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Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

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Brooklyn, New York
3 posts
Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

We are going to be spending the month of February in a house in Atenas and want to plan a weekend trip to the beach. We have children ages 4 and 7, so I'd like to find somewhere where it is really easy to walk out the door and be on the beach, and with calm waters that little kids can splash around in. It sounds like Manuel Antonio is prettier than Jaco, but I'm concerned that it might be too much to pack up our stuff and drive to the beach - especially since we'll probably only last a few hours there - so Jaco might be better for young kids? Also we'll have seen a lot of jungle stuff/hiking up by Atenas already. On the other hand, we're really not party people, and will not be happy in a super noisy, crowded, touristy town. Any advice?

Denver, CO
Level Contributor
197 posts
63 reviews
1. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

The south end of Jaco sounds like a great choice for you. I have a 4 year old and she can spend hours playing down there while Daddy tries to surf on the smaller waves.

Some of our favorite activties with our daughter is going to Backyard on Saturday night to watch the surf comp. She loves playing in the sand at our feet while we watch, ice cream at POPS, going to the park, and she loves the swing set at El Hicaco (high priced restaurant that is just ok, great to go for drink/apps).

Destination Expert
for Jaco, Bocas Town
Level Contributor
3,909 posts
128 reviews
2. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Both Jaco and MA public beaches have rips so you do need to be careful. The beaches in the MA Park are more what you are looking for, but it is a process to get to those beaches. I agree with Pumpkin that the south end of Jaco beach is your best option for what you are asking for.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
44,965 posts
28 reviews
3. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

I will take my family to MA...more to see regarding wild life in MA than JAco...and kids love wild life!


Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
4,758 posts
95 reviews
4. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

MA is a kids-friendly destination.

Jaco is known for, well, stuff you don't want your kids exposed to.

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
6,660 posts
22 reviews
5. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Atenas is a dry environment so you won't be surrounded by rainforest. Trees maybe but not lush, particularly in February which is well into dry season. Unless you check out Carrara on a different weekend you might not have any exposure to jungle stuff without a trip to MA

The beach inside the national park at Manuel Antonio is much safer than beaches outside the park or in Jaco IMO. Anyplace that's well known for surfing has issues with rip currents. The wildlife inside the MA national park is memorable, expecially for kids that age.

Grecia, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Province of Alajuela
Level Contributor
7,238 posts
43 reviews
6. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Manuel Antonio would get my vote. Great beaches, relatively calm water, great wildlife viewing, I was there a couple of weeks ago and had a blast, never get tired of it.

If you spend any time in Arenal there are 2 hikes up that way I really dig. Rio Celeste and Cerro Chato. Rio is a mid level hike and Cerro Chato is more extreme.

Playa Guiones...
Destination Expert
for Nosara
Level Contributor
1,827 posts
4 reviews
7. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Look at La Posada Jungle Hotel in Manuel Antonio. It's right next to the park entrance and the beach is about a 5 minute walk, tops, on flat land. And, they have a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen! Plenty of room for your family!


Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
4,758 posts
95 reviews
8. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Second the recommendation for La Posada. Great little place that actually shares a fence with the national park.

San Jose
Level Contributor
998 posts
23 reviews
9. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

Taking into consideration what you first talked about, like not driving much and be able to spend a relaxed weekend at the beach, I would also recommend you consider Punta Leona. I have little kids, 10 and 5 and they love it there because it is a very short drive, around an hour and Playa Blanca is truly a very child friendly environment. Summer time in February you will find lots of other families in the resort and your kids will have a very good time at the beach. If not Punta Leona, I would also vote for Manuel Antonio.

10. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio with Young Kids

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