Manuel Antonio National Park (Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio) was established in 1972. It has a land area of 1983 ha. (the smallest of any Costa Rican national park), but it is well known for its beautiful beaches and was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks.
The destination of as many as 150,000 visitors annually, Manuel Antonio Costa Rica has one of the most impressive landscapes in the world, with several coves, many white sand beaches, and lush forests that reach the beaches. The park has a large land and marine biodiversity, with beautiful coral reefs.
Why Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
Just a 2.5 hour drive from San José, Manuel Antonio is a good destination for visitors attracted to both natural beauty and urban amenities. Within easy reach of the park entrance there are a wide range of accommodations and restaurants from which to choose. Manuel Antonio is a popular choice for those who like to choose a single base from which to get a good sampling of the country.
The park itself is a treasure of biodiversity where visitors can have relatively easy access to wildlife sightings. On land, this includes 184 species of birds and 109 species of mammals. Among these are two kinds of sloths and three of Costa Rica’s four monkey species. Dolphins and whales are sometimes seen within viewing range of shore.
Things to Do in Manuel Antonio National Park
Whether you want to relax on a beautiful public beach by day and drink cocktails by a clear blue pool in the evening, or you want a more active, adventure-filled holiday, Manuel Antonio has what you need for a satisfying vacation.
Enjoy a Beach Day
There are several beaches within and near the boundaries of Manuel Antonio National Park, at which snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing are popular activities.
Playa Espadilla (sometimes Playa Uno or Playa Primera)
The closest beach to the town of Manzanillo, this popular family beach has almost a mile of sand. It’s not the quietest beach on the list, but it’s beautiful and easy to access if your goal is to move easily between your hotel, the beach, and dinner. And because it can be accessed from town, you avoid the small park entry fee.
Playa Espadilla Sur (Espadilla South; sometimes Playa Segunda or Playa Dos)
This is the portion of Playa Espadilla, separated from the bigger part by a rock break, that is within the park boundary. Smaller, and with more opportunity for shade than the main section, it can sometimes be busy.
Playa Manuel Antonio
It’s an easy, pleasant hike in the park to this lovely beach. You’ll probably want to spend the whole day, so bring a picnic. There are usually monkeys in the trees above, but keep an eye on your gear, as they sometimes like to explore if you leave food or other objects unattended. Manuel Antonio beach is more sheltered than some others, so it may be better for swimming, though you should always check seasonal conditions before heading in.
A very small, quiet white-sand beach off the trail between Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Escondido.
Playa Escondido (aka: Hidden Beach)
A beautiful, typically calmer beach, it’s the most distant from the park entrance. It’s worth the hike in, though at some high tides it can be inaccessible, so be sure to check tide tables and time your visit accordingly.
A small beach at the far north end of Playa Espadilla, it’s not accessible at high tide, so plan your visit around the tide table. And bring some shoes as you’ll need to walk over a small section of rock to get in. Formerly a nude beach, it’s very chill and popular with gay visitors.
Manuel Antonio Hidden beaches
There are a number of other small beaches in the area between Quepos and the national park. They’re often more difficult to access, or off the beaten track a little. These include Playa Beisanz, Playa La Macha, Playa Gemelas. Ask your hotel for directions.
You’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife in Manuel Antonio, especially along the hiking trails within the park. They may include the Mantled Howler, White-faced Capuchin, and Squirrel monkeys, as well as two-toed and three-toed sloths, raccoons, coatis, pacas, anteaters, and even ocelots.
However, you’re almost certain to see much more on a guided tour with a naturalist guide, who not only will have knowledge of what is commonly seen, and where, but can also answer questions about much of the flora, fauna, and avifauna in the area.
Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling
Snorkeling from local beaches can be variable due to seasonal or climatic conditions, so check locally for current recommendations before heading out. There are also tour services that will take you by boat to other locations, such as Caño Island, that may provide more consistent opportunities for clearer water.
Diving enthusiasts will find that the best opportunities are through tour providers, as boat access is usually advised. There are some protected areas suitable for beginners, but the Manuel Antonio area is best suited to experienced divers.
There are several points on the coast that are popular with surfers, including Playa Manuel Antonio, which is often very good for beginner and intermediate surfers. Local outfits will help set you up with gear and training, as needed.
Hotels in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
While there are no accommodations within the park itself, there are many choices within walking distance of the park and beyond. Manuel Antonio hotels range from the budget, such as the Selina Manuel Antonio hostel, all the way up to high-end Manuel Antonio resorts such as Arenas del Mar.
Manuel Antonio Restaurants
As with accommodations, the Manuel Antonio area has a good selection of restaurants all the way along the coast, for all price ranges and tastes.
How to Get to Manuel Antonio National Park
There are several options for getting to Manuel Antonio National Park, depending on your travel style and budget.
Travelling from San Jose to Manuel Antonio National Park
As Manuel Antonio is just about 2.5 to 3 hours from San José, most people who don’t rent cars use a shuttle service. A shuttle can pick you up at your hotel or from the airport in San José. The shuttles are comfortable and the roads are good, and although there may be traffic, at least you can relax during the ride.
Flying to Quepos is also an option. Flights leave from the domestic terminal next to the main airport (Juan Santamaria International Airport) in San José. Once you arrive in Quepos, you can use a pre-arranged shuttle, a taxi, or the public bus service to get to Manuel Antonio town or park.
No matter which transportation you prefer, we are happy to arrange it for you! Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at: (305) 846-8417 (US & Canada) or +506 2756-8118 (from in Costa Rica)
Getting Around in Manuel Antonio
The distance between the town of Quepos and the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park is approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 miles). The road has a steep hill after you leave Quepos, with a few ups and downs before it drops down to the park. Therefore, bicycles are commonly only used in localized sections, especially nearer to the park itself, where hotels often provide rentals.
A regular public bus service runs between Quepos and the park entrance. These popular buses start early in the morning and continue until about 9pm. The full route takes about 25 minutes and has several stops along the way. The last time we checked buses ran every half hour and the fare was still less than a dollar.
Taxis are widely used. Official taxis are red with a yellow sign on the door, and often with an illuminated yellow sign on the roof. They are supposed to have working meters, but in reality this isn’t always the case. You should always negotiate the fare before you get in.
Uber is also now providing service in the area and is becoming popular with both tourists and locals. Though it is still technically unofficial (ie: not totally legal) this apparently doesn’t stop the government from taxing it. Confirm the driver and license plate before accepting a ride.
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica Weather
The weather in Manuel Antonio is nice all year around, though there are seasonal variations. The driest, sunniest months are December through March. While the average high temperatures vary only slightly through the year, the hottest are March and April. May through November are usually the rainiest months, with average precipitation as much as 24 days per month. Don’t let this scare you, though: it rarely rains all day. Often, it is sunny in the morning, and if it rains it frequently does so in the afternoon, clearing again for the evening.
Manuel Antonio National Park Travel Tips
- The Manuel Antonio area is well-serviced by hotels, restaurants, and other services. Additional services are available in the larger town of Quepos.
- There are several banks with ATMs and teller services in the Quepos-Manuel Antonio area. Many places do accept credit cards, but it is always a good idea to have some cash as well.
- Crime is not a significant problem in this area, but normal precautions should be taken. As with most places, at night it’s best to take taxis to and from Quepos. Do not leave valuables unattended while at the beach, as petty theft can happen. Monkeys may be a bigger problem than crime, however!
- Rip ties can occur at many Costa Rican beaches, but this can vary by location, season, and weather conditions. Always check for local conditions, and take the advice of lifeguards when present.
- Please do not feed or interfere with wildlife.
Are you ready to pack your bags for Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica? Don’t hesitate to contact us here at Caribe Fun Tours. We are happy to assist you in planning the perfect trip! We can set up transportation, fun activities, amazing accommodations, and more!
Email us at: email@example.com or give us a call at: (305) 846-8417 (US & Canada) or +506 2756-8118 (from in Costa Rica)