Surf Guide: Surfing Quepos + Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
If you’re backpacking through Costa Rica, or are simply just hitting a few of the beaches in the southern Pacific region, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of either Quepos or Manuel Antonio. Both beaches offer a completely different vibe, so depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll fall in love with at least one of them.
Personally, I stay in Manuel Antonio, but generally prefer to surf Quepos, assuming the wave is working. These are two HUGE tourism towns in Costa Rica, so if you’re looking for a cheap, remote little surf town, then I highly suggest you seek your stoke somewhere else.
But, if you want to surf some fun breaks, meet beautiful girls (also surf bros for all those surf babes out there), and generally have some very interesting nights, then the Manuel Antonio Quepos gangbang is a great choice for any surf bum’s vacation.
Located only a short 2 hour drive from San Jose, Quepos serves as an ideal place to start your surf journey (especially considering Dominical, Uvita, and Pavones are all just due south). Similar to every tourist heavy town in Costa Rica, you won’t find the 50 cent tacos and 1$ beers here, but you can definitely scrape by if you have a few hundred dollars in the bank account. There’s a ton of epic restaurants and bars all over Manuel Antonio, with equally as much found in Quepos.
Beware! Quepos is home to a ton of sketchy Ticos and prostitutes, so unless you want a little something, something, I wouldn’t talk to any of the “fine” women in high heels.
Stick to the sun-kissed surf girls in the bikinis and you’ll go home with a few stories to brag about.
The Town Quepos + Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Similar to any surf town in Costa Rica, the atmosphere in both Quepos and Manuel Antonio is completely surf orientated. Though you won’t have the abundance of surf hostels and surf shops of Jacó or Tamarindo, you will get a heavy dosage of surfage if you look in the right places.
Though Quepos generally gets a bad rap for robberies and loose women, if you have your head straight, you’ll find that the sketch balls leave you alone. Just stay away from the Quepos pier/boardwalk at night, nothing good ever happens there, seriously never.
Alright, Quepos and Manuel Antonio are two entirely different towns, but they are located within 2 miles of one another, which is why we categorize them together in a surf guide.
Quepos Costa Rica
Quepos is the Tico town located at the bottom of a giant hill, while Manuel Antonio is the town located at the top of the hill. So, you’ll have to pass through Quepos to get to Manuel Antonio, which makes surfing both of them in a weekend super easy.
Quepos Costa Rica
First, let’s talk Quepos. This is a fairly small Tico town located about 2 hours south of San Jose on the beach, just 1 hour south of popular Jacó. Quepos is by no means a beautiful or quaint, not cute town, but the wave that breaks of the jetty makes it a gorgeous town in my opinion.
I don’t visit surf towns because they’re beautiful, I visit surf towns because I can get stoked and drink rum.
If you want to soak in an infinity pool, eat a steak dinner, and get massages all day, my advice is to go to Hawaii.
Quepos is gritty, but safe, so in my opinion, it’s a win-win. From my experiences, the locals in Quepos are a lively bunch and are just looking to get drunk with a few Gringos, so if you sport a smile and a little spirit for adventure, you’ll love it here.
But, for those that are willing to spend a little more money, or just want to enjoy a more aesthetic town, then hop on the bus up to Manuel Antonio for 50 cents and see what it has to offer.
Not A Gringo
Manuel Antonio is a great place for backpackers, couples, solo travelers, families, or basically anyone that wants to wake up on top of a mountain and peer out at the vast Pacific Ocean. Manuel Antonio is perched at the peak of a mountain, so regardless of where you choose to stay, you’ll be able to bask in the glory of Costa Rican jungle.
I’m much more familiar with Manuel Antonio as far as accommodations and eateries, so listen up and you’ll be treated. Depending on you budget, you may want to buy your own food and cook it yourself, but I highly recommend a few restaurants if you have the funds.
First and foremost, El Patio is just about the dankest food in Costa Rica. They blend Caribbean style cuisine with fresh seafood to literally spin heads. Last time I was there, they had a Teriyaki Coconut Mango Tuna steak that I would eat 365 days a year and never complain about.
Though they have gnarly cool combinations of all sorts of seafoods and sauces, you won’t be able to afford this place on a poor man’s budget. Meals are generally like 20$ a plate, so only go here if you can swing it. If you’re working with 5$/day for food, then split the bill at the Super Joseth with your buddy.
You can get two huge ass Tuna steaks, coconut mango marinate, a bag of rice, and fresh veggies for 10$. Don’t believe me? Ask my buddy Uncle Steve, he still talks about my seared Tuna.
Apart from the high end restaurants, you can generally find a fish taco for 2$, but like I said before you’re better off cooking your own meals while in Manuel Antonio.
Surfing Quepos, Costa Rica
Surfing Quepos, Costa Rica
This is a tricky one, because sometimes it works and sometimes it’s flat. I’ve seen it at 1 foot and I’ve seen it at 10 feet and let me tell you, when it’s working at 10, paddle out.
Although I almost always stay in Manuel Antonio, I’ll bus down to Quepos any day if the wave wants to work. The wave is always going to break left, which is rad for everyone, because it’s a super clean left.
The wave isn’t as heavy as say, Dominical, so you can catch it and ride that puppy for a few hundred yards. If you want a barreling wave, then you want a big strong southwest or west swell, because anything under waist height will probably be pretty mushy.
Quepos used to be a pretty rad left that broke to the beach, but with the construction of the jetty, it breaks out pretty deep.
Though everyone thought the construction of the new harbor was going to destroy the wave, it did the exact opposite. Now, the wave peels cleaner, faster, and ultimately makes for a much better ride.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio: There isn’t a whole lot to say about this wave, because it’s going to be your typical fun-sized beach breaking wave. If you head down the beach a few kilometers you’ll hit Playa Playitas.
Playitas brings in much better waves, but Manuel Antonio beach is perfect for beginners or intermediates that want to perfect their style. You can take a bus that runs from Quepos to the beach in Manuel Antonio for just under 1$, which will take you directly to the beach.
You won’t have to pay a national park entry fee, nor deal with too many surf beginners, because the majority of tourism in Manuel Antonio is geared towards birdwatching and hiking.
Although this wave generally stays under head height, if you get a strong SW swell, expect a little power. I’ve had incredibly days at Manuel Antonio and would definitely recommend it to anyone that wants a nice salty long boarding Sunday.
Where to Stay Quepos & Manuel Antonio
Depending on your budget, you can stay at a variety of different places. Hotels are great, houses can be rented, but generally, hostels are the best options for backpackers and surfers.
Hotel Vista Serena Manuel Antonio
Vista Serena: One of the best and most affordable accommodation options in Manuel Antonio. This place is run by Conrad and his mother (both Ticos) and they truly make all their guests feel right at home.
La Serena offers a ton of different room options (dorms, privates, cabinas, etc), so you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs. Rooms go for 10-20$ night and all options are clean and safe. You can lock up your valuables, watch an epic sunset, or just kick it on one of the several hammocks. http://www.vistaserena.com
Backpackers: The long standing backpacker hostel in Manuel Antonio is an affordable, yet not always the safest options for backpackers. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting their packs and boards lifted at cheap hostels, so I usually just splurge the extra 2$ and stay somewhere a bit more comfortable. http://www.backpackersmanuelantonio.com/index.php/en/
La Mariposa Hotel Manuel Antonio
La Mariposa: This is the ultimate option for people who have money to spend, or for those surfers that are visiting during the dead low season. This is a five star resort, but I’ve found accommodation for 120$/night. That’s 60$ a person for easily the best accommodation in the area.
There’s monkeys, toucans, sloths, and all sorts of wildlife running around the hotel, but you obviously won’t be getting your room for 10$. If you have the funds, I’d definitely recommend La Mariposa. http://www.lamariposa.com
To Sum it Up
Quepos and Manuel Antonio are two incredibly beautiful destinations in Costa Rica, especially if you’re somewhat interested in wildlife. I’ve seen just about every animal from whales to sloths here, all while getting a heavy dosage of wave ripping.
It is definitely not you average cheap, surf bum town, but sometimes you have to pay a little extra to have the breathtaking views of this blessed country. If you’re traveling with your girlfriend or family, this is an excellent way to spend time surfing, while also enjoying the wildlife of Costa Rica!