Manuel Antonio Costa Rica: Complete Visitors Guide

A beautiful Pacific Coast beach town and home to Costa Rica’s most popular national park.

manuel antonio national park
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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is home to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is the most visited national park in Costa Rica due to its abundance of wildlife and flat main trails.

The town has a central downtown area near the national park with some shops and restaurants across from Manuel Antonio Beach. 

But, most hotels and places to eat are located on a curvy hill road above the beach. 

This town is popular with tourists and can be very crowded (especially during the dry season). Despite that, it is a beautiful destination that is convenient to get to from the San Jose International Airport.

Overview of Manuel Antonio

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose

Popular Things to Do

explore the national park, relax on the beaches, take a catamaran tour

Best Way to Get Around

Rental car, walking in the downtown area

Best Time of Year to Visit

Dry season is from late December until mid-April

Grocery Stores

There is a grocery store on the main road through Manuel Antonio called Super Pura Vida. The sign outside says “Organic Market” in large letters. Just note that it can be difficult to park here and pull in/ out.


The most trustworthy ATM option is in Quepos at BAC Credomatic. Just keep an eye on your surroundings if taking money out here. There are often a lot of people walking around. 

Gas Stations

There aren’t any gas stations in downtown Manuel Antonio. 

You will need to drive back out to the highway Route 34. Here you will find a gas station called Delta La Managua. 

Keep in mind all gas stations here are full service. So stay in your car and an employee will fill your car up.

manuel antonio map

Map Of Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is located in the Puntarenas Province on the Central Pacific coast of the country. 

It is south of Jaco and north of the Dominical/ Uvita area. 

Manuel Antonio Weather

From December until mid-April you can expect zero rain and hot weather in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. 

Just keep in mind that this is also prime tourism time and this area tends to be one of the most full places in the country.

Also, by February everything starts to get a bit dried out and not as beautiful (in my opinion). 

From mid-April until the end of July you can expect sunny and hot days with a daily afternoon thunderstorm. 

The rain usually rolls in around 2 pm and typically does not last for more than a few hours. 

Even after the rain ends for the day it tends to stay hot here.

From August until December, the weather can be a total guess. Sometimes you’ll have nice sunny days and other times you might have nonstop rain. 

Keep in mind that this is also the least popular time to travel so there are fewer tourists and everything is cheaper.

A Few Things to Note About Manuel Antonio Weather

  • The sun rises between 5:15 and 5:45am all year round.
  • The sun sets between about 5:15 and 5:45pm all year round
  • Wildlife is most active in the morning, so get up early to see all the creatures.
  • Manuel Antonio has some rivers and streams nearby. This area tends to be especially buggy once the sun goes down. 
  • The average daily temperature is usually about 90 degrees F in the dry season and in the mid-80s in the fall.
  • Keep in mind that Manuel Antonio is a tropical destination that is probably closer to the Equator than you are used to. As in, the UV index here is notoriously high. Bring all the sun protection.

If you would like more info, check out our complete guide to weather in Costa Rica.

The Manuel Antonio National Park

The main reason you are probably in Manuel Antonio is probably to go to the national park.

It is a great place to see wildlife and enjoy the beautiful beaches. 

Some of the wildlife you might see here includes:

Two and three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and squirrel monkeys (which are actually endangered). 

You may also see iguanas, crazy insects, unique species of birds, deer, snakes and more in their natural habitat!

It is possible to explore the park on your own, but if you would like to see a ton of wildlife and learn all about the animals. We suggest going on a guided tour with an experienced tour guide.

Guided National Park Tour (without transportation): Manuel Antonio National Park Tour

Tour with Transportation from Manuel AntonioManuel Antonio Guided Walk – ALL INCLUSIVE TOUR

If you would like more info about the national park, we have a complete guide to the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Note: You need to pre-book your park entrance fee. If you arrange a tour they will likely purchase the entrance fee for you. If not, you can book online here. Reserve in advance because they sell out fast!

When you pre-book your tickets online you will need to select a time slot. We suggest planning to go to the national park as early as possible to enjoy the park before the crowds and also so you see the wildlife when they are most active.

Also, keep in mind that the park is closed on Tuesdays.

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio

Because Manuel Antonio is such a hub for tourism, there are a ton of fun things you can do near here.

Most of these activities are not located in the downtown area but are within a short drive.

So you will need a rental car or will need to book day excursions with transportation.

Some other fun things to do include:

Go on a Catamaran Tour

There is no shortage of catamaran tour options in Manuel Antonio. Usually, these tours include snorkeling or you can find a scuba diving tour. 

Our favorite tour is the All-Inclusive Catamaran Eco Adventure tour. This tour includes anchoring in the calm, clear waters of Bahia Biezans, where you can snorkel and swim.

Your adventure also includes a delicious lunch featuring fresh fruit, cocktails, Costa Rican coffee, and an array of fruit drinks.

⤷ Arrange Your Catamaran Tour 🛥️

Visit Nauyaca Waterfall 

Nauyaca waterfall is located just south of Manuel Antonio in the town of Dominical.

If you do not have a rental car we highly suggest this amazing half day tour with lunch and transportation from and to your hotel.

It is also completely possible to visit this spot on your own with a car.

Expect an intense hike and swim under an impressive waterfall.

Check out our complete Nauyaca guide for all the details.

Take a Deep Sea Fishing Trip 

The waters off of Quepos (town just before Manuel Antonio) are great for deep-sea sport fishing. 

There are many experienced guides here who can help ensure you catch marlin, tuna, sailfish, and more!

Our personal suggestion is a half or full-day trip with Captain Benn on the Good Day. You are bound to have a great experience.

You can book your fishing trip here

Go White Water Rafting

It is possible to go whitewater rafting from Manuel Antonio on the Naranjo or Savegre River. 

The Naranjo is class III, IV, and V rapids. 

We suggest this white water rafting tour on the Naranjo

Stick to the Savegre if you are new to rafting and want class II and III rapids.

We suggest this rafting tour on the Savegre

Go to the Quepos farmer’s market

The nearby town of Quepos has a farmer’s market every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. It is located along the sea wall in Quepos.

We suggest picking up some unusual fruits you’ve never seen before and trying them out.

Try Parasailing

The beach next to Manuel Antonio is one of the few places in the country where we have seen parasailing.

This is the perfect activity for those of you who are crazy about a unique adventure.

We suggest planning your trip with Miguel.

He will take great care of you and I’m sure you will have so much fun!

Watch the Sunset

Please don’t miss the sunset while you are here. It’s amazing! We suggest getting dinner on the cliffs for a good view (we have suggestions in the restaurant section) or watching it from Playa Espadilla.

Check out our guide to the 30 Best Things to Do in Manuel Antonio for more fun ideas!

The Manuel Antonio Beaches

The Manuel Antonio area is home to several gorgeous beaches. Keep in mind that all beaches in Costa Rica are considered public beaches. They need to have free access by law.

A few of our favorites are:

Playa Biesanz

Locals hang out here and rent beach equipment for the day. It is possible to rent beach chairs, kayaks, and snorkel gear, There are also vendors selling food and drinks. 

We like this spot because the calm waters are often perfecy to swim in.

You can find out more in our Playa Biesanz guide

Playa Espadilla

Playa Espadilla is the main beach in the town of Manuel Antonio. It is located directly across from the small downtown area. This beach is long and flat.

Playa Espadilla Sur

This beach is located within the national park. It is one of the most popular beaches in the national park because it is easy to access and it’s beautiful.  

Manuel Antonio Beach

Playa Manuel Antonio is located directly across from Playa Espadilla Sur on the jutted-out piece of land of Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s beautiful!

Escondida Beach

This beach is also located within the national park. It is a bit more of a hike to get to, so it usually is less crowded than the other beaches in the park.

Transportation to Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica: Complete Visitors Guide

Flights to Costa Rica

The easiest way of getting to Manuel Antonio is by flying into the San Jose International Airport. 

We usually have the best luck with booking our flights through Skyscanner. They are our go-to flight booking site for great rates.

Renting a Car to Manuel Antonio

We suggest renting a car if you plan on traveling to other places and want the flexibility of not having to depend on tours. 

Our favorite Costa Rican rental car company, Adobe, has given us a 10% discount plus other great perks to pass on to you.

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Shared Shuttle

A shared shuttle to Manuel Antonio is an easy way to get to the coastal town without the stress of driving or the higher price tag of a private shuttle.

We always have the best luck finding convenient shuttles on the website Bookaway.

🚐 Reserve Your Shared Shuttle to Manuel Antonio 🚐

Private Transfer

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, a private transfer is always a good option. Adobe Car Rental now provides an excellent transfer service.

A trusted driver will take you from the airport (or any other place in the country) directly to your place of choice in Manuel Antonio. 

Get a Private Transfer Price Quote to Manuel Antonio

Public Bus

If you are only going to Manuel Antonio and not planning on traveling to other places, the bus from San Jose is your cheapest option.

The public bus will only cost you about $10 dollars and runs several times a day. It’s not the most comfortable, but hey, it’s cheap!

You can check out the full bus schedule. As your destination put in “Quepos”.

Domestic Flight

Your other option is to fly. There is a small airport in Quepos and domestic flights from San Jose and Liberia fly here.

From Quepos, you can easily get a taxi to Manuel Antonio.

Sansa is the main domestic airline in Costa Rica. 

The airport in Quepos is called Quepos La Managua Airport (XQP). 

This is definitely the fastest way to get to Manuel Antonio, but if you have a fear of small planes, this is not the option for you. 

Driving to Manuel Antonio from San Jose

The drive from the San Jose International Airport to Manuel Antonio will take about three to four hours. 

Here are the directions:

Leave San Jose International Airport and head northwest on the main airport road, following signs for Route 1 (also known as the Inter-American Highway or Pan-American Highway).

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Manuel Antonio Costa Rica: Complete Visitors Guide

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This road can be a bit hectic, especially during rush hour. 

You will then merge onto Route 1, heading northwest towards San Ramon.

You will then exit onto highway 27 in the direction of Jaco/Quepos.

There are tolls on this first stretch. They do not accept credit cards but cash in dollars or colones is accepted.

Continue on Highway 27 until you reach the exit for Quepos/Manuel Antonio (Highway 34).

Take the exit and merge onto Highway 34.

Follow Highway 34 for approximately 37 miles until you reach Manuel Antonio.

The drive from SJO to Manuel Antonio usually takes around 3 to four hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.

Even though this route seem easy, it is best to use a GPS app (we like the free app Waze) because sometimes it is hard to tell where the road actually goes while you’re driving. 

You can download offline Google Maps if you won’t have a network connection.

Transportation In Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica: Complete Visitors Guide

Once you arrive in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica you will need transportation to get around town and to fun activities. Here is our opinion on that….

We always suggest renting a car because it gives you the most flexibility to do off-the-beaten-path activities and go to different restaurants. 

If you opt to take the public bus, private shuttle, or domestic flight; you can always rent a car once in Manuel Antonio. 

Our favorite rental car company Adobe, has an office in Quepos and will deliver your car to your hotel for you within 12 miles of their office. 

You won’t need a car if….

– You are staying at one of the resorts and don’t plan to leave much.

– You plan on booking all activities with transportation included.

The thing about Manuel Antonio is that some restaurants are more spread out because there isn’t such a condensed downtown area. 

And the main road is curvy and narrow in spots. I don’t really suggest walking on it, especially after dark. 

However, you can always take a taxi. 

If you opt to do this, I suggest asking at your hotel or VRBO for the contact of a taxi driver that they trust. 

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica Hotels

Manuel Antonio Hotels and Vacation Rentals at a Glance

For Families: Tulemar Resort

For a Destination Wedding: Tulemar Resort | Casa Fantastico 

For a Romantic Trip: Makanda by The Sea Hotel Adults Only

For a Group of Friends / Bachelor Party: Villa Preciosa 

For a Unique Experience: WORLD FAMOUS 727 Airplane | Glamping Tomaselli

….Check out all the best of Manuel Antonio hotels

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is home to tons of great hotel options! Here are some of our favorites. Just keep in mind that during peak season you should book your hotels early and expect higher prices.

High-End Hotels

Tulemar Resort: Beautiful resort with a private beach, restaurant, pool, and water sports on-site. 

Makanda by The Sea: Exclusively for adults, this is a design-forward retreat in Manuel Antonio. It’s an oasis where luxury meets the pristine beauty of Manuel Antonio. 

Gaia Hotel & Reserve: Luxury hotel with spa, gym, pool, and a fine-dining restaurant on site. 

Mid-Range Hotels

La Vela Boutique Hotel: Adults only hotel with pool. Located only .5 kilometers from Manuel Antonio National Park.

Hotel Villas Nicolas: Adults-only hotel with amazing Pacific Ocean views. The property here is gorgeous!

Budget Hotels

Planet B Hostel: Planet B Hostel offers a blend of comfort and camaraderie. The hostel is located off of the main road between Quepos and downtown Manuel Antonio. 

⤷ For more ideas, we created a complete guide to hotels in Manuel Antonio.

Vacation Rentals in Manuel Antonio

manuel antonio airplane

We always love renting a home or villa for our vacation in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica. This gives you more privacy and allows you the flexibility to cook your own meals. We like VRBO for vacation rentals in Costa Rica.

Note: We try to only ever suggest places with good cancellation policies, but always double-check before booking.

Here are the best places to stay in our opinion:

High End

Casa Fantastico: This place sleeps 12 guests and comes with a private chef that cooks two meals per day. It has a gym, large outdoor pool, movie room, game room, six bedrooms, and 12,000 square feet of living space. 

Casa las Brisas – We love this spot because the house and property have so much character. This house sleeps 12 guests, has three pools, has a game room, and comes with daily cleaning and a personal chef.

Villa Pelicano – This home is not as modern as some of the others in Manuel Antonio, but we like it because it’s one of the few places with a large property (5 acres). It would be the perfect place for hosting an event. The home sleeps 22 guests, has a pool, and comes with a chef and housekeeper.

Villa Preciosa – This place is perfect for a large group that wants an all-inclusive option. This house sleeps up to 24 guests, comes with a chef, housekeeper, and bartender. Yes, you read that right. You get your own personal bartender here. There is an all inclusive meal plan option so your group can fully enjoy all the food and drinks you would like. 


WORLD FAMOUS 727 Airplane –  You may have seen pictures of this place before (it goes viral from time to time). This is an old 727 airplane that has been converted into a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath home. If you are looking for unique, this is it. 

Superb Villa with Ocean View – A 4 bedroom/ 4 bath villa that sleeps 8 guests. This is located in the hills above Manuel Antonio and has a private pool. 

Casa Gina – A two bedroom house that sleeps five guests. This house has jungle privacy and a nice pool.

Budget Friendly

A two-bedroom/one-bath house that sleeps five guests. On the property grounds, you can access the game room with a pool table and lounge area

Manuel Antonio Vacation Packages

Take the planning, stress, and guesswork out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Costa Rica Adventure

⭐️ RATING: 4.9/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  16 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • Explore the Manuel Antonio National Park and see TOMs of wildlife
  • Swim under the La Fortuna waterfall
  • Experience the beauty of the Monteverde cloud forest

Natural Highlights of Costa Rica National Geographic

⭐️ RATING: 4.9/5 Stars on TourRadar | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  9 Days | ✅ Book it!

  • Hike through the dense forests of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Explore the stunning Arenal Volcano
  • Enjoy the lush cloud forests in Monteverde

Manuel Antonio Restaurants

There is no shortage of restaurant options in the Manuel Antonio area! Here are our faves.


La Luna Restaurant– Located in Gaia Hotel, this restaurant serves up very fresh food with a view. Everything is always delicious.


Emilios Cafe– They are open all day, but I personally love this place for breakfast and lunch. They have delicious cafe-style food. Save room for dessert. The cakes are excellent.

Rico Tico Jungle Grill– A great place for dinner with a view. Plan to get here around 5:15 to enjoy the sunset with your meal.

El Arado Restaurant– This place has a really fun relaxed atmosphere. There is often live music. If you want to really go crazy, get the lobster.

Claro Que Si Seafood– I’m all about this place for a delicious date night. Their seafood is what they are known for but there are plenty of other amazing options as well.


Falafel Bar – The perfect cute lunch spot. Their falafel is on point and the prices are good.

Backpacks Paradise Costa Linda – Your best bet for lunch after a day in the national park. Located down the street from the park, this hostel has good typical Costa Rican food at an affordable price.

Baguette – Pastry heaven. A seriously good little coffee shop which I would happily eat at every day and be huge from due to carb overload. 

Manuel Antonio Travel Tips

things to do in manuel antonio

– This area can get really crowded during peak travel time. It is always best to book your hotel early.

– People often get confused between Manuel Antonio and Quepos. Quepos is a condensed town located just before you enter Manuel Antonio. Most tourists opt to stay in Manuel Antonio instead of Quepos. However, both names are used somewhat interchangeably because the overall area is often referred to as Quepos.

– Be careful when swimming and surfing. There are crocodiles that have been known to enter the waters near river mouths. Just ask someone where you can swim before getting in the water.

– We have always felt safe in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica, but please don’t walk around alone at night and don’t carry large amounts of cash on you. The most common crime is petty theft.

– If you visit here, always look up in the trees. This area is known for scarlet macaws. Sometimes you’ll see trees just full of them. It doesn’t get any more tropical than that!

Heymondo travel insurance is or go-to insurance for Costa Rica. We think travel insurance is always a must have. You never know what will happen in a foreign country.

Their comprehensive plans offer 24/7 assistance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, lost baggage coverage, assistance in case of medical issues, as well as the option to add-on adventure activity coverage. 

↳ Get Your Travel Insurance Quote

Should You Visit Manuel Antonio for Your Vacation?

manuel antonio national park

Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular destinations in the country. Because of that, the town can get really full, especially during the high season (December through late April).

If you are not interested in that and want a more peaceful experience, we suggest staying north of Manuel Antonio in Esterillos or south in Uvita or Dominical. You can then still easily take day trips to go to the national park.

Packing for Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

tour manuel antonio

Manuel Antonio is a relaxed beach town but there are some nicer resorts and restaurants.

In general, nobody will judge you for wearing anything you want.

This town is one of those places in which you kind of need to pack a little of everything.

It is a beach destination so you most likely want bathing suits, plenty of sun coverage, and beach coverups.

But, you are probably also here to see wildlife and hike in the national park. So, you probably want hiking shoes (we recommend Keen’s for here).

Also, keep in mind that the mosquitos come out in full force here once the sun goes down.

Our go-to Manuel Antonio packing list includes:

For Women:

For Men:


Check out our complete Manuel Antonio Packing List for all the essentials. 

Manuel Antonio FAQ

How many days is enough in Manuel Antonio?

I think that 3 or 4 days is enough time in Manuel Antonio.

Why is Manuel Antonio Costa Rica famous?

Manuel Antonio is famous for the Manuel Antonio National Park. This park has a wide variety of wildlife in a condensed area with easy walking paths. 

Is Manuel Antonio Costa Rica safe?

Yes, generally Manuel Antonio is safe. However, petty theft does sometimes happen. Always use caution and keep an eye on your belongings. 

Where is it best to stay in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica?

There are plenty of great hotels and resorts in the Manuel Antonio area. There isn’t a “best place” but read reviews and look at ratings before booking. 

Is it safe to swim in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica?

In most spots, it is safe to swim. However, look for red flags out at the beach and always ask someone before getting in the water to make sure. 

Articles About Manuel Antonio

beach bars in costa rica

The Best Beach Bars in Costa Rica

Beach bars are something we’ve become a bit obsessed with since moving to Costa Rica. Surprisingly, for a country…

You Might Also Like Visiting

Herradura: A small beach village that is home to one of the most popular resorts in Costa Rica

Esterillos: A relaxed village with three parts that are perfect for long beach walks

Quepos: A bustling small city that serves as a gateway to Manuel Antonio

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Central Pacific Coast for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will allow you to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations and will allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

Save 10% Plus Other Perks with Our Adobe Rental Car Discount

☀️ Should I buy travel insurance for Costa Rica?

Yes, travel insurance is always a good idea. It is not just for illness or injury, but also lost luggage, delayed trips, and more!

We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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  1. Stephanie says:

    This was so helpful! I’m planning on going in January with my brother and it sounds like this is going to be so much fun!

    1. Let us know if you have any questions as you plan your trip. We are happy to help. 🙂

  2. Hi, great info! Thanks so much. We are thinking about heading there in the fall but I don’t see anything on your site about surfing/kiteboarding being allowed in the National Park (I assume not since you listed all the things not allowed). What about the other beaches in Manuel Antonio? Have you ever seen any kiteboarding there? That would be key to our vacation.
    You’ve been a great help!

    1. Hi Renee! I’m pretty sure that it is fine on all the public beaches. It’s just places like national parks where kiteboarding is off limits. The big main beach in Manuel Antonio will probably be perfect for it!

  3. Hello !
    We are planning our trip Quepos/Manuel Antonio area. Im trying to decide between staying in Quepos or someplace closer to Manuel Antonio ? What would you recommend ?
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Dawn!
      If you want to be closer to the beach and all the action I suggest Manuel Antonio. Quepos is better if you don’t mind driving 10 or 15 minutes to the beaches and national park and want to be away from all the action. We’ve stayed in both places and have had a great time either way.
      Let me know if you have any more questions!