The Art of Doing Nothing, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Getting in the mood for romance. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

The Art of Doing Nothing

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There’s no shortage of things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. We’ve been wildlife-spotting on a walk through Manuel Antonio National Park, we’ve hiked in the forest for a spot of bird watching, we’ve strolled around a spice plantation, we’ve cruised through mangrove swamps, and Terence has dug his feet into the wax of a surfboard, sometimes several times a day. But the best thing to do is perfect the art of doing nothing.

Each day of our stay here, Susan, the concierge of Casa Elsa and The Beach House, continues to present us with even more possibilities for things we can do… canopy tours, kayaking, whale watching, white-water rafting, sunset catamaran cruises… the opportunities are endless.

The Art of Doing Nothing, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Getting in the mood for romance. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

“Are there times when guests just say, you know what, I just want to enjoy my surroundings,” we ask her. She smiles. “It’s great when people understand tico time,”  she says, referring to the slow pace of life in Costa Rica and the lackadaisical attitude of the locals – it’s their version of the art of doing nothing.

Sometimes you do just want to do nothing. Do you know what I mean?

For us, it’s not because we’ve just completed our eighth month on the road for Grantourismo. Tired? Us? No! And sure we’re advocates of experiential travel – we absolutely love doing stuff and learning things when we travel. But we all travel differently at different times in our lives and different moments in time – which is one reason why we’ve never bought into the whole traveller versus tourist BS. There is no right or wrong way to travel.


Sometimes we want to go it alone, sometimes we don’t mind a bit of handholding. As long as we all move, why should it matter how we do it? And sometimes we just want to do nothing. At times, after periods of intensive and active travel, even the most adventurous travellers need time out. Others travel with the very intention of doing nothing. We have friends who have perfected the art of doing nothing while on holidays because they work so hard at their jobs. They book a beach resort, eat lots, have the occasional swim and read trashy novels. And they do it fully guilt-free.

Time out to lie on a beach with a book – not even read a book, but simply gaze up at the coconut palms (just don’t lie beneath them, okay?) – is good for us. Time to sit and take in the people and places around us. Time to ponder things – yes, to ponder, not necessarily Make Decisions – is restorative. Thinking time seems to have become a luxury in recent years, but it’s one that should be indulged in whenever possible.

The Art of Doing Nothing, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Getting in the mood for romance. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

And the opportunities for doing nothing at Manuel Antonio are countless – lying on the beach, collecting seashells, watching monkeys, listening to birds, lying by the pool, reading a book, throwing a Frisbee, patting a dog, drinking margaritas, having a kiss and cuddle, watching the sunset… aaahh…

While we did do a lot of activities at Manuel Antonio, we also had some downtime. So, sit back, relax, pour yourself a glass of wine, click on the photos above, and soak up the atmosphere of a beach and a lifestyle that aren’t going anywhere in a hurry.

Unlike us. Because, sadly, it’s time to move on… pura vida.


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

6 thoughts on “The Art of Doing Nothing”

  1. Love this. And I find that especially when you’re in a great villa/condo/apartment with a view, it’s essential. It’s part of the GIFT of a place, to just be, and imagine what it might be like to remain year-round. That’s when you start to really absorb the soul of a place. But I have to remind myself to sit and be still too–very distracting, that desire to explore. Thankfully, Tim is of the plant-ourselves/stop/rest/BE variety of travelers, so we usually get some of both on our trips–exploration and absorption time.

  2. This is a skill I want to improve on – the latinos, especially the ticos, are good at this – just sitting and doing nothing.

    We Americans have a tough time with it, but it is good for the soul.

  3. I am going to Manuel Antonio in a few weeks. I am wondering which sights you think are the MUST see sights in that area? Your favorite beach? Do you suggest a self guided tour of the jungle our a tour with a nature guide?
    Also, if you have a restaurant recommendation for me I would be very happy.

    Thank you,

  4. Hi Leslie

    The best thing about Manuel Antonio is it’s short on sights – leaving you time to do nothing! ;) – but there are plenty of activities. If you click on COSTA RICA in the right column under DESTINATIONS you’ll see plenty of stories on the following:

    * Surfing is popular and Terence thought surfing instructor Ivan, who offers affordable private lessons, was terrific.

    * Definitely do a walking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with a naturalist. Professional guide Manuel Cabalceta Mendez is excellent. We saw people doing the park without a guide and saw them walking past spectacular wildlife, completely oblivious, such as stunning toucans.

    * If you’re a foodie, you’ll like the spice plantation tour.

    * People like the mangrove cruises too, however, we didn’t see a tonne of wildlife (differs with every cruise, dependent on weather, tides, luck, etc) and we were used to seeing monkeys everyday at our holiday rentals.

    * There are lots of ‘adventure’ activities on offer, white water rafting, zip-lining, etc, which we didn’t do as our project was focused on slow and sustainable travel, but there are plenty of ops to do those.

    We don’t have restaurants tips, sorry. We found the food to be disappointing, and aside from cheap local buffet places (which were okay & worth trying for the experience), we found the popular cafes/restos to be expensive for what they offered. After a few disappointing meals, we cooked in and were pleased we were in holiday rentals and able to do so.

    The best beach? Manuel Antonio, above. Enjoy!

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