What would you say if I told you that you could live in or visit a tropical paradise without having to spend a fortune? That’s exactly what Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica offers. This beautiful area, also featuring the Manuel Antonio National Park, is located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and has become a favorite destination for tourists from around the globe.

Where Is Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?

Manuel Antonio is in southern Costa Rica, near the Pacific Ocean. Located between San José and Liberia, the small village of Manuel Antonio lies about 120 kilometers south of Costa Rica’s capital city, San José.

Manuel Antonio’s National Park was established in 1972 and covers over 2,600 hectares (6,200 acres) of land.

The park is named after its founder, Manuel Antonio Sánchez. In addition to being a national park, Manuel Antonio National Park also serves as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to some of the country’s most pristine beaches, lush tropical rainforests, and wildlife reserves with abundant marine life.

This destination offers visitors a chance to experience nature and adventure while relaxing in some of Central America’s best beaches.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

The Manuel Antonio Park is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, just south of Corcovado National Park. The Manuel Antonio Park is home to several species of plants and animals, such as monkeys, sloths, toucans, iguanas, caimans, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, and whales. It is also home to one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur, and it offers a wide variety of activities such as hiking, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, diving, horseback riding, bird watching, and fishing.

There are three main sections within the park: La Amistad, El Silencio, and Puerto Escondido.

The La Amistad section is composed of two islands, Isla del Caño and Isla de la Vida. The island is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, tropical forests, and wildlife.

The El Silencio section is named after the sound of the wind passing over the trees. The area is characterized by tall primary forest and secondary growth. One of the highlights of the park is the Rio Frio Waterfall, which is located in the center of the park. The waterfall cascades down into a large pool where visitors can swim.

The Puerto Escondido section is named after the small beach town that lies within the park boundaries. It is the largest part of the park and contains the majority of the natural attractions. Here visitors can find Punta Sur, a lighthouse built in 1879, and the famous Sendero Los Patos trail, which leads to the highest peak in the park, Cerro Chato.

You must purchase park entrance tickets online, and your passport numbers are needed when registering at the national park. Food is not permitted in the park. Beverages are allowed (water, soda, juices). There’s a small snack stand in the park where snacks and drinks can be bought. There are also parking spaces on site.

If you book a guided tour, the price includes the admission fee and the guide will take care of the tickets for you. You can read more about the guided tour below:

Guided Tours

If you don’t mind spending extra money, there are several companies offering guided tours into the park. These include tours offered by travel agencies, hotels, and tour operators. Most of these tours include transport, lunch, admission fees, guides, and sometimes even hotel accommodations. Prices vary widely, ranging anywhere from $30 USD per person up to $100 USD per person.

How To Get To Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

There are several ways to reach Manuel Antonio, depending on where you live, what type of transportation you prefer, and how much money you want to spend.

By Plane

You can arrive at Manuel Antonio by booking a domestic flight to Quepos Airport. Quepos is situated about 4 1/2 miles from Manuel Antonio and Manuel Antonio Park. This small coastal city serves as the gateway to the National Park. Quepos is just a 15-minute drive (4 1/5 miles) from the Quepos La Managua Airport (XQP).

There are several places to eat, drink, shop, and play in Quepos. Restaurants include everything from Mexican food to Italian cuisine, sushi, burgers, pizza, and even breakfast. Bars and lounges offer drinks and snacks. If you want something different, there are plenty of stores selling souvenirs, clothing, art, books, jewelry, and crafts.

Quepos has it all; the perfect combination of quaintness and convenience. You’ll find a variety of shopping malls, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, ATMs, internet cafes, gas stations, and laundry facilities.

By Car or Bus

Manuel Antonio is about 3 hours driving distance from San José and 1 hour from Uvita. You can reach it either by bus or by renting a car. There is no need to have an off-road vehicle to visit the national park because all roads are paved and suitable for cars. However, those who want to explore the surrounding area can use a 4×4 car. Waze is a great navigation app that works better in Costa Rica than Google Maps because it includes local traffic information.

If you plan to rent a car in Manuel Antonio, Alamo Car Rental in San José offers great rates for car rentals and they offer insurance coverage for all vehicles rented. We also recommend using Sunny Cars because their prices include insurance, taxes, tolls, gas, and unlimited kilometers.

Another way to travel to Manuel Antonio from San José is by public transportation. You can use buses operated by Gray Line, Interbus, and Transporte Turístico Calle Real, among others. They offer daily departures starting early morning (around 7am). Some of those buses stop in Quepos, while others go directly to Manuel Antonio. We recommend taking the direct route. You can buy tickets online or at the terminal.

Best Time To Visit Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

With over 300 days of sun per year, Manuel Antonio offers some of the best weather in Costa Rica. Most visitors come here for the beautiful beaches and rainforest views, but it’s important to know what time of year to go. If you want to enjoy the best weather possible while you’re vacationing in Costa Rica, make sure you visit during the dry season, which runs from December to April. The temperatures are hot, humid, and sunny.

The rainy season lasts roughly from May to November, making it ideal for whale watching. During this time, hotels are cheaper, and waterfalls like Nauyaca become more powerful, while everything is lush in the green season. During the winter months, the weather is generally pleasant, although the sea gets colder.

If you want to visit Manuel Antonio for the warm beaches and spectacular sunsets, the best time to go to Manuel Antonio is from December to April, when there will likely be less rainfall.

Manuel Antonio is an incredibly popular destination during Christmas and New Year, so we recommend avoiding booking during that period.

Things To Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

What makes Manuel Antonio special? Is it the beautiful beaches or the lush rainforest? Or maybe the wildlife? Whatever it is, Manuel Antonio National Park has something unique that draws thousands of tourists every year.

Explore Playa Manuel Antonio & Park

If you want to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of nature, you must visit Playa Manuel Antonio. There are many trails leading to different parts of Playa Manuel Antonio and Manuel Antonio’s national park entrance, such as the Pristine Rainforest Trail, the Coastal Forest Trail, the North Shore Trail, and others. One of the most popular trails is the Coastal Forest Trail. You can find several places where you can stop and relax and enjoy the view. Some of those spots include Manuel Antonio beach, Sendero Playa Hermosa and the Playa Espadilla Sur. These are both gorgeous beaches with white sand and turquoise water. They are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the sun. In addition to that, you can also see the amazing ocean views.

If you do not want to walk too far, you can always rent a bike and explore the area around the park. You can either ride along the coastal road or follow the path that goes up to the hills. Either way, you will have a wonderful experience.

Visit Playa Espadilla Norte

Playa Espadilla Norté is the main public beach in Manuel Antonio Park. In fact, Playa Espadilla is the extension of the popular south beach, where you’ll find the famous “Cerro de la Muerte”, a hill covered in tropical vegetation. Playa Espadilla Sur is one of the most stunning beaches in Costa Rica, and it’s perfect for swimming and relaxing.

The best thing about Playa Espadilla is that it’s located outside the national park, so you won’t have to pay entrance fees. If you want to spend the day here, bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view while listening to the waves crashing against the shore. You can do some surfing, too.

You’ll definitely see iguanas around here since the beach is surrounded by forests. They are very friendly animals, so don’t worry about getting close to them. Also, keep an eye out for monkeys, toucans, hummingbirds, and other birds.

Visit Biesanz Beach

You won’t find many people at Playa Biesanz because it’s tucked away in a cove with calm waters. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, this is the place to go.

Playa Biesanz is accessible via a short hike along a slippery path through thick vegetation. Once you reach the shoreline, you’ll notice that the sand is covered in small pebbles. There are no facilities here, just stunning views of the ocean and nearby islands. Bring a picnic lunch and spend some quality time reading while enjoying the scenery.

Chocolate & Coffee Tour

Chocolate and coffee are synonymous with Costa Rica. This trip takes you to some of the most famous cacao plantations and coffee farms in the country. Learn everything about the chocolate-making process and enjoy a tasting session. Then, go to one of our favorite artisanal chocolate shops where you will be able to make your very own chocolate creation. This full-day tour includes roundtrip transportation, entrance fees, lunch, snacks, and drinks throughout the tour.

Nauyaca Waterfall Day Trip

The Nauyaca Waterfall day trip is amongst the favorite activities here in Costa Rica. If you want to see some of the best waterfalls in the world, we highly recommend doing this tour. Nauyaca is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. This small town is located 1.5 – 2 hours outside of Manuel Antonio National Park. This place is very popular among tourists because it offers some amazing views and activities. You can reach Nauyaca by bus from San José, Liberia, or Quepos.

Where To Stay In Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations. With over 3 million visitors every year, there are many options for accommodations. Whether you’re looking for something cheap or luxurious high-end hotels, you’ll find what you want. We’ve put together a list of our favorite places to stay in the area.

Parador Resort & Spa

Parador Resort is nestled among 12 acres of lush tropical rainforest with views across the forest and the ocean. Offering stunning panoramic views, it offers guests a unique experience. With the resort’s exclusive spa, guests are able to relax and unwind while enjoying the beauty of nature. Guests can take advantage of the resort’s free WiFi throughout the property, and enjoy breakfast every morning at the restaurant.

The spacious rooms feature modern amenities such as air conditioning, flat-screen TV, a mini bar, and a safe. They come complete with a high-speed internet connection. All rooms offer a sea view and some have balconies. Guests can choose from a variety of room types including Junior Suite, Superior Room, and Deluxe Garden Villa. All rooms include daily maid service and 24-hour front desk assistance.

Located just 10 minutes away from the famous Playa Espadilla Sur, this beautiful boutique resort is surrounded by 12 acres of pristine natural surroundings. This secluded location provides privacy and tranquility.

Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort

This resort boasts 11 acres of protected rainforest reserve as well. Guests are able to walk along the trail toward the ocean and enjoy beautiful views of the cliffs, sea caves, and islands. There is even a small river that runs through the property.

Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort offers a variety of activities such as horseback riding, kayaking, and snorkeling. You can also play tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts, go hiking, explore the nature reserve and take cooking classes.

There are 12 suites and villas located on the second floor of the main building. Each room has either a balcony or terrace overlooking the forest and the ocean. All of the rooms feature air conditioning, cable TV, Wi-Fi, a safe deposit box, and a minibar.

La Mariposa Hotel

Standing on the highest point in the region, La Mariposa offers guests a unique experience with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and lush rainforest surroundings. Guests are invited to enjoy the hotel’s restaurant, lounge, poolside bar, and terrace, where they can dine al fresco while taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding area. Rooms feature king beds, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi access, mini-refrigerators, coffeemakers, safes, air conditioning, and en suite bathrooms.

Gaia Hotel And Reserve

The Gaia Hotel in Costa Rica is located within the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This luxurious retreat offers guests a chance to experience nature up close without sacrificing comfort. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the hotel’s unique features such as the solar heated pool, spa treatments, yoga classes, horseback riding, and guided hikes. The hotel itself is built entirely out of sustainable materials like bamboo, recycled glass, and local wood.

Traveling to Costa Rica

You may be wondering about the best ways to travel to Costa Rica. There are several airports you can utilize to get to Costa Rica and get to any town or city within Costa Rica. For more information about the different airports, you can utilize to get to Costa Rica, read our article Airports in Costa Rica. 

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