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- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
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The small yet booming port town of Quepos (pop. 12,000) is the gateway for travelers heading to Manuel Antonio National Park, seven kilometers south over a sinuous mountain road lined with hotels, restaurants, and bars. Banana plantations were established in the nearby flatlands in the 1930s, and Quepos rose to prominence as a banana-exporting port.
The plantations were blighted by disease in the 1950s, and the bananas were replaced by African palms, which produce oil for food, cosmetics, and machines. The trees stretch in neatly ordered rows for miles north and south of Quepos.
Quepos is sportfishing central! Half a dozen sportfishing outfits are based here. In 2010, the 196-slip Marina Pez Vela (tel. 506/2777-9069, www.marinapezvela.com) opened stage one, positioning Quepos for the kind of boom that Los Sueúos Marina inspired at Playa Herradura.
The waters off Quepos’s El Cocal beach are contaminated—avoid swimming!
There’s little of interest to see in town, except perhaps the dilapidated fishing village of Boca Vieja, with rickety plank walkways extending over a muddy beach; and the equally dilapidated old residential compound of the Standard Fruit Company in the hills south of town.
Santa Juana Mountain Tour
Deep in the Fila Chonta mountains inland of Quepos, the community of Santa Juana is at the center of an ambitious ecological project established by Jim Damalas, owner of the Hotel Si Como No in Manuel Antonio. Community members are being engaged in ecotourism projects, such as breeding butterflies, reforestation, and growing and making products for use in local hotels. Meanwhile, the 1,000-hectare terrain is a pristine mountain sanctuary with trails, waterfalls, and natural swimming pools.
The Santa Juana Mountain Tour (tel. 506/2777-1043, www.sicomono.com/tours/) grants access and provides an educational “farm experience” (such as picking coffee or citrus) that includes a campesino lunch. An INBio biological station is planned, and there’s a butterfly garden and snake exhibit. There are two tour options: a horseback tour ($65 pp, three-person minimum) and the Mountain Adventure ($110 pp, two-person minimum).
Rancho Los Tucanes (tel. 506/2777-0775, www.rancholostucanes.com), near Londres on the banks of the Río Naranjo, offers ATV tours and horseback rides to the 90-meter Los Tucanes waterfall in a private wildlife reserve.
En route you’ll pass Villa Vanilla (tel. 506/2779-1155, www.rainforestspices.com), at Buena Vista, 10 kilometers east of Quepos, an organic spice farm with three kilometers of trails. It has fascinating educational two-hour tours that include a hike to a massive ceiba tree ($20). It has a well-stocked store.
Buses run from Quepos to Londres daily at 4:30 A.M., 7 A.M., 9 A.M., noon, 4 P.M., and 6 P.M.
Entertainment and Events
Quepos’s three-week Carnival (mid-Feb. to early Mar.) offers plenty of entertainment.
The unpretentious and air-conditioned Wacky Wanda’s Bar (tel. 506/2777-2245, 3 P.M.–1 A.M. Thurs.–Tues.) and Los Pescadores Bar (tel. 506/2777-1827), next door, are Key West kind of places for seafarers and working girls. The latter shows NFL games on a 50-inch screen and is popular with gringo expats of a certain age. For live music and impromptu dancing, try El Gran Escape (tel. 506/2777-0395, 8 A.M.–midnight daily), which also shows NFL games on the big screen.
For dancing, locals gravitate to Arco Iris (tel. 506/2777-2061, 9 P.M.–4 A.M., $5), an air-conditioned disco on a barge north of the bridge in town; don’t even think of getting here before midnight. The DJ spins everything from reggae to salsa.
A more discerning dance crowd heads to the upscale New York–style Republik Lounge (tel. 506/8394-7350, 6 P.M.–2:30 A.M. daily, $2 men), a chic venue for sounds from Latin to electronic; Wednesday is ladies’ night. Start out two blocks south at Bogart’s Bar (tel. 506/2777-0007, www.bogartscostarica.com), which opened in 2010 as Quepos’ first chic lounge-bar. I’m not fond of the teal-gray decor by day, but the mood at night is pretty cool. It has WiFi and hosts live R&B on Monday.
Hotel Kamuk (tel. 506/2777-0811, noon–3 A.M. daily) has a 24-hour casino.
Lynch Travel Service (tel. 506/2777-1170, www.lynchtravel.com) and Safari Tours (tel. 506/2777-0100) offer a full range of local tours.
For guided horseback tours, try Finca Valmy Tours (tel. 506/2779-1118, www.valmytours.com). You can even overnight on a six-hour round-trip ride into the mountains and Santa María de Dota.
If you care to whiz through the treetops on a zip line, three canopy tours compete: Canopy Safari (tel. 506/2777-0100, www.canopysafari.com); Titi Canopy Tour (tel. 506/2777-3130, www.titicanopytours.com), at La Foresta Nature Resort, where you can even take a night tour; and Dream Forest Canopy (tel. 506/2777-4567, www.dreamforestcanopy.com).
If getting soaked while rappelling a waterfall sounds like fun, call Quepos Canyoning (tel. 506/2779-1127, www.quepocanyoning.com).
Iguana Tours (tel. 506/2777-2052, www.iguanatours.com) offer sea-kayaking trips, boat tours of the mangroves, river-rafting trips, and horseback rides. H2O Adventures (tel. 506/2777-4092 or 888/532-3298, www.h2ocr.com), a division of Ríos Tropicales, has similar tours; and Safari Mangrove Tours (tel. 506/2777-7111, www.safarimangrove.com) specializes in kayak trips to Damas.
Planet Dolphin (tel. 506/2777-1647, www.planetdolphin.com) has a boat tour in search of whales and dolphins ($65, with snorkeling), plus a catamaran adventure to Manuel Antonio National Park ($65). Sunset Sails Tours (tel. 506/2777-1304, www.sunsetsailstours.com) offers sailing excursions by trimaran. For diving, contact Oceans Unlimited (tel. 506/2777-3171, www.oceansunlimitedcr.com).
The Quepos region offers outstanding sportfishing for marlin and sailfish, December through August, while the inshore reefs are home to snapper, amberjack, wahoo, and tuna. The many operators in Quepos include: Blue Pearl (tel. 506/2777-2516, www.sailingtourmanuelantonio.com); Costa Rica Dreams Sportfishing (tel. 506/2637-8942, www.costaricadreams.com); Quepos Sailfishing Charters (tel. 800/603-0015, www.queposfishing.com); J. P. Sportfishing Tours (tel. 506/2777-1613, www.jpsportfishing.com); Reel Deal Sportfishing (tel. 506/2777-0007, www.reeldealsportfishing.net); and Bluefin Sportfishing (tel. 506/2777-2222, www.bluefinsportfishing.com).
Zoíla, a delightful Cuban, rolls excellent quality cigars at House of Cuban Cigars (tel. 506/2777-2208, 7 A.M.–6 P.M. Mon.–Sat.). Quepos has a dozen or so great souvenir stores; the best is Mot Mot (tel. 506/2777-3559), specializing in crafts using native woods. Jaime Peligro Books (tel. 506/2777-7106, 9:30 A.M.–5:30 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) has a huge selection of used (and some new) books.
Getting to Quepos
Both SANSA and Nature Air have scheduled daily service to Quepos. Lynch Travel Service (tel. 506/2777-1170, www.lynchtravel.com) can make reservations. SANSA offers hotel/airport transfers ($5 pp).
Transportes Delio Morales buses (tel. 506/2223-5567, in Manuel Antonio tel. 506/2777-0318) depart San José daily for Quepos from Calle 16, Avenida 3, at 6 A.M., 9 A.M., noon, 2:30 P.M., 6 P.M., and 7:30 P.M. (direct, 4.5 hours, $7). Return buses depart Quepos at 4 A.M., 6 A.M., 9:30 A.M., noon, 2:30 P.M., and 5 P.M. Six slower buses also operate daily.
Transportes Quepos (tel. 506/2777-0743) buses depart Puntarenas daily at 5 A.M., 8 A.M., 11 A.M., 12:30 P.M., 2:30 P.M., and 4:30 P.M., returning at 4:30 A.M., 7:30 A.M., 10:30 A.M., 12:30 P.M., 3 P.M., and 5:30 P.M. The ticket office in Quepos is open 7–11 A.M. and 1–5 P.M. Monday–Saturday, 7 A.M.–2 P.M. Sunday. Interbus (tel. 506/2283-5573 or 506/2777-7866, www.interbusonline.com) has shuttles between Quepos and San José, as well as to other major tourist destinations.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition