Manuel Antonio and the Central Pacific Coast, Central Pacific
Concierge.com's insider take:
The highlight of Costa Rica's Central Pacific coast, and the main reason most travelers visit the region, is Manuel Antonio National Park. Despite its small size, the park is immensely popular for its combination of white-sand beaches, dense rainforest, and the kaleidoscopic array of creatures that can be seen almost within fingertip's reach. Nowhere else in the country is it so easy to spot wildlife, including the increasingly scarce mono tití, or squirrel monkey. Get here early, especially on weekends, as the park fills up quickly with tour groups, hikers, and sunbathers headed to Playa Manuel Antonio. Lodgings, many on the luxury end of the scale (such as Hotel Sí Como No and Los Altos Beach Resort) are in the nearby village of Manuel Antonio and along the ridgetop road that snakes over a forested mountain and drops down to the town of Quepos. The Central Pacific stretch of coastline between the Nicoya and Osa peninsulas has several other low-key beach towns, including the surfers' and backpackers' hamlet of Dominical. Jacó, the largest resort town in Costa Rica, is a center for active daytime adventures and wild nightlife, but its beaches are less than pristine.