Our Top 5 Costa Rica Off the Beaten Path Favorites
With over 1.7 million visitors flocking to our paradisical corner of the globe each year, one may think that it’s hard to explore Costa Rica off the beaten path. But that actually couldn’t be farther from the truth! Ticos (a fond nickname for Costa Ricans) love sharing the more popular tourist attractions like jaunts through Manuel Antonio National Park, surfing in Tamarindo, or soaring through the canopy in Monteverde. However, Ticos also have treasures that aren’t as widely shared… and we’re going to pull back the curtain on those for you with our most beloved behind-the-scenes suggestions!
Today, we’re focusing on our favorite area of the country (yes, we may be a little biased): Manuel Antonio & Quepos.
The Best Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Off-the-Beaten-Path Spots for Foodies
BBQ Lunch at Koky’s La Cazuela
This favorite lunch and dinner spot, also known as Koki’s BBQ to the locals, serves up one dish and one dish only. And, as you can probably imagine, it’s the best version in town. The simple plate of pork ribs, plantains, and boiled yuca with a little lime on the side will change your life after one decadent bite. The only decision you have to make is what size portion you want—small, medium, intermediate, large, XL, or XXL.
The open-air restaurant stands along a simple dirt road. In our opinion, that’s where you usually find the most delicious spots! You know you’re heading in the right direction when you smell the intoxicating scent of the wood-burning grill, and meats start to permeate the car.
Their Google hours can be a bit wonky, so as a VPDV guest, just ask your concierge about getting a driver to head over there, and they can check the hours for you. If you’re not staying with us, ask a taxi driver, they’ll know where to bring you.
Pro tip: Slather their homemade hot sauce all over your dish and sip an Imperial alongside each bite—you’ll thank us later.
A Chocolate Tour at La Iguana Chocolate
Just about an hour and a half by car in Mastatal, Costa Rica, you’ll find a family-run cacao farm that farms and produces the most delectable chocolates! Their cultivation process now spans three generations using processes that are 100% organic and done 100% by hand—which is probably why it tastes so good.
This farm-to-bar experience is by reservation only and it takes just about 2.5 hours of exploration! You’ll explore their reforested land and agroforestry system that supports the local ecosystem, as well as the quality of their cacao. You’ll learn how they grow, harvest, and transform cacao into rich, yummy chocolate bars.
The best part? It’s a hands-on tour, so taste testing is encouraged!
The tour is just about $35 for adults and $23 for kiddos under 10. Those under 5 are free. As one of the top Costa Rica chocolate tours, if not the whole of Latin America, it’s a pretty delicious deal.
Quepos Farmers Market
While Costa Rica spans less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, it accounts for 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Pretty cool, huh? This means that the local farmers’ markets are unlike those you see back home! You’ll find stalls upon stalls of fresh, just picked from the field crops, in great variety!
Open on Friday evenings and all day on Saturday, Quepos Farmers Market near Avenida 1 is the perfect spot to learn more about all the products grown in Costa Rica and try some traditional street food! For wellness lovers, try local fruit like dragon fruit, mamón chino, jocotes, mangos, and more. But, if you don’t mind a little grease and want to try some street eats, you’ll usually find a sweet woman selling the most delicious tamales, empanadas, and pan dulce.
This is also a great spot to grab souvenirs made by local artisans! You’ll find jewelry, pottery, macrame hammocks, art, and more.
The Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Beach in Quepos
Playa Biesanz (Biesanz Beach)
If you love filling your days with sand between your toes while you ogle at ocean views so blue they hypnotize you, Playa Biesanz needs to be on your list.
Where jungle meets the ocean, the beach is hidden from the world with lush plant life creating a shield that protects this stunning natural oasis from the crowds. Bring a book, a towel, and spend the day being lulled into relaxation by the sounds of crashing waves and howler monkeys.
The entrance can be hard to find, so ask your driver to drop you off at the trailhead you need to walk down to access the beach.
The Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Hike near Manuel Antonio National Park
Reto Mae Hike from Quepos to Manuel Antonio
If you love working up a sweat on vacation, the Reto Mae hike is an idyllic adventure. Winding through 9 kilometers of beach, jungle, and one-of-a-kind Costa Rican landscapes, the trail is an extension of Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s really easy to access, as you just go to the Marina Pez Vela near our villa and find the hill behind the marina, where you’ll stumble across the sign noting the trailhead. Easy peasy!
This hike can be tough and isn’t for the faint of heart, so consider that before you decide to dive in! If you do want to do it, but want an easier excursion, pack an easy dry towel and take rests at each of the secluded beaches you’ll come across. In fact, the last beach you’ll reach on the trail is the favorite we mentioned above, Playa Biesanz.
Book your stay with Villa Punto de Vista, and your personal concierge can help you uncover even more Costa Rica off the beaten path favorites. Paradise awaits…