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.
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.
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. 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.
If you would like a more comfortable experience, we suggest Caribe Shuttle. They are our go-to shuttle company for a stress free and comfortable experience. They can pick you up from your San Jose hotel or the airport.
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 and actually, one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica.
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 of tourists.
Visit the Manuel Antonio national park: The main reason you are probably in Manuel Antonio is probably to go to the national park to see wildlife (including many squirrel monkeys and sloths) and enjoy the beautiful beaches. 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.
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 asking at your hotel if they have any suggestions. Sometimes they partner with local companies and can get you a good deal.
Go fishing: There are tons of deep-sea fishing charters from this area. It is possible to take a half or full-day tour inshore or deep sea.
See wildlife at Kids Saving the Rainforest: Kids Saving the Rainforest is a wildlife sanctuary for injured animals. They offer guided tours every day except Tuesday. You can find out more here.
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.
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.
Hotel Vela Bar– 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!
Casa Mia– Small bed and breakfast with cozy rooms and a shared kitchen.
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.
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.
We high recommend checking out Airbnb as well as hotels in Manuel Antonio. 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.
Also, 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.
Kapi Kapi– Amazing food and service. Save room for dessert here if you can!
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.
Victorias Gourmet Italian Restaurant– Nice atmosphere and great pasta and pizza.
Falafal Bar: The perfect cute lunch spot. Their falafal is on point and the prices are good.
Express Burrito– Tiny burrito place that is great for lunch. Their food is always fresh and tasty.
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.
– 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.
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