Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is home to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is the most visited national park in Costa Rica.
This town has pretty much every outdoor adventure you could possibly want.
There are also many upscale hotels and restaurants.
However, it is definitely possible to find decent places for budget travelers as well.
We find Manuel Antonio Costa Rica to be a bit crowded (especially during the dry season), but despite that, it is a beautiful destination that is convenient to get to from the San Jose airport.
Manuel Antonio is located in the Puntarenas Province in the Central Pacific area of the country.
It is easy to get to from the San Jose Internation Airport.
Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose
explore the national park, relax on the beaches, take a catamaran tour
Rental car, walking in the downtown area
Dry season is from late December until mid-April
The easiest way to get to Manuel Antonio is by flying into the San Jose airport and then renting a car. You will have a LONG drive if coming from Liberia.
From San Jose airport it will take you about four hours to get to Manuel Antonio. The entire drive is on well-maintained highways.
You will drive almost directly west and then down the coast past Jaco and then to Manuel Antonio.
Just a warning, the highway to the west is a toll road. If you do not have colones with you they also accept dollars.
We like to have a car because it gives us the flexibility of exploring more off the beaten path activities. Also, the downtown area where the national park is easily walkable, but a lot of good restaurants and beaches will require a car to get to.
We suggest using Adobe because they are the most trustworthy company in this country and we have partnered with them to get a 10% discount for you on your rental car.
If you do not feel comfortable driving you can always take the Tracopa bus. It runs about once an hour daily from downtown San Jose to Manuel Antonio. The bus costs about $8 each way.
Tip: A private shuttle is always a great option for easy transportation. Find out more here..
If you do not feel comfortable driving to Manuel Antonio, but would like a car for exploring while in the area we suggest renting a car for a few days while in Manuel Antonio and using the bus to get to and from Manuel Antonio.
To do this just select “Quepos/Manuel Antonio” as your car pick up location when you reserve your car with Adobe through us. In the comments section of the rental car reservation, you can specify that you need the car delivered to you at your hotel. Adobe will deliver it to you free of charge if you are within 12 miles of their office location.
After some nightmare rental car experiences with other companies, we have partnered with the only company we fully trust, Adobe, to bring our readers a 10% discount.
From December until mid-Aril 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.
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.
Manuel Antonio is home to tons of great hotel options! Here are some of our favorites.
Tulemar Resort– Beautiful resort with private beach, restaurant, pool, and water sports on-site.
Los Altos Resort– Stunning modern property with pool, fitness center, private beach, spa, and restaurant.
Gaia Hotel & Reserve– Luxury hotel with spa, gym, pool, and a fine-dining restaurant on site.
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 ocean views. The property here is gorgeous!
Millenium Hostels– Located 20 meters from Manuel Antonio National Park, this hostel has private rooms and shared dorms. There is a pool and free parking for guests.
If you are traveling with a large group, renting a villa can be a great way to enjoy your vacation in the Manuel Antonio area.
Just note that most villas are located in the hills overlooking the town and not directly on the beach.
A few of our favorite villas in this area are:
Casa Fantastico – This was actually one of our top villa choices for our wedding. Ultimately we decided we wanted a place directly on the beach so we didn’t rent this place. But, it is such an amazing home. 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.
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 (including many squirrel monkeys and sloths) and enjoy the beautiful beaches.
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 hiring a guide.
You can just show up at the park and hire a guide, but if you would like a tour with transportation we highly suggest a private tour with Manuel.
If you would like more info about the national park, we have a complete guide.
Also, keep in mind that the park is closed on Tuesdays.
Playa Biesanz is our favorite beach in Manuel Antonio.
The beach is filled with locals selling everything you need. You can rent sea kayaks, snorkel gear, stand up paddleboards, buy cocktails, buy food, rent beach chairs, and more! All of this is at a very reasonable rate.
Plus it’s usually not very full of tourists.
It is located just before Parador Resort (if you need a place to put in your GPS). You can park along the side of the road and pay the guard a few dollars to watch your car.
The nearby town of Quepos has a farmers 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.
In the downtown area of the town, there is a long strip of beach with white sand. Playa Manuel Antonio is a great spot to spend a beach day.
There is no shortage of catamaran tour options in Manuel Antonio. Usually, these tours include snorkeling or you can find a scuba diving tour.
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.
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.
In the hills above Manuel Antonio, there are a few different zip-lining options. This is a family-friendly activity that will get the adrenaline pumping.
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.
It is possible to go whitewater rafting from Quepos on the Naranjo or Savegre River.
The Naranjo is class III, IV, and V rapids.
We suggest this tour on the Naranjo.
Stick to the Savegre if you are new to rafting and want class II and III rapids.
We suggest this tour on the Savegre.
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!
The waterways around Isla Damas located just north of Manuel Antonio are perfect for kayaking with an experienced guide.
Along your peaceful paddle, you may see several species of birds, sloths, monkeys, reptiles, and more!
If you are new to surfing, this area will be good for you to try your hand at riding the waves. There are several beaches nearby with semi calm waters.
There is no shortage of restaurant options in Manuel Antonio! 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.
If you plan on working while in Manuel Antonio there are a few things you should know.
– In general, the internet is usually decent, but it’s always a good idea to ask about the internet speed before booking a place.
– If you need a co-working space, Selina has a co-working area that offers day passes.
Bug Spray – The second the sun goes down the mosquitos come out in full force. Don’t forget, aerosol cans are not allowed in luggage, so bring spray in a normal spray bottle.
Sun Protection – Costa Rica is not too far from the equator. The UV index here is high! We suggest bringing a wide brimmed hat, UV protecting shirts, and of course high SPF sunscreen.
A Rain Jacket – If traveling during rainy season you might have some rainy afternoons. We like to bring a lightweight jacket because even when it rains it stays hot!
– 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.
– This area can get really crowded during peak travel time. It is always best to book your hotel early.
– 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.
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