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Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

Golden, CO
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98 posts
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Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

We are trying to decide whether to stay at MA or Jaco. I beleive we had initally thought MA because we can combine the beach with closer proximity to jungle and wildlife. Can anyone give me som epros and cons between the two location???

St. Petersburg...
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1,158 posts
43 reviews
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1. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

MA has a wonderful park with lots of wildlife, nice restaurant & hotels for all budgets, nice beaches in the park, great views and lots of activities to keep you busy.

Just me personally, I wouldn't spend time in Jaco, the beach is unimpressive and they have issues with drugs & hookers.

San Francisco...
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299 posts
8 reviews
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2. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

I agree with Mdori. Jaco is flat and somewhat like a Mexican beach town while Manuel Antonio is tryly beautiful with a great variety and good places to stay and eat.

3. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

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San Jose
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212 posts
2 reviews
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4. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

I ,must say that Jaco is in my opinion the best place to stay in all CR why ? Well LOCATION is every thing and Jaco is centrally located , so U can spend the day in MA and B back for sun set Jaco has a great sunset no one can denny that,the list of thing to do around Jaco is too long to mention and as far as price Jaco has more places to pick to fit Ur bubget than any other beach town south of the,and lets not forget the restaurants can not even beging to compare to MA, In Jaco you can find food to fit all taste and pocket, as afr as beaches there are manny beaches to visit including a blue flad beach called Agujas not to go into details of Playa Blance probably the cleanest beach with the whites sand in all CR and is only 15 minutes north of Jaco .

I agree with birdguide , You have to be kidding , has even 4 banks ( 2 International) as far as being like Mexico that's got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard .

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2,234 posts
1 review
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5. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio


You asked for some Pros and Cons and indeed you got some. But you also got a lot of bias on both sides. If truth be told there is good and bad to each place and, while many people here may have THEIR personal preferences, if one must be chosen over another tha the selection depends largely on YOUR personal preferences. So here is my take as objectively as I can state it.

BEACHES - While it is true that it costs $6 per day to enter Manuel Antonio Park, it is well worth checking it out as it has some of the most beautiful beaches in CR. Also, get there early as the limit the number of park visitors to only 600 at any one time. Personally, I wouldn't recommend the free public beach in front of MA Park as it gets crowded and noisy.

Jaco's main beach probably rates at the opposite extreme for CR. It is a dirty black sand beach with lots of litter and less than pristine water. BTW, if you swim watch out for undertows at both Jaco and MA and if you just plan to lay on the sand realize that black sand beaches are nice to look but can be very dirty on the body. On the plus side for the Jaco area, there are other nicer beaches nearby though none to my own knowledge as nice as those inside MA.

JUNGLE AND WILDLIFE - Jaco is a beach-town beach with little immediate wildlife (unless you count what goes on in the bars at night). MA is famous for having jungle and wildlife coming right up to the beaches edge (one can watch monkeys cavort in the trees from your blanket on the sand). OTOH, if you want to do beaches one day and jungles the next (or even seperate them into morning and afternoon activities), there is plenty to see in BOTH areas. The MA area strikes me as a bit more tropical but Jaco is near the rough boundary between tropical wet and dry forests and hence offers greater diversity. MA is famous for its cute but rare squirrel monkeys. Closer to Jaco, Carara is famous for its colorful Scarlet Macaws and Rio Tarcoles is famous for its freshwater crocodiles. So, in sum, there is plenty to be seen in both areas.

OTHER - One can do other activities such as fishing, sea-kayaking, surfing, diving, canopy tours, raft-trips and boat trips etc. at both places. The Jaco area has some really good surf beaches (which are not as well recommended for swimming). MA may have the edge for diving. I disagree with the statement that MA has hotels and restaurants for all budgets and tastes. With the huge influx of upscale tourists, even relatively modest hotels have gotten fairly pricey. OTOH, Jaco caters more to day and weekend visits by Ticos down from the SJ area and by package tourists (particularly canadians), so there are much more budget options. There is also much more nightlife in Jaco, if that is your thing.

So, IF I WERE YOU, which would I pick? Why choose? Why not spread your stay at both places and decide for YOURSELF which area you like better? Jaco and its nearby attractions can easily be seen on your way from SJ to MA. Wildlife is best seen either at dawn or dusk so if that is the attraction you wish to see you will need to stay overnight. But if you stay a night or few at both places, I'm sure you won't regret either stay.

Quepos, Costa Rica
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92 posts
1 review
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6. Re: Jaco vs. Manuel Antonio

It is not practical to stay in a hotel in Jaco and make daytrips to Manuel Antonio. The drive is over an hour on a good day. A bad day could include rain and delays at one or both one-lane bridges.

I have sat for 30 minutes in my car waiting for oncoming traffic at the bridge in Parrita. It is not something I would recommend a tourist do more than once.

If you want to visit Jaco and Manuel Antonio, stay in Jaco for a night or two on your way to/from Manuel Antonio. If you want cheap hotels, Quepos and Manuel Antonio has cheap as well as high-end accommodations.