When most people think of Manuel Antonio hiking, they think about the national park. With several kilometers of well-maintained trails and a high possibility of seeing wildlife, it’s a popular way to spend the day.
Of course, you have to pay an entrance fee to access the park. If you’d like to go on a free hike near Manuel Antonio, the Reto M.A.E. is a great one to choose!
Read on to learn all about it!
What Is the Reto M.A.E.?
The trail began as a sporting competition hosted in Quepos. Hikers would come to race other hikers and challenge themselves on the nearly 5-mile route.
This might not sound like a long hike to an experienced hiker, but trust me when I say it’s not for the faint of heart!
The trail follows the rugged Pacific coastline and there is a lot of up and down throughout. It also passes through the thick jungle for the most part. In other words, don’t expect a leisurely stroll.
The sporting event was called the Manuel Antonio Extreme or Reto M.A.E. (Reto means challenge in Spanish). Mae is a Costa Rican slang term that can mean “buddy” or “pal” or refer to a person (usually a young person) depending on the context.
Where Is the Reto M.A.E.?
The hiking challenge officially began near the Pez Vela Marina in Quepos. After following the entire hike, participants would end up on the beach in Manuel Antonio.
However, there are a couple of access points and a few areas where you can get back to the main road if you need to cut the hike short. Companies that offer guided hikes along the trail generally offer two options, a shorter 2.2-mile hike or the complete 5-mile hike.
What to Expect When Hiking in Manuel Antonio
Obviously, this coastal hike in Manuel Antonio takes place at sea level. Breathing the air here can feel thick and heavy to people coming from other areas. The high humidity in the area makes it even worse, so be prepared.
People in good physical condition shouldn’t have any problem, but be aware that it might feel different than you’re used to.
In return for your exertion, you will be blessed with some spectacular views along this beautiful coastline. At various places along the trail, the jungle opens up and you get gorgeous vistas of the Pacific Ocean in all its glory.
Plus, you will visit several small, secluded beaches along the way. These include Tulemar, Playa La Vaca, and Playa La Macha. Learn more about visiting the gorgeous hidden beach Playa La Macha here.
What to Bring on the Best Hike in Manuel Antonio
You’ll definitely want comfortable hiking shoes for this trip. However, the trail is likely to be slippery and muddy in places, especially if you come during the rainy season. Thus, I recommend shoes with plenty of tread in addition to good foot support.
Bring lots of water. You will sweat a lot with the humidity and may find that you need more water than normal. So bring more than you think you’ll need.
Lightweight, quick-drying athletic clothes are best. If you’re worried about the bugs, you can wear lightweight long pants. But I find they aren’t too bad during the day anyway.
Though much of the hiking trail is shaded, wear sunscreen as the sun here is intense. A hat or sunglasses is also a good idea.
And don’t forget your camera! At the very least, you’ll see some amazing ocean and coastal views that you’ll be itching to capture. And, if you get lucky, you’ll see monkeys frolicking through the trees, butterflies flitting through the flowers, squirrels, and other wildlife along the way.
Can You Hike the Reto M.A.E. by Yourself?
It is possible to do the hike by yourself. The hardest part is finding the entrance to get started.
Luckily, there are two entrances to pick from. The easiest one to find is near the Bongo hostel in Manuel Antonio. There’s a place to park and signage that will take you to Playa La Macha.
If you want to do the entire course, you’ll need to start down by the Pez Vela Marina in Quepos. Look for Playa La Paipa or Reto MAE on Google Maps or Waze to find the entrance.
The trail is marked somewhat well with pink ribbons. Even if you lose the trail for a bit, just remember that it follows the coast. It never goes more than 300 meters inland so as long as you stick close to the coast, you’ll still be on or close to the trail.
If you feel like you’ve really gotten off track, go back to the last pink ribbon you saw and reassess.
If you finish the trail, you’ll end up on Manuel Antonio beach. From there, you can get a taxi back to your hotel or the car you left at the trailhead.
Hiking the Reto M.A.E. with a Guide
If you’d prefer not to forage through the jungle by yourself, there are several companies offering guided tours.
Apart from ensuring you don’t lose your way, a guided tour is nice because the guides are good at spotting wildlife. While wildlife observation isn’t the primary goal of this oceanside hike, there are plenty of opportunities so be sure to have your camera ready!
Enjoy the Best of Manuel Antonio Hiking
If you like a well-maintained hiking trail that’s super walkable and relaxing, you should stick with the trails in Manuel Antonio National Park. However, if you’d like a challenging hike near Manuel Antonio that’s a little outside the box, the Reto M.A.E. is the way to go!Curious what other awesome activities await in the paradise that is Manuel Antonio? Check out these 10 awesome group activities here!