Last Updated: Feb 13, 2012
Summary: Three beaches best known for surfing; secluded but convenient, just a short drive to the attractions and nightlife of Jaco and Manuel Antonio.
Attractions: Carara National Park, Secluded Beaches, Surf
Activities: Adventure Tours, Sport Fishing, Surfing
Caters to: Couples/Honeymooners, Independent Travelers, Surfers
For those who prefer peaceful sunsets and secluded beaches, but don't want to sacrifice the attractions of a major tourist destination, Esterillos is the answer. This cluster of beach towns is located on the central Pacific coast, a short drive from Jaco.
Location: 15 miles south of Jaco
Average Temperature: 75-90º F
Altitude: Sea level
Esterillos sits on nearly eight miles of curving coastline known for fantastic surf and gorgeous sunsets. Named for the region's estuaries and rivers, Esterillos is divided into three sections: Esterillos West (Oeste), Esterillos Center (Centro) and Esterillos East (Este).
Here, visitors can splash in tide pools, walk the isolated beach, and give their surfboards a workout. Esterillos offers basic amenities, and a handful of restaurants, hotels and shops are located along the beachfront. With its convenient proximity to both Jaco and Manuel Antonio, travelers to Esterillos can take day trips to local attractions and enjoy the nightlife and fine dining prevalent in both beach towns.
Rugged quads are ideal for exploring the mountains surrounding Jaco or the African palm plantations near Manuel Antonio. Scenic lookout points, some only accessible via ATV, offer stunning panoramas of the Pacific coastline. Half- and full-day tours depart Jaco and Quepos daily, and usually take a break for a bite to eat and a refreshing dip in a river or waterfalls.
Jaco and Manuel Antonio offer guests a canopy tour smorgasbord – at least eight zipline adventures are available daily. With such varied choices, there's an excursion for everyone. Daring adventurers will enjoy skipping over suspension bridges, rappelling down tree trunks, free-falling into a Tarzan swing, or flying sky-high on the area's nearly half-mile zipline.
Esterillos's horseback tours explore the region's backcountry roads and hidden waterfalls. Before booking a tour, check whether the horses are well fed and cared for; it's worth paying a small premium to support tour operators that treat their horses well.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Both snorkeling and scuba diving are best during the months of January and February, when the waters are calm and clear. However, visitors during other times of the year can head north to Los Suenos Marina, where diving and snorkeling tours investigate underwater caves, reefs, and islands in search of white-tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, and other sea creatures.
While Jaco and Herradura eclipse Esterillos in sport fishing fame, this sleepy town's secret is great inshore and river fishing. Local boat captains depart daily, and anglers often reel in red snapper, yellowfin tuna, and mahi mahi. For a distinctly local twist on the ocean's gourmet goodies, join Esterillos residents for lobster diving.
Esterillos's claim to fame is its excellent surfing, which promises favorable conditions for beginner and seasoned surfers alike. Esterillos West is the area's preferred destination for beginner and intermediate surfers, famous for long-breaking rights, while Esterillos Center is better for experienced surfers with plenty of beach breaks and a rivermouth at both ends.
Carara National Park
Carara is a local indigenous word meaning "river of crocodiles," an apt name since the park's Tarcoles River hosts hundreds of the large reptiles. Carara National Park is a transitional habitat, where humid rainforest transforms into tropical dry forest, creating a mixture of ecosystems that attracts a variety of wildlife. The park is most famed for its scarlet macaws, which number approximately 450 and provide squawking entertainment for tourists year-round.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Home to verdant rainforest that spills into the Pacific, Manuel Antonio National Park is both visually stunning and educational. The park's ecosystems range from mangrove forest and swamps to woodlands and beaches that provide shelter for varied animal life including the Central American squirrel monkey, two- and three-toed sloths, and coatimundis. Guided hikes are highly recommended.
Rainforest Aerial Tram Pacific
The Rainforest Aerial Tram is set in 200 acres of transitional rainforest, on the outskirts of Jaco. This outdoor adventure takes visitors into the forest canopy, promising incredible views and a unique opportunity for spotting wildlife. Combo tours are available, including the "Tranopy," a duel canopy tour-aerial tram excursion that blends ziplines with a tranquil gondola ride through the treetops.
Playa Hermosa Wildlife Refuge
Just 15 miles north of Esterillos, Playa Hermosa is an important Pacific coast nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles. Nesting occurs from July to December, during which time tours of the refuge introduce visitors to 80-pound females that lumber up the sand to lay eggs on the same beach where they were born.
Bus: There are no direct buses to Esterillos, but routes to Manuel Antonio and points south stop along the way. Buses to Quepos and Manuel Antonio depart from San Jose's Coca Cola bus station and take about two hours to get to Esterillos.
Direct: $7.50; 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 12:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; 3.5 hours; Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle 16 (Coca Cola Station). 2223-5567.
Indirect: $7.50; 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (Mon-Fri only); 5 hours. Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle 16 (Coca Cola Station). 2223-5567.
Car: When traveling the Caldera Highway, the driving time from San Jose to Esterillos is about 90 minutes. From San Jose, take the highway west to Orotina and follow signs to Jaco and Manuel Antonio. The toll is around $3. Just before Jaco, cross over the Tarcoles River Bridge, an excellent rest stop to grab a cold drink and do some crocodile watching. From Jaco, it's another 20 minutes to Esterillos.
|Wind||6 mph SSW|
|04:00 a.m.||1.48 ft. (0.45 m.)|
|10:23 a.m.||7.78 ft. (2.37 m.)|
|04:49 p.m.||1.21 ft. (0.37 m.)|
|10:57 p.m.||6.89 ft. (2.10 m.)|