If tropical rainforests, untouched beaches and mama’s spiced chicken, plantain leaves and rice annnd peeeeas are your thing then Manazanillo (pronounced Manzaneeeyyo) is the place for you. If you are looking for rows of bars and restaurants along a beach then you are probably going to be better off visiting the town of Puerto Viejo which is a 15 minute drive from Manzanillo.
Manzanillo is a lazy Afro-Carribbean town about 4.5 hours from the crowded city of San Jose in Costa Rica. After arriving in San Jose from London, we decided to hire a car and commit to a nearly 5 hour drive to our lodge. In hindsight, it would have probably been easier to take public transport here as we encountered torrential rain the whole way. ZERO visibility and people walking on a motorway was not ideal. Having slept barely a wink the night before from immense excitement, 16 hours of travel really took it out of us. When we saw Ernesto our host at the Congo Bongo Eco Lodges, I practically leapt out of the car to hug him. Congo Bongo Eco Lodges are set in a rainforest a stones throw away from the Gandoca Manzanillo Nature reserve. They only have a handful of jungle huts which are completely self catered. They come equipped with a full kitched, a BBQ, outdoor living area with hammocks, a bedroom with a secure mosquito net, and bathroom. JUST what we needed after all that travel.
Manzanillo is a TINY town. It has literally 3 restaurants and one supermarket, and even though we have only been here a day now we know everyone here. In true Caribbean spirit everyone here (yes all 50 people) is really friendly and all 3 restaurants have their land-ladies or mama’s as some like to call them, cooking up some of the best caribbean food! Our days have basically comprised of beach, food, snorkelling and hiking through the Gandoca nature reserve. Playa Manzanillo (the main beach) is untouched and absolutely stunning with blue waters and great waves for avid surfers. They also have a beautiful reef about 200m out from the main beach where you can spot Manta’s, lobsters and loads of fish. We werent very lucky with visibility today but are hoping to spot some more fish tomorrow!
Costa Rican’s seem to BBQ everything and who can blame them. We saw them arrive on buses on a sunday morning with cool boxes and BBQs in toe then setting up BBQs in their personal sandy coves, what a great way to spend a sunny Sunday! Everything in the restaurants comes with rice n peas or Pinto to the locals, even breakfast. We ate some grilled fish and some grilled chicken both were great but not spectactular. The best grilled meats appeared to come from a van parked on the side of the beach serving skewered meats (sadly we had already eaten by this point). We are told that grilled fish is the dish to go for but not on a Sunday as none of the eateries had any! Presumably Sunday is a day of rest for the fisherman. Veg is hard to find and the locals seem to live on meat, fish and rice n peas in true caribbean spirit carrying the ponch to prove it.