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Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

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posts: 12
reviews: 5
Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

My family and I are thinking about a 1 week trip to CR in either April or May. We would be taking our two children, 6 and 12. The 12 year old has quite severe autism. I am torn between Manuel Antonio and Montezuma.

We are on a budget and we generally like low key and not a lot of tourists. This is the first time we are doing a trip like this with him.

Is Manuel Antonio "packed" in late April/early May? All the activities seem to be part of a tour. Tours, unless they are private, will not work for us. Are there any "free" hikes you can just do on your own? If in Manuel Antonio we would probably rent a house. Although above our budget, we also thought about the Bungalows at Tulemar because of the private beach and shuttle.

I love what I read about the Montezuma area. Much more off the beaten track, more laid back, much less expensive and more things to do on our own. But I am concerned about the safety of the beaches. If you are just wading, or into about waist level are the beaches safe for swimming? My son usually does not go into the ocean past his knees. But he has only been to the beach a few times and there woud be no way to explain to him how to act in a rip tide. Another issue, although not as important, is the extent of brown versus green at that time of year. Is the area really dry and brown? Is there any green? Some of the pictures I have seen look like Southern California at the end of the summer. Can you still see wildlife?

Has anyone ever traveled with a special needs child? How were you treated both by other tourists and by the locals?

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
posts: 4,266
reviews: 85
1. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

You have a pretty good handle on the difference between the two areas, but the rainfall discrepancy between the two is not that great. The forest by either place is most definitely not what you would find in California.

Wildlife is generally better in Manuel Antonio, though we saw plenty of monkeys while staying at Ylang Ylang beach resort in Montezuma.

Dearborn, Michigan
posts: 562
reviews: 9
2. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

I've been both areas multiple Aprils over the last decade, it's not brown, but when it's hot, you're hoping for that afternoon rain. A lot of the trees seem to be on different cycles than other types.

The week before Easter is cRaZy in Costa Rica (I don't know when it is next year). All the people who live in the country travel to the coasts for vacation. It's fun, but it's much busier (at least in Montezuma). Everyone is back home by Easter Sunday.


Washington DC...
posts: 34
reviews: 8
3. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

I have an Autistic child who is six and I think about this stuff all the time. I haven’t taken him on a plane yet but I love to travel and he loves the beach. I am making my 5th trip to CR in Feb. but not bringing him. I will be looking at everything thinking about how he would do down there. I have been to Montezuma and I don’t remember the ocean being that rough although May can get pretty rough on the Pacific side of CR, in general. Late April can be that way too. I was in Manual Antonio 23 yrs ago and some of its beaches seem to be protected from the brunt of the ocean’s swell. I would think Manual Antonio is busier than Montezuma. I walked the trail to the waterfall in Montezuma for free. However, I walked trails in Manual Antonio after paying a small entrance fee, as well, but not sure how it is now. I hope you have a great time and look forward to hearing about it, if possible.

Destination Expert
for Bermuda
posts: 2,776
reviews: 26
4. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

if less crowded is one of your top priorities, then go to montezuma. tamarindo is very busy and very developed.

montezuma as mentioned above is a lot more affordable due to its wide range of accommodations and free stuff, like the montezuma waterfalls. there is a bridge at the entrance to the path to the falls, where the river meets the sea, it tends to be a good place to splash around in the shallows. for the beach, mornings tend to be better for calmness, before the tradewinds start to pick up later in the day. north of the town there is a path just behind the seemingly never ending beach that is teeming with wildlife, monkeys, birds and many more if you're quiet and patient, all for free. i don't know how your kids are with heights, but there is a "beginner" zipline, meaning not very high, long or fast, but still pretty good. have a look at www.nicoyapeninsula.com/montezuma/ i really liked hotel amor de mar, but i have also stayed at and liked hotel los mangos. they are nearly next door to each other, and out of town so you don't get the noise, but only a 5-10 minute walk away.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 43,338
5. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

Agree with Sonny...but also Manuel Antonio can be good for the whole family...just common sense...check Hotel La Posada Inn...CAbinas Hotel Espadillas...El Bosque...good location...all of them...


Dearborn, Michigan
posts: 562
reviews: 9
6. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

I forgot about answering your questions about your child.

I've been to Costa Rica 20-ish(?) times (mostly the Pacific coast). I'll spend lots of time talking to other tourists (with and without kids). I haven't noticed a lot of special needs kids traveling. Or if I did, there weren't any issues so it didn't stick in my head. Tourist kids ALWAYS seem like they are having fun around there.

Sometimes the waves are pretty rough around there on the big beach, but there is a smaller beach too, if he's only going up to his knees, probably not much of a problem.

I like to go to the bigger beach out farther and bounce around with the big waves and I'm an awful swimmer (seriously, it's more like flailing around) and it's been okay for me. Just once, I went out a little far and got a little nervous (but that was one of many and the water was more than 6 feet deep).

I'd say Montezuma is a very kid friendly town and area. There is an elementary school in town too. If you've never been to Montezuma, it's more of a village, it's very small.

The pool at the bottom of the big waterfall is very swimmable, BUT it's really steep around the edges of there, so it'd be virtually impossible for him to go into it just knees deep. But there are lots of other spots of water that he could play in farther downriver.

The access to the big waterfall from the bottom is free (you're hiking on or by the river) and reasonably easy, I've seen many kids do it and even a few blind people. From the top of the waterfall, it's a bit of up and down but probably not as much for the kids to see since they'd have to swim across a steep pond to even to get to the more interesting places.

Up the beach there are some more waterfalls, but that's 2 hours, so that might be far for the kids. I'm not sure what the options are for parking in that area, I usually don't have transport when I go to Montezuma. I know you can to a tour with horses to there.

South of Montezuma (you need to catch the bus or drive), there is Cabo Blanco National Reserve (park), it costs money ($10 for adults) but has 2 paths (2 hours to the beach or a shorter loop) and you will see animals (lots in my experience) if you stop every so often and are quiet you will see things in my experience. It's hilly though, but cement blocks are put in as steps. It might be a little rough for the kids but there is a tree with bats in it (bring a flashlight), monkeys, and the weird anteater/raccoon things that I can never remember the name of.

I believe all national parks are closed on Mondays and most (if not all) are closed on Tuesdays. The Tuesday part is just a few years old, so all tour guides don't have it properly. I know Cabo Blanco is closed both. I know Manual Antonio used to be closed on Monday's but I've not been down that way since they Tuesday thing started.

There is the butterfly garden up the hill from Montezuma too, they have a small nature area and a enclosed butterfly area. Everyone there is every nice, I stop for a Coke occasionally on the way back. I've never gone to see the butterflies though so no review for that, I just always think "next time".


posts: 12
reviews: 5
7. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

Thank you for all of the wonderful suggestions. I think that we will definately be going to the montezuma area. Although we may go for June instead of April/May.

posts: 12
reviews: 5
8. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

Barney049, I will let you know how it goes. My husband is Israeli and my son was born in Israel and spent the first 5 years of his life there. We have been back and forth several times, the last time he was 7 years old. The doctor gave him something so that he would sleep through the flight. There was no other way.

Atlanta, GA
posts: 307
reviews: 1
9. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

Easter is way earlier in 2013 (end of March), so late April, early may would be a good time to go in terms of crowds. I would try to push into May to get better hotel pricing (normally all the rates gow down around May 1). Its been my experience that Costa Rica is one of the most accepting places I've ever been to and I would expect the same hospitality and openess they show to everyone.

while I love Montezuma, someone else mentioned the Southern Caribbean area, and if you're looking for something off the beaten path and less traveled, the Puerto Viejo area might be a great option for you. There is TONS of wildlfe, the accomodations are cute, and for the most part reasonable but with North American standards (check out La Costa del Papito and Cariblue for families). There are lots of different beaches within walking distance or a reasonable drive (under 30 minutes) of the main area of PV and plenty of wading areas. There is also the Sloth Sanctuary and Jaguar Rescue Center. It is a little easier to get to than Montezuma (no ferry) although still about 4 hrs from SJO, but a nice drive through Braulio Carillo and good roads.

Knowlton, Canada
posts: 109
reviews: 7
10. Re: Montezuma versus Manuel Antonio with special needs child

Hi there,

We've been in the Montezuma area with our kids (8 and 6) for the past couple of months, and they are okay at the local beaches. The one just north of Montezuma can sometimes be a little rough depending on the tide, but it's fine if the kids don't go past their waist level. North of that beach there's another beach where there's a little river that flows very gently into the ocean. The river has natural pools with cooler, very-slow-moving water and might be another option for your son. Just check the pools yourself first because some can be a little deep in spots.

There are also a couple of other rivers flowing into the ocean a short bus or cab ride south of Montezuma (Rio Miguelon and Rio Lahas) where lots of people like to go swimming because there's shade, nice shallow natural pools and the water cooler than the ocean.

Btw, Montezuma and nearby Santa Teresa have a fairly big community of Israeli expats.

Pura vida,