Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

A nice beach destination and home to Costa Rica's most popular national park

The Manuel Antonio Vibe

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 map

Map Of Manuel Antonio

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.

Manuel Antonio at a Glance

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

 

Getting to Manuel Antonio

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

FIND OUT HOW TO GET UP TO 10% OFF YOUR CAR RENTAL IN COSTA RICA!

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..

 

Getting Around in Manuel Antonio

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. 

Book Your Transportation

Manuel Antonio Weather

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.

Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide

(with great Manuel Antonio tips)

Manuel Antonio Hotels

Manuel Antonio is home to tons of great hotel options! Here are some of our favorites. 

High-End Hotels

Tulemar ResortBeautiful 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 & ReserveLuxury 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 NicolasAdults-only hotel with amazing ocean views. The property here is gorgeous!

Budget Hotels

Millenium HostelsLocated 20 meters from Manuel Antonio National Park, this hostel has private rooms and shared dorms. There is a pool and free parking for guests.

Manuel Antonio Villa Rentals

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. 

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio

manuel antonio

Visit 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 (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. 

Visit playa Biesanz and go sea kayaking /snorkeling

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.

Go to the Quepos farmers market

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.

Relax on Manuel Antonio beach

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. 

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. 

We suggest this tour if you would like to be on a sailboat or this tour for a catamaran experience. 

 

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.

 

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 Zip Lining 

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.

 

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.

 

Go White Water Rafting

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

 

 

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!

 

Go Mangrove Kayaking 

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!

 

Take a Surf Lesson 

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.

 

 

Manuel Antonio Restaurants

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

Fine Dining

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

Mid-Range

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.

Budget-Friendly

Falafel BarThe 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.

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

Remote Working in Manuel Antonio

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.

Packing for Manuel Antonio

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!

…for more packing tips check out our complete packing list for women and our packing list for men.

manuel antonio
manuel antonio

Manuel Antonio Travel Tips

– 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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6 Responses

  1. 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!

  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!
    Renee

    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!!
    Dawn

    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!

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