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Manuel Antonio Sailing Tour With Snorkeling And Dolphin Watching

Manuel Antonio Sailing Tour With Snorkeling And Dolphin Watching

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on October 18th, 2017.

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Manuel Antonio sailing
Nikki; enjoying the view from the front

MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING IS A MUST-DO FOR WATER BABIES LIKE US

From as early on as I can remember and until my teenage years, my mom and dad had to drag me kicking and screaming out of our backyard pool on a nightly basis. Being in the water was my absolute favourite pastime. I spent the better part of my childhood playing marco polo, rings, and colours, not to mention perfecting what I thought was an awesome underwater handstand. I have always loved being in and around bodies of water (despite a painful brush with poisonous coral while scuba diving in the Dominican Republic), so it is no wonder that my water baby upbringing has led me on some of Costa Rica’s great aquatic adventures. With so many activity options to choose from (including scuba diving, surfing, stand-up paddling, rafting, kayaking, and canoeing), one of the best experiences we have had thus far was participating in Planet Dolphin’s Manuel Antonio sailing tour.

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FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING IS NOT SPECIFIC TO EXPERIENCED SAILORS

First things first. You do not need to have an interest in sailing to enjoy the Manuel Antonio sailing tour. We couldn’t tell you which side of the boat was port and which was starboard (although both remind us of the elementary school gym class game known as “ship captain”), yet our lack of nautical knowledge did not hinder our experience one bit. To confirm, the activity is essentially a coastal tour via catamaran–not an educational sailing excursion–so if your your interest is to sit back, relax, and take views of the Pacific Ocean, the Manuel Antonio mountainside, and the Manuel Antonio National Park, you’ll get exactly what you are looking for.

MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING TOUR LOGISTICS AND PLANET DOLPHIN’S BOAT(S)

The day starts off at the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, the town closest to the Manuel Antonio National Park. Transportation to and from the marina and Manuel Antonio hotels is included in the cost of the tour and provided by Planet Dolphin for travellers without a rental vehicle. Alternatively, travellers who opt to drive their own vehicle to and from the marina may park their vehicle onsite nearby Planet Dolphin’s office for free; when entering the marina, be sure to inform the marina staff (who will likely stop you upon entry to question your presence) that your intention is to sail with Planet Dolphin and they will direct you where to go.

Once at Planet Dolphin’s office (in front of the marina’s fuel dock), visitors will find the tour operator’s Tom Cat I, Tom Cat II, and Spanish Dancer boats nearby. On the day of our visit, we were treated to the Tom Cat II, which is Planet Dolphin’s standard boat with a capacity of 110 passengers (in contrast, the Tom Cat I has a capacity of 150 passengers, and the Spanish Dancer–which is typically only used for private events–has a capacity of 12 passengers). Aboard both the Tom Cat I and the Tom Cat II is a variety of seating options (the majority of which are located in shaded areas, although you can opt to sit along the boat’s edge if you wish to bask in the sun), as well as large containers with lids that travellers are welcome to store personal belongings in (these are great for keeping cameras and/or other items dry and away from sticky sunscreen). At the front of both boats is a mesh-like platform which travellers are welcome to lay on; it is the perfect spot for watching waves splash beneath you as you keep a look out for dolphins passed along the way. Near the back of both boats is a onsite bar where boat guides serve tropical concoctions of non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails (among other beverage options) throughout the trip.

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MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING AND DOLPHIN WATCHING

As we sailed from the marina in Quepos along the Manuel Antonio coastline, we could have watched dolphins play catch-up along the side of the boat for hours. Warning: every one of our attempts to photograph a dolphin jumping out of the water failed miserably. The good news? Although we ended up with 100 shots of the ocean with no dolphin in sight (each photo was snapped two seconds too late), the guides spotted enough of the playful mammals for us during the tour that we were given memories that will last a lifetime. Kodak moment: 0. Mental snapshot: 1.

MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING AND A VIEW OF THE MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK LIKE NONE OTHER

Halfway through the Manuel Antonio sailing tour (weather permitting), Planet Dolphin makes a stop nearby the ever-popular Punto Catedral to offer a brief explanation of its significance. For those of you who are familiar with the Manuel Antonio National Park, Cathedral Point marks the protected land area’s most southern tip. If you’ve researched the national park online, read about it in a guidebook, or even purchased a Costa Rican postcard showcasing Manuel Antonio on the front, then you’ve likely already laid your eyes on the point. It is the lush, green, island-meets-mainland section of coastline that protrudes out from the shore and stretches into the Pacific. If you have toured the Manuel Antonio national park before, you may or may not have opted to take one of the side trails out to the Cathedral Point (note: the side trail leading to Punto Catedral is a more challenging hike than the park’s primary trail and should only be visited by travellers who are looking for an intermediate hiking experience). Given that Punto Catedral is most often captured from a bird’s eye view via photographs taken from helicopters or drones overhead, or else experienced from the inside of the forest via the park’s hiking trail, the sailing tour paints another picturesque scene of the prized point–from the ocean looking in.

Note:

  • It is not permitted to disembark from the boat when visiting Punta Cathedral; Planet Dolphin’s scheduled stop is conducted in the middle of the ocean nearby the national park’s point, not on its land property directly.

MANUEL ANTONIO SAILING AND SNORKELING, PLUS SOME WATERSLIDE FUN AND A HEARTY LUNCH

Following the visit to Punta Cathedral, the boat captain lead the group toward Playa Biesanz–Manuel Antonio’s most popular locale for snorkeling. Included with the Manuel Antonio sailing tour is all applicable snorkel gear, so those wishing to swim and/or explore the area have a chance to do so. Suit up, strap up, and get snorkeling–there are plenty of fish to see, including schools of Angel fish and Parrot fish larger than we have ever seen on past snorkel and dive excursions. The real thrill? As daunting as the size of some of the Parrot fish were, Ricky and I were most intimidated by the boat’s waterslide, its height, steepness, and speed included. Sure, if a few children young enough to be our own could muster up the courage to take the plunge, we could too. It was a lot faster than it looked, but also ten times more fun, a wonderful surprise, and another way we found incredible adventure during an otherwise relaxing tour. Followed up by an incredible lunchtime feast featuring grilled fish brochettes, pasta salad with vegetables, fresh tropical fruits, and beverages–we could not have been happier.

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Note:

  • With participation in Planet Dolphin’s afternoon tour (i.e., the 2:00pm tour), the “lunch” that is included is served two-thirds of the way through the sailing trip. For this reason, we recommend eating at least a light lunch prior to participating in the tour.

WE’D SAY WE’RE HAPPY CAMPERS, BUT WE’RE ACTUALLY SATISFIED SAILORS

So, what was the best part about our Manuel Antonio sailing experience? Honestly, it’s hard for us to choose. For one, the sailing tour was fantastic. Unless you wouldn’t classify yourself as a boat person, it is hard not to appreciate the open water, the crashing waves, the endless sunshine, and the beautiful breeze. Lunch was filling and delicious, and catered well to vegetarians like us. The open bar, with its variety of beverages available for the taking throughout the entire tour, was a plus. But, when it comes down to it, we have learned time and time again that service can make or break any tour, and given our particular experience in this case, the Planet Dolphin staff completely made our day. They regularly asked us if we needed anything, were stern when they needed to be (safety first!), and managed to turn an otherwise well-organized tour into a vacation experience that we would not only recommend to travellers, but would also go so far as calling it one of Manuel Antonio’s not-to-miss activities.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you been sailing, snorkeling, or dolphin watching in Costa Rica (either separately or together)? What did you think?

Pura vida!

If you’re more of a visual learner, take a moment to view our gallery photos below from our most recent visit aboard Planet Dolphin’s boat.

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