We loved every minute of our 6 night, 5 day stay here. The beaches are magnificent - although the center of Playa Espadilla was crowded the first week in January - but not crowded like East Coast US beaches - just not empty. Playa Espadilla is very much a beach town, and there will be people who approach you to rent chairs, sell you stuff, but not like I've heard it is in other such places.
We recommend Nature Vacations to arrange your transportation from San Jose to your destination - we were 4 hours delayed getting from Charlotte, NC to San Jose & a driver was waiting for us and drove us to our hotel near Quepos - it's 3.5 hours and would have been great if it was day time - but it was a fairly comfortable ride. We flew Nature Air from Quepos "airport" to San Jose for the trip back - and got a van from the Pavos airport where they come in to the main San Jose airport. Really nice van driver - Fermin Rodriguez, (--). www. naturevacations.com.
Manuel Antonio National Park is amazing - it had been very dry for a month before we arrived, so we didn't see the variety of wildlife one can see in the rainy season, but we did see iguanas, howler monkeys, sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys (EVERYWHERE), lizards, bats, tcrabs, a killer bee nest, etc. It is worth it to have a certified guide at least once in the park - we had William Perez (--) and he was terrific. His cousin Michael, we are told, is also very good. The guides talk to each other to make sure they are aware of great finds of wildlife in the park.
As for restaurants - we ate at Rafael's Terrazzo, a new local-owned place - excellent and lots of food - but expect if you are loud that the locals might poke a bit of gentle fun at you... It has a view too. We enjoyed the brochette at Ronny's Place, and salads/nachos at Marlin, and food and live music at Mar Luna. There are many sunset viewing spots - La Mariposa is the best, I think! Ceibo the bartender at La Mariposa became like family to us after our week-long stay.
Cafe Milagro has amazing coffee and good food - they have two locations, one near La Mariposa and one in Quepos. It's owned by a couple USA ex-pats but is authentic Costa Rican food.
For some fun, call Luis the cab driver at (--). He laughs the whole way and plays sounds out of the cab; safe driver, a little nutty personality!
A magical trip, all in all.