There’s a reason Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s hottest destinations: It’s paradise. This Manuel Antonio travel guide will show you why. Dramatic cliffs rise to breezy bluffs and sweeping views of white sand beaches. As we said – paradise!
- Area: Central Pacific
- Average Temperature: 70-90º F (21-32º C)
- Closest Airport: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), 2.5 hours; Quepos Regional Airport, 20 minutes
- Can’t-Miss Attractions: Manuel Antonio National Park (hiking, wildlife, beaches), Beaches, Villa Vanilla Spice Plantation (spice tour), Damas Island Mangroves (estuary kayaking), Various Waterfalls (hiking, swimming, waterfall rappelling)
- Hot Activities: Zip Lining, Surfing, Sport Fishing, Nature Tours, Parasailing, Waterfalls, Kayaking, Mangrove Tours, Snorkeling, Learning Spanish, Waterfall Rappelling, Sailing
- Great for: Families, Beach and Nature Lovers, Adventure Enthusiasts, LGBTQ Travelers
Manuel Antonio is a stunning combination of pristine sandy beaches, spectacular coral reefs, beautiful mountains and lush tropical forest.
The small village of Manuel Antonio becomes a busy little town during the dry season especially on the weekends, as it sits at the entrance of the Manuel Antonio National Park, the most visited park in Costa Rica.
During the rainy season, the town returns to its rightful owners, the locals and the close to 300 animal species, including, fiery-billed toucans, howler, capuchin, spider and titi monkeys, two and three toed sloths, iguanas and red eyed frogs not to mention dolphins, sea turtles and during certain months even whales that call this area home. Life becomes carefree and more enjoyable, but be prepared to contend with daily rain showers.
The Manuel Antonio National park has been ranked among the most beautiful national parks in the world. With a land area of 1700 acres and an additional 135,905 marine acres, it is one of the last surviving tropical low land forests on the Pacific coast of Central America.
The impressive landscape of Manuel Antonio, includes several coves, white sand beaches with turquoise waters and mangroves all lined by a lush tropical rain forest.
The Manuel Antonio area, is comprised of three main beaches, Playa Espadilla is the main public beach where the town sits, playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Rey are within the national park. The northern side of Playa Espadilla is a popular surfing spot while the southern side is ideal for swimming and body surfing, you can rent surf boards and snorkeling gear from beachfront vendors.
There are several smaller, but incredibly beautiful beaches along the coast, including Playa Biesanz which offers great snorkeling, then there is the secluded Playa Playita, for many years this was the unofficial nudist beach, these days it has become a very popular gay hangout, the beach is inaccessible during high tide when the waves crash fiercely over the rock passage.
Our Manuel Antonio travel guide introduces you to the sweeping Pacific and the area’s most spectacular beaches, greatest tours, most popular hotels, and favorite restaurants in and around Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park.
What to do in Manuel Antonio
This destination has so much to offer so this Manuel Antonio travel guide should help you plan your days. It’s best if you plan to stay for at least 3 or 4 days. Remember to always wear sunblock, the sunrays in Costa Rica can be brutal.
The biodiversity of the region enamors all who visit it, whether you are a nature lover, eco-traveler or an adventure seeker, there is something for everyone to enjoy here!
Manuel Antonio National Park
The park is open every day except Mondays from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. The earlier you get there the better. There are 5 main trails inside the park, some are easy walks to the different beaches others are more challenging as they go up hills and rocky outcrops.
Hiking in the park is a great opportunity for bird and wildlife watching. A guide is not necessary to tour the park if you stick to the trails, but it is recommended, having private guide is a much more enjoyable experience.
Touring the Isla Damas mangroves by boat or kayak is a unique experience. You will visit the red, white, black and pineapple or green mangroves on this tour, observing the incredible biodiversity they host.
View the magnificent Manuel Antonio shoreline from 600 feet up in the air. You can fly solo or accompanied by one other person, there is no age limit to this tour, anyone can fly in Manuel Antonio!
Jet Ski Tours
A guided tour of Manuel Antonio’s coast line by jet ski is as fun as it sounds. Ride around a low emission rented jet ski for about 2 hours stopping along the way for a little snorkeling and swimming.
Jungle Night Tour
This tour is not for everyone, you need to be very courageous and a little insane to choose to walk in a tropical rain forest at night, but those brave enough to do it will have an amazing story to tell afterwards. If you are interested visit: Jungle Night Tour – Manuel Antonio they offer the tours in English, Spanish and German.
There are several companies in the area offering off road ATV tours. Most tour operators offer semi-automatic ATV’s, however if you are interested in riding a fully automatic ATV I suggest you contact Mid-World Costa Rica.
The most relaxing way to enjoy the Manuel Antonio coastline. There are several vessels available, most will take you to Playa Biesanz to spend a few hours swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing on this beautiful beach.
Quepos is famous for its world-renowned sports fishing tours. Tours depart from the Pez Vela Marina. Both inshore and offshore fishing excursions are offered.
Learn how to surf on the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio. Lessons for first timers as well as intermediate level are offered year-round. If you would prefer private lessons this can be arranged as well.
Great Bars and Restaurants in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio has plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars to choose from, here are some of the most popular ones.
Falafel Bar – Centrally located, with an open-air atmosphere. Great Mediterranean food with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Very well priced.
Café Milagro – Charming café with a distinct Latin vibe. This is a combination of café, restaurant and bar, opens early to greet you with a wonderful breakfast and it will be waiting for you at dusk for a savory cocktail.
Barba Roja – A must stop on your trip to Manuel Antonio, stunning views and the layout of the restaurant offers something for everyone, flat screen TV’s at the bar are perfect for watching a game, the main dining area makes a great setting for a romantic dinner or sit on the deck for a more relaxing evening. Good variety of food at fair prices.
El Avion – Set in a C-123 Fairchild cargo plane, this unique restaurant and pub must be on your list. This is the perfect place to view the spectacular sunsets of Manuel Antonio.
Kapi Kapi – One of the better restaurants in the area. Their Pan-Asian style dishes will delight every palate, the macadamia crusted mahi-mahi is highly recommended.
Great Hotels in Manuel Antonio
Gaia Hotel and Resort – This is a stylish boutique hotel characterized by its eco-friendly practices. It has 22 beautifully decorated rooms and a spectacular multi-level pool with a swim up bar and whirlpool. They also have a superb restaurant called La Luna.
Tulemar Bungalows and Villas – Unlike most hotels in the Manuel Antonio area, Tulemar has a private access to a beautiful secluded beach. There is a restaurant on the beach, along with loungers, and you can make free use of kayaks and boogie boards as well.
La Mansion Inn – An upper-middle range boutique hotel that offers a romantic setting and spectacular views from the roof top terrace. There is a restaurant and a unique bar built into a natural cave.
La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows – Great budget option with an unbeatable location. This hotel is right next the entrance to the National Park and only 3-minute walk to the beach. Rates include breakfast.
Costa Rica only has 2 seasons, a dry season that spans through the months of December to April, and the rainy season, which runs from May to November, the average rainfall in Manuel Antonio is 151 inches a year.
Average temperatures do not vary much throughout the year and are normally between 81 and 86 degrees.
Don’t let the rainy season deter you from visiting this wonderful place, as mentioned above, there are less tourists during this time and hotels run great promotions.
How to Get to Manuel Antonio
Located on the Central Pacific Coast about 120 miles from San José. It’s important to note that, Manuel Antonio is not an actual town, what is normally referred to as Manuel Antonio, is nothing more than 4 miles of road lined with hotels and restaurants that stretches from the city of Quepos to the public beach of Espadilla. Quepos is where the bus terminal and a small airport are located.
Domestic airlines Sansa and Nature Air fly to and from Quepos several times a day. For flight information visit:
TRACOPA is the bus company that offers the service from San Jose to Quepos or Manuel Antonio. The bus station is in San José, Plaza Viquez Calle 5 y Avenida 20.
Their direct bus rides take about 3 hours, there are several departures per day starting at 6:00 am until 5:00pm
There are also buses that stop along the way, these will take about 5 hours to get to Manuel Antonio.
Ask the teller before you buy the tickets, to avoid being stuck in the bus longer than necessary.
Tropical Tours Shuttle offers transportation to Manuel Antonio twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. They can pick you up in San José or the International Airport in Alajuela. The trip will take about 3 hours just like the direct bus.
For price and schedule information visit: https://tropicaltourshuttles.com/
If you plan on renting a car, then the easiest way to get to Manuel Antonio is by taking route 27, this is a toll road so make sure to have cash on hand, the toll stations only accept the local currency “colones” so make sure to have some handy in small denomination bills.
Once you are on route 27 drive straight until you reach Orotina, then exit towards route 34 also known as the Costanera, and follow the road signs to Jaco Beach. Before you arrive in Jaco you will cross the bridge over the Tarcoles rivers, you can make a stop there to see the enormous crocodiles that line up the shores. From Jaco, drive straight to Quepos and then take the road up the mountain that leads to Manuel Antonio.
Visit Manuel Antonio
We hope you found this Manuel Antonio Travel Guide useful. If you enjoy white sandy beaches, tropical landscapes and wildlife then you will fall in love with Manuel Antonio, there is no place on earth quite like this! Relax on the beach, watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand or enjoy the many adrenaline packed activities. Regardless of how you decide to spend your vacation here, you will not regret spending a few days in Manuel Antonio.