6 Things to do in Manuel Antonio
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park: one of the world’s best national parks famed for its many animals and biodiversity. At the same time, it’s the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but you can spend an entire day here. The many well-indicated trails through the park are easy to follow and range from 1 to 9 km in length.
Main Trail (Sendero Principal)
Sendero Principal is the main trail in Manuel Antonio at a length of 2.2km. On this short guided trail alone, we saw sloths, capuchin, and squirrel monkeys, macaws, crabs, a snake, toucans, iguanas, bats, and many(!) other kinds of animals. It was so beautiful that we couldn’t even remember all the animal names.
Manuel Antonio guided tour
Take a guided tour in Manuel Antonio National Park because it allows you to spot so many more animals. The guide will also have a monocular, giving you a better close-up view. Your entrance ticket and parking should be included in the ticket price when booking a guided tour.
Self-guided tour tickets are available through this website at around 18 – 19 USD per ticket. You have to register first which is a bit of a hassle.
Manuel Antonio park information
There are only a certain amount of people allowed inside the park at the time of writing this article. Entrance tickets can only be purchased online via a tour (60 – 100 USD) or direct via the national park website. Your passport number is required for the registry at the national park.
The park is open from 7 AM to 4 PM every day except Tuesdays. If you don’t have a parking spot yet, please beware of scammers. Parking should cost you 4000-5000 Colones for a day.
Espadilla Beach & Manuel Antonio Beach
The main trail ends, and the jungle scenery changes into a beach. Manuel Antonio Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica and lovely to spend the rest of your day at or for a refreshing dip when you finish the trail. On the opposite side is equally beautiful Espadilla South Beach.
The beaches inside Manuel Antonio National Park are protected and can only be accessed when entering through the park’s gates. For people who have already seen the national park, it is common to purchase a ticket to stay at the beach for the day because it’s stunning and just about 20 minutes walking from the entrance.
Tip: It’s good to know that you cannot take any food and single-use plastic (bags, bottles) inside. Take water in a refillable bottle.
2. Playa Espadilla Norte
Playa Espadilla Norte is the main public beach of Manuel Antonio, and it’s the extension of Espadilla South inside the national park. It’s another stunning beach with many trees for shade, and even though you’re not inside the national park, you will still see wildlife like Iguanas on the beach. Spend a magical sunset at Espadilla or take some surf lessons because it’s excellent for beginners!
3. Biesanz Beach
To see the sun disappear on the horizon, visit Biesanz Beach. This hidden beach is in a cove and has calm turquoise water. Follow the 10-minute slippery jungle trail that starts here to get to Biesanz Beach. Apart from the weekends, this beach is the perfect location for escaping the crowds.
4. Chocolate & Coffee tour
Collecting, fermenting, and grinding, learn everything about the chocolate-making process in Costa Rica. You will be able to create and try your own-made chocolate creations. Yum!
Additionally, you’ll learn about the huge coffee culture in Costa Rica, how to get the best coffee, from picking the bean to the final cup. Click here to book this tour.
5. Nauyaca Waterfall Day Trip
The Nauyaca Waterfall is the most beautiful in Costa Rica. At Nauyaca, there are two enormously powerful waterfalls on different levels with natural swimming pools. There are two entrances and multiple ways to get down to the waterfall. Read more about the Nauyaca Waterfalls.
It’s about 1.5 – 2 hours away, making it a perfect to do from Manuel Antonio. Depart as early as possible from Manuel Antonio to avoid the crowds at the waterfalls. Click here to see a tour to the waterfall from Manuel Antonio.
6. Rainmaker – Great to do from Manuel Antonio
Go off-the-beaten-path by making a half-day trip to the Rainmaker Conservation Park (Get tickets here). A 2000 hectare reserve with a stunning trial along several waterfalls and overhanging bridges. Besides that, you can see quite a bit of wildlife too, and other than Manual Antonio National Park, there are just a few other visitors here.
You can compare this park with Mistico in La Fortuna. It’s only 30 minutes driving from town, making it a great thing to do from Manuel Antonio. You don’t need a 4×4 car to reach Rainmaker Park.
Self-guided tour tickets cost 20 USD and guided tours at about 60 USD per person. Additionally, their night jungle walk is also a great activity.
Best restaurants in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular places in Costa Rica. For that reason, the town is filled with great restaurants all over the town. Below we’ve noted our favorite places and what kind of food they offer.
- Falafel Bar (Hands-down best hummus we’ve ever had!)
- Samui Thai (Thai food)
- Soda Angel (Costa Rican)
- El Wagon (Pizzas & Wraps)
- Food Truck “En Todas” (Tacos and Burgers)
- The Fringe Umbrella (Sandwiches & Coffee)
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio
To do all the things to do in Manuel Antonio 2 nights is the ideal length to stay. The closer your accommodation is to the national park the more expensive it gets. If you have your own transport, we recommend staying in between Quepos and the national park. See all the hotels here.
How to visit Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio National Park is situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, about 3 hours driving from San Jose and 1 hour from Uvita. There is no need to have a 4×4 car to visit Manuel Antonio because all roads are paved. Use Waze instead of Google Maps to be sure you drive the easiest way.
By public transport/shuttle bus:
Luckily, many bus companies are driving between San Jose and Manuel Antonio/Quepos. A direct bus takes about 3 hours, and a non-direct can take 5 to 6 hours. If your bus only goes to Quepos, you can take the local bus to Manuel Antonio, which is only about 10 minutes.
Getting around Manuel Antonio
The town basically is one 6 kilometers long street, but getting from A to B can be a challenge. Because Manuel Antonio is very hilly, walking isn’t very convenient. Besides that, you will walk on or alongside the road where the cars are not driving slowly. Having a vehicle in Manuel Antonio is the best way to go.
Luckily there is a convenient and cheap local bus that drives up and down Manuel Antonio every 25 minutes between 6 AM and 9:30 PM. You can stop these local buses from any point on the side of the road by waving.
Your budget for Manuel Antonio
In Manuel Antonio, expect to pay anywhere from 30 – 300 USD a night for a room and 10 – 40 USD for a meal. Most things to do in Manuel Antonio have an entrance fee like the national park and waterfalls. In Costa Rica, you’ll be able to pay in both USD and Colones. Also, know that tap water is safe to drink in Manuel Antonio.
Budget tip! The currency in Costa Rica is Colones. Save up a lot of exchange fees by converting your own local currency to Colones with a Wise card. You can use that card to withdraw Colones from the ATM in Costa Rica or pay by card at pretty much all the shops. Some restaurants charge USD by default, but if you ask them to charge Colones, it will make a significant difference on the total bill. Get a Wise card here; it’s free!
Best time to visit Manuel Antonio
The rain season from May to November is perfect for whale watching, and hotel prices are much lower. Waterfalls like Nauyaca are more powerful, and everything is lush green. This season usually means dry mornings and an afternoon shower.
But if you’re coming to Manuel Antonio for the sunny beach days and stunning sunsets, the best time to visit is from December to April.
Please note that Manuel Antonio is incredibly popular during Christmas and New Year, so we recommend avoiding booking during that period.