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 little too touristy for our liking (especially during the dry season), but despite that, it is a beautiful destination that is convenient to get to from the San Jose airport.
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.
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 located if compact, but a lot of good restaurants and beaches will require a car.
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. You can find out more here.
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. You can find out more about taking the Tracopa bus to Manuel Antonio along with a complete schedule here.
Getting Around in Manuel Antonio
As we already mentioned, we prefer to have a car while in Manuel Antonio for exploring.
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. You can find out more about it here!
Visit playa Biesanz and go sea kayaking /snorkeling: Playa Biesanz is our favorite beach in Manuel Antonio. You can park on the side of the road and have an attendant watch your car for under $5. Then walk down the path to the beach (check for howler monkeys in the trees). The beach is filled with locals selling everything you need. You can rent sea kayaks, snorkel gear, stand up paddle boards, 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 with tourists.
Visit the Manuel Antonio national park: The main reason you are probably in Manuel Antonio is probably to go to the national park. You can read our full post with tips for the park here.
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.
Head to La Playita: This beach is located at the very end of Playa Espadilla. It used to be known as the gay scene beach and there were a lot of nude sunbathers. Last time we were there I didn’t see any of this cool scene. It was mostly just couples who wanted a quieter beach experience away from the action of Playa Espadilla.
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.
Guest House Pura Vida: Located in Quepos (about 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio), this guest house has studio apartments with a kitchenette and breakfast for two people at prices as low as $20 a night. It really depends on the date though. sometimes the price can be higher.
Torino Backpackers Beach: This hotel is only a one minute walk from the beach in Manuel Antonio. For about $50 a night for two people you can get a large room with breakfast included. There is also a shared kitchen on the property.
Waterfront Hotel Verde Mar: For about $45 you can get a super basic room for two people, but you can’t beat the location. They have a nice outdoor pool and access directly onto the beach from the hotel. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the national park.
We have also had really good luck with Airbnb in Manuel Antonio. Definitely check that out as well.
We definitely suggest checking out Airbnb as well. Sometimes you can get some really great accommodation deals at beautiful places on Airbnb. We like Airbnb because often you can get a place with a private kitchen. This definitely helps us to save some money so we are not constantly eating at restaurants. Also, often staying at an Airbnb will give you a more local experience.
Save $30 off your first Airbnb stay here
There is no shortage of restaurant options in Manuel Antonio! Here are our faves.
Ronny’s Place: Really good food (fish, steaks, etc) and even better drinks. This place also has the best sunset view in town. The road is a little difficult to get here so 4 wheel drive would help, but you can probably make it without.
Falafal Bar: The perfect cute lunch spot. Their falafal is on point and the prices are good.
El Avion: We weren’t overly impressed with the food, but when else can you say that you ate in a cargo plane? You could also just go there for drinks (that’s what we do). This place also has a killer sunset view.
Sol’s Frozen Yoghurt: Great froyo and smoothies next to the national park.
Backpacks Paradise Costa Linda: Your best bet for lunch after a day in the national park. Located next to Sol’s Frozen Yoghurt, 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.
– Make sure to load up on bug spray in this area. The second the sun goes down it is mosquito heaven.
– 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.