the park lead to some of the most dazzling and secluded white-sand beaches in all of Central America. The emerald coves and a jungle-lined shoulder reaching an island of serenity will literally take your breath away. You may catch glimpses of whimsical spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, loud and colorful parrots, giant toucans, three-toed sloths, as well as many exotic flowering plants and vibrantly colored insects, including luminescent butterflies that inspire and overwhelm the senses. You may even see some of the last remaining squirrel or ‘titi’ monkeys left in all of Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio Park is one of the two restricted habitats of the highly endangered titi, or squirrel monkey. The birding opportunities are amazing, with more than 350 species spotted in the park’s small boundaries. Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, but no doubt one of the most appreciated by locals and tourists alike and is second in visitors only to Poas National Park. Easy walking trails boast panoramic views of Costa Rica’s dramatic coastline and meander through primary rainforest with over 300 species of trees. Stunning! The park is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday except Mondays. Admission is $ 10 U.S. dollars for non-residents, and children under 12 enter free of admission. Guided tours are available and highly recommended.

The town center of Quepos is a charming blend of seaside restaurants, bars, hotels, bakeries, art galleries and gift shops. High Season runs December to April, and is mostly dry but still lush and beautiful. The Festival del Mar dominates the month of February and features concerts, sporting events, parades and a street carnival with dancers from across the country. Quepos is brimming by Christmas, which is great fun. The friendly locals are joined year round by families, surfers, ecotourists, backpackers, fishermen and take it all in stride, maintaining their own special brand of Pura Vida. For people-watching, don’t miss Playa Espadilla just before the Manuel Antonio Park entrance, with its colorful street vendors and restaurants.

The panoramic views offered by the natural landscape are truly gorgeous, and can be enjoyed in a wide variety of accommodations from boutique hotels to luxury villas. Buena Vista Villas, La Mansion, and Hotel El Parador are wonderful, each with unique charm and unparalleled views. Buena Vista Villas is great for romantic honeymoon-like getaways, featuring privacy and the utmost elegance. The Parador is great for families, with lovely service, kid and adult friendly pool with a swim-up bar, and a family friendly restaurant. The view from the Parador pool is my favorite in all of the area. La Mansion is a cozy boutique experience that provides the service and cuisine that is all luxury, but with the personal touch by the friendly staff that really makes the experience above and beyond.

The activities to choose from are impressive: canopy zip-line tours, estuary/mangrove tours, sport fishing, scuba, snorkeling, hiking, naturalist tours, sunset catamaran cruises, kayaking, river rafting, surfing, spa experiences, horse back riding, jet skiing, waterfall excursions, etc. etc. etc. Iguana Tours is a trusted and great source that is fantastic for service. Lesser known is the ‘Spice Tour”, which is very unique and intriguing. Farm Villa Vanilla is a tropical laboratory for sustainable agriculture, 10 miles East of Quepos and includes 27 acres of agriculture production and 125 acres of primary and secondary rainforest. The organic, biodynamic crops include vanilla from the vanilla orchid, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, and a variety of exotic fruits, essential oil and medicinal plants. The tour takes you through the sights and smells of all these crops, plus informing along the way about sustainable practices such as: composting, animal husbandry, and permaculture. Some spice treats and packs are included with the tour. After the tour you can pick up the spices in the spice shop. You will come away with an unforgettable experience of what makes the tropical rainforest unique.

Another unique experience, especially if you are a nature lover or are traveling with your children, is the Kids Saving The Rainforest in Quepos. Ahh, what one young person with vision, passion, and community support can do. For more information visit http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/.

The reforestation, rehabilitation of animals and other projects are worthy causes. At their Saturday Camp, local and visiting children learn about the rainforest and everything in it: trees, plants, insects, and animals, such as sloths, kinkajous, and titi monkeys. Learn ways to help and try to save the rainforest and specifically to prevent the titi monkey from extinction. Create artwork, some of which will be sold to help save the rainforest in the KSTR store. It is a fun-filled learning experience to empower kids to save the planet.

These are just a few highlights of the many magical things in store for you in the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area. We can design a Quepos Costa Rica Vacation just for you, crafted by our local, passionate travel designers who live for providing the above and beyond! Ponce de Leon was on to something!

Lisa Khajavi