Top 5 Best Activities You Can Do in Manzanillo, Costa Rica
Natural wonders await visitors to Manzanillo on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coastline. The area, which is situated within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge, is home to all manner of beautiful animal species, from monkeys and sloths to stunning birds of paradise. And then there are the area’s beaches – a number of which offer classic paradise-like white sands and palm fronds. But with so much vying for your attention, just where do you start when planning your stay? Read on for just a few of the popular attractions in and around Manzanillo – from animal sanctuaries to rich fishing opportunities.
1.Wildlife Refuge Gandoca-Manzanillo with hikes to monkey point and bird watching
Wildlife fans will be in heaven during any visit to Manzanillo, which is close to a range of rare animal and plant species, as well as a number of pristine habitats – including rainforest and mangrove swamp, the latter of which is a rarity on the Atlantic coast. Indeed, such is the area’s vibrant nature that Manzanillo itself lends its name to the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches all the way down the coast to Panama as well as westward towards the nearby town of Punta Uva and its spectacular beaches. And speaking of coastline, the reserve is home to plenty of palm-fringed sands itself as well as coral reefs which are not only a haven for all manner of coastal species – including turtles, manatees and many varieties of fish – but are also a popular spot for divers. The huge size of the reserve also means it is home to a range of walking trails. Some of these can be challenging, so be prepared and possibly consider taking a guide. Among the more accessible of these routes is the one out to Monkey Point, which as the name suggests is a good spot to see the area’s simian species. The extensive forest is also home to a wide array of exotic birds. But more on them in a moment.
And, speaking of the charms of nature, the Ara Project is another attraction that will appeal to wildlife enthusiasts looking to get up close to some of Costa Rica’s magnificent animal life. The project’s Manzanillo center is one of two bases it operates in Costa Rica as part of efforts to protect and restore two of the country’s spectacular macaw species – the Scarlet and the Great Green. At Manzanillo, its efforts are focussed on the Great Green Macaw – a bird that was once found across the Caribbean. Today only 1000 individuals are thought to remain in the wild, driven into pockets of the virgin forest by poachers, wild bird traders and logging activities. Visitors are welcome to pop along to the Manzanillo release site for an hour each day – by prior appointment – and will be treated to a tour out to a lookout point that not only enjoys magnificent views of the jungle and ocean but also offers a chance to glimpse these beautiful birds flying free. What’s more, those who are lucky will be able to spot all manner of other wildlife – including three species of toucan, monkeys, reptiles, and frogs. The forest is even home to pumas. And if a visit to the Ara Project whets the appetite for further wildlife adventures, then there’s the Jaguar Rescue Center west of Manzanillo in nearby Puerto Viejo de Talamanca which is worth a visit too.
3.Manzanillo beach with a great reef to do snorkeling
The wider wildlife refuge is home to a number of picturesque beaches, but one particular gem is Manzanillo Beach itself. Referred to in some quarters as one of the region’s most beautiful stretches of coast, it features the picture-postcard white sands and palm fronds so often associated with paradise vacations. The beach itself is among the quieter sands of the local area, while its position within the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Reserve means that its protected waters are a haven for wildlife. The offshore reef, for example, is protected and is a particularly popular spot for snorkellers and scuba divers. Among the species you may be lucky to glimpse during your visit are the likes of dolphins and manatees. What’s more, if you time your visit well then you may also see a green sea turtle – the local beaches being a popular nesting spot for these fascinating reptiles between February and May – just make sure not to disturb them.
4.Manzanillo town with restaurants that do cultural cooking
Fans of new culinary adventures and tasty treats are also catered for during a visit to Manzanillo. If you know where to look there are a number of well-reviewed eateries on offer, many of which are right next to the sands of Manzanillo’s beach. Among the eateries are a number of sodas, such as the likes of the Cool and Calm Cafe, which offers a mix of Caribbean barbecue, seafood, and central American dishes. Food fans who tucked into its offerings loved the smell of the meat on the charcoal and the chance to sit back and watch the surf hit the beach. Another option that tempts passers-by is the dishes at nearby Soda Mima, which drew praise from past customers for is empanadas and its seafood. The relaxed atmospheres of the Mango Tree Cafe and the Cocoloba Lounge are other options available, while the likes of Maxi’s Restaurant is one of the larger establishments in the village – its mix of seafood, Latin and Caribbean dishes proving popular among those enjoying the beach or the local wildlife park.
5.Boats of Manzanillo that take you out for dolphin and fishing tours
Angling enthusiasts looking to indulge in a little sea fishing during their travels will find plenty to entertain them in the waters around Manzanillo. Located just outside the village is Tarponville Lodge, which offers floating lines and intermediate fishing opportunities within its shallow waters. And, as the name would suggest, the area is a popular spot among those looking to catch some tarpon. Fish weighing between 90 and 120 pounds are not uncommon catches, and some monsters weighing more than 200 pounds have even been caught on a fly line. The site even offers fishing lessons for the less experienced. And, if fishing is not on your ‘to do’ list, there are plenty of other aquatic-based activities to enjoy – including boat trips out to the reef and dolphin spotting opportunities. The waters are home to three different species of dolphins – the common bottlenose dolphin, the smaller Tucucxi, and the Atlantic Spotted – giving you plenty of potential options to aim your camera at.
Plenty of adventures await
Hopefully, these ideas will have provided you with some inspiration when looking to pack your Manzanillo holiday with sightseeing adventures. And with even more activities available – from scuba diving to a jaguar animal sanctuary – there’s likely something for everyone in this corner of Costa Rica. For more destination guides and accommodation reviews, check out Trip101.