Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast was my solo travel destination for relaxation and rejuvenation in the tiny village of Manzanillo in August 2012. Running my bookkeeping business and taking an Arabic language class at the local community college had worn me out. Did you know Arabic is rated as one of the most difficult languages to learn? Working plus five hours of evening Arabic classes and 10 – 15 hours of homework each week for 12 weeks had inspired my desire to getaway.
My plan was to do nothing. I wanted to relax and take long walks along the beach and do some snorkeling. If I couldn’t walk or swim to it – I wasn’t going to see it. I wanted to enjoy leisurely meals, read all afternoon long and simply enjoy observing my surroundings.
I started my research on the internet and checked out several Costa Rica travel guides from the library. I had difficulty deciding where I wanted to go. The guide books were divided into sections covering each region and I became enamored with each one.
Gradually I concluded the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica would be my destination because it was still rainy season on the Pacific coast. Dry season on the Pacific coast runs from December to April and May through November is the Green Season or rainy season. The Caribbean coast doesn’t have rainy and dry seasons but the driest months are September and October. Visiting in the latter half of August I reckoned I would have decent weather for my vacation in Costa Rica.
Manzanillo is a small town which marks the end of the coastal road on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The nearest town is Puerto Viejo 17 kilometers to the north, rain forest jungle to the west, Caribbean Sea to the east, and jungle right up to the beach to the south. There is snorkeling right off the coast of Manzanillo and the jungle stretches right up to the beach in some places.
End of the road sleepy fishing village with great snorkeling off the coast next to the jungle? Perfect!
Manzanillo seemed like the ideal place to enjoy some chill out time.
I searched for accommodation online and I found great reviews on TripAdvisor for Cabinas Ya Mann. I looked at their website and they listed only two bungalows so I sent an email to inquire about renting one of them and luckily it was available.
I was offered a discounted rate because they were not very busy at that time. Total cost for my 6 nights in Manzanillo was $240 (regular $360) for a gorgeous bungalow near the beach, outdoor kitchen, laundry service, and delicious morning coffee provided too!
In Costa Rica it is illegal to build within 50 meters (164 feet) of the beach. The first 50 meters from the sea is considered public property. What a beautiful concept!
I used United Airlines frequent flyer points for my trip to Costa Rica. I had to fly out of Houston instead of Austin as there was not availability from Austin when I wanted to go. I booked one night at Hostelling International USA’s Morty Rich Hostel – a historic mansion located in a beautiful neighborhood in central Houston with free parking and Wi-Fi. I also booked 2 nights in San José Costa Rica for my arrival and departure days.
Total cost of my trip to Manzanillo Costa Rica:
- Airfare from Houston: $42.41 plus 52,000 United Airlines frequent flyer miles
- 1 night at Morty Rich Hostel in Houston: $29.00
- 2 nights at Hotel La Cuesta in San José Costa Rica $57.00
- Parking at Houston airport $74.00
- 6 nights at Cabinas YaMann in Manzanillo $240.00 (regular $360)
- Bus from San José – Manzanillo – San José and taxi to/from San Jose airport $111.00
- Fuel for drive to/from Houston $30
- Food $433.00
- Shopping $179 (hoodie, 2x wooden bowls, earrings, hand painted bookmarks, hat)
Total cost $1,165.41
Highlights of my trip to Manzanillo Costa Rica – Caribbean Coast
Snorkeling off the coast with brightly colored exotic fish including lots of parrot fish. One morning I saw an amazing manta ray – so elegant and frightening all at once! I had never seen a manta ray and this one was just a few feet away from me. I was surprised to see a manta ray so close to the shoreline but it actually makes sense given their shape. The manta ray swam out to sea and it swam much to fast for me to follow along.
Awakening each morning to the howler monkeys and chorus of tropical birds at 5 am.
My morning barefoot walks along the beach for 2 hours enjoying the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea, the beauty of the coastline and the jungle.
An amazing array of flora and fauna! From the toucans flying overhead, orange tanagers, grey-necked wood rails wandering the grounds, hummingbirds zipping past me every morning to rescue nectar from the hibiscus flowers, blue morpho butterflies, orange frogs, woodpeckers, blue crabs, an army of ants on a mission, Jesus lizards (they can walk on water y) and iguanas – each day I saw something new and amazing in the village of Manzanillo.
I enjoyed evening walks along the beach to watch the sunsets.
Hanging out with other travelers and hearing their stories.
I met Jorge and Yolanda, visiting from San José, on one of my early morning walks. They visited Manzanillo often and showed me some of the interesting flowers and plants along our jungle walk.
I met Curinne and Simon, visiting from France and touring around Costa Rica for 6 weeks, while I was snorkeling. They paid local guide Sergio to show them some of the coral and better snorkeling spots. Sergio invited me to join them instead of swimming on my own so I gladly accepted the invitation.
The water was still very shallow even though we swam a long way out from the coast – something I wouldn’t have done on my own. We saw some interesting coral but the more interesting fish were along the reef closer to the shoreline.
The night the electricity went out and there was total darkness bringing a magnificent view of the stars. I couldn’t stop staring – craning my neck to experience the thousands of stars above. I would love to see that view every night!
Looking for someplace to relax and get rejuvenated? I suggest you take a trip to Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica!
How to get to Manzanillo from San Jose, Costa Rica:
By Car: Take Hwy 32 to Puerto Limon then Hwy 36 towards Puerto Viejo until the road ends. Total driving time is around 4 hours.
By Shuttle: Interbus runs a shuttle service direct from San Jose. This is the most convenient way to get there if you are not driving. Check for updated prices on their website.
By Bus: The public bus leaves from the Gran Terminal Caribe in San Jose 4x daily to Puerto Viejo but only one continues direct all the way to Manzanillo. You can check prices and schedules on this page. (Another great resource to search bus schedules all over Costa Rica is here.)