Although most people go to Manuel Antonio just to see the National Park, we decided to spend an extra day poking around, and exploring everything the little town had to offer.
Our adventure was well worth it, the town is full of great restaurants, coffee shops, and hidden beaches. Plus, with the hilly terrain, there are breathtaking views at every turn. So without further ado, here are our favourite places in Manuel Antonio
Emilio’s Cafe– One of the first things I asked David when we checked into our hostel was, “where is the best place for coffee?” My stomach was finally feeling better, and I was ready to jump back on the coffee band wagon. He recommended Emilio’s, which was only about a 7 minute walk from our hostel.
Emilio’s is, just off the main road to Manuel Antonio near the Falafel Bar. It is an open concept coffee shop/restaurant which means when you peer through the door from the road, you can already see that the view is breathtaking.
Shaun, and I popped in here one morning after a beach walk. As we sat outside, looking out over the National Park, sipping a Cappuccino and a Gingerale, and listening to Jack Johnson, I knew I would be writing about this place. Luckily for me, I hadn’t brought my camera, so I had the perfect excuse to come back later in the afternoon for another coffee, to snap some photo’s, and use their free WiFi to catch up on some blogging.
Emilio’s offers a small, but delicious looking menu. The morning we were there, the special was a French Toast with pineapple, and ginger syrup. Holy yum! Their dessert display was even more tempting. I was astounded by the sheer physics of their Mississippi Mud Pie. A towering pie of whipped cream, and chocolate that seemed beyond belief. My Cappuccino had the most beautiful coffee art on the top, something that I’ve always taken for granted at home, but so appreciate when I find it here.
Although it is only about 3km from the bustling tourist hub near the park, the chilled out atmosphere makes Emilio’s feel like a different world. If you are looking to relax, have coffee, enjoy some amazing food, and enjoy a view that will take your breath away, Emilio’s Cafe is the place to be.
El Avion: This restaurant seems to be a rite of passage for guests visiting Manuel Antonio, and rightly so. It’s not everyday that you come across a restaurant inside a green cargo plane that is perched precariously on the top of a hill. Since you have to pass it on your way to the park, many tourists get curious, and stop either on their way to the park, or on their way back.
The story about how this plane ended up on the side of the road in Manuel Antonio is full of mystery, corruption, and scandal. You can read all about it here.
I had visited the restaurant three years ago on a previous visit, but Shaun had never seen it. We made a point to stop in for a happy hour to check out both the feat of engineering, and the breathtaking view.
If you are eating, make sure you keep an eye out when your food arrives. The kitchen is below, and food is delivered fuselage dumbwaiter!
If you visit, make sure you check out the bar inside the plane. It is open during the day, but at night converts into a night club. You can go right in, and sit in the cockpit!
If you are leaving Manuel Antonio after a big day at the park, I highly suggest making a pit stop at El Avion. Don’t worry if you are sweaty, sandy or wet, they are used to it. It’s a great place for a meal, snack, beverage or final photo op before making your way back home.
Raw Food Express– Okay, so this one is a little bit of a cheat, as it’s actually located in Quespos, a town located about 6km from Manuel Antonio.
We were lucky enough to be in the area over the weekend, which meant the farmer’s market was open on the boardwalk in Quespos. So, we hopped on the bus to check it out.
The market was lovely. It was mostly vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruits, and of course Pipas. There were a few artisans selling jewellery, soaps, and clothes, but one vendor in particular caught my eye.
The table for Raw Food Express was covered in all sorts of amazing raw food items. As many of you know, I’m always on the look out for unique healthy options while travelling here, so I had to stop and take a look.
I met Debbie, and Gabrielle whose passion for raw healthy food was evident.I scanned their many products, and was impressed by the diversity, and uniqueness of their merchandise. There were so many items that I hadn’t seen in Costa Rica before like: raw cookies, coconut milk, raw crackers, Spirulina, and even my beloved peanut butter.
I could have bought it all, but when my eyes fell upon Kale chips, I knew there would be a sale. Our next stop on our trip was to a remote town, and we didn’t have a fridge. I had been trying to figure out how I was going to get my vegetables in while we were there. Kale chips were the perfect solution. I opted for two bags, one honey mustard, and one herb flavoured. I am eating them as we speak, and they are so delicious.
Raw Food Express also makes food that you can pre order, and pick up at the market. Everything from raw lasagne with zucchini noodles, to mango sushi. A great option for those interested in raw food, but unsure how to get started.
If you are into raw food, or just looking for some healthy alternatives while travelling in Manuel Antonio, I would definitely look up Raw Food Express. Try the honey mustard kale chips, you won’t be disappointed!
So there you have it, our favourite places in Manuel Antonio. There are lots more where that came from, so if you are looking for more recommendations, drop me a line!
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