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Gay Manuel Antonio: Costa Rica's gay playground


Overview

Costa Rica is on the leading edge of the gay rights movement in Central America, with the capital city of San Jose home to a fledgling gay bar and club scene. But nothing shows off this trend better than lovely Manuel Antonio, a coastal beach town that has become the Costa Rican version of Key West. Because Costa Rica remains a socially conservative, Catholic country, the LGBT communities here tend to be rather discreet, but no so in Manuel Antonio, where seeing boys holding hands on the street is common and accepted. The gay tourist dollar has had such a major impact on the development of this town that virtually every bar, restaurant and shop are either gay or exceedingly gay friendly. The only road in Manuel Antonio stretches 4.5 miles from the town of Quepos to the national park. Most of the 'gay' nightlife happen within the last 1/2 mile, just before you head down toward the national park.


Transportation

Fly into the capital city of San Jose. From there, travel to Manuel Antonio via air or ground. As you would expect, air is faster but cost a little more. Ground takes longer, but saves money.

Ground

By ground, expect a three-hour van trip. You will wind through mountains, jungle, a waterfall or two (maybe not so visible in dry season). Then you will follow the coast through palm tree plantations. You can even stop along the way to sightsee or take photos (there is one bridge you will cross that always have a few dozen huge alligators living below that is worth a photo). The van is also more flexible than a flight, so if you arrive in San Jose late, you won't miss a connecting flight.

Air

The plane trip is a flash---18 minutes actual fly time. The tiny single strip air field right in the middle of a palm plantation with the mountains in the background is surreal. You also get a terrific view of Manuel Antonio and the cost from above. Sansa Airlines (www.flysansa.com) is owned by Taca, the national airline. It is the most convenient as it flies out of the same airport as you will arrive in San Jose. It is also the lease expensive. However, the planes are single engine turbo-prop, which does tend to scare off some travelers. Nature Air (www.natureair.com) does have larger turbo-prop planes but you will have to take a shuttle from the San Jose International Airport to the small local airport where it .

There is also a private charter service that can come in handy with groups arriving at different hours of the day: http://airchartercentralamerica.com.

Once you are there

The town of Quepos is only 6 square blocks, so getting around is simple. Manuel Antonio is only ONE road (with a few side roads to reach homes), so getting lost is impossible. Virtually all the hotel and restaurant personnel will speak very good english, as will many locals and frequent visitors. It is polite to learn enough Spanish to communicate basic requests and so forth.

Local culture

There is a large group of middle-aged to older foreign gay men and couples that are buying homes in town. There is a large local 'Tico' gay crowd that comes to enjoy the freedom and tolerance of Manuel Antonio's gay life. Of course, there are a few of the local boys that come to make a few extra dollars from gay tourists. Most are harmless, just looking for a few free drinks, a good time, and a few extra dollars "for the taxi ride home." Just be careful of age. Prostitution is legal as long as they are 18+.