We’ve visited Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica several times and have always had a great time. The amount of amazing wildlife you can see is insane! If you are thinking about visiting Manuel Antonio on your Costa Rica travels, we’ve got some great Manuel Antonio tips to ensure you have the best day possible in the national park.
Manuel Antonio used to be the second most visited national park in Costa Rica after Poas Volcano, but due to recent eruptions Poas is closed indefinitely, thus making Manuel Antonio the most visited park.
Helpful Manuel Antonio Tips:
1. Get There Early
Manuel Antonio opens at 7am and you should be waiting to enter at that time. The park only allows a certain number of visitors in at a time. If you arrive later in the day you could end up waiting in line for awhile before you are able to enter. Plus, it is nice to enjoy the national park before it gets crazy full.
2. Ignore the parking lots
If you have the option of walking from your hotel or taking a shuttle from your hotel to the national park, do that. Parking here can be an experience.
As you drive up to the park there will be people telling you to park with them and that the official lot is closed. Ignore them. There is an official lot and it is free (at least it was last time I was there. I’ve since heard about people paying a few dollars to use the lot). Just keep driving until you are about at the park entrance and there will be a parking area for you to use.
There is also a good public bus in Manuel Antonio which will take you directly to the entrance for about $1.50. You can ask at your hotel about the schedule.
2. Hire A Guide?
Before you pay for your admission you will be bombarded with people asking if you want a guide. It is best to make your decision ahead of time and give them a firm “no” if you are not interested. Otherwise, they will try to convince you for as long as it takes.
We hired a guide once and I’m happy we did it for the experience. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and was able to point out a lot of wildlife that we would have never seen on our own. The guides also carry a telescope with them so you have the chance of getting a really close look at all the wildlife.
The downside of having a guide is that they are not cheap. I believe we paid about $20 per person for our guide for about 1.5 hours. We also thought that we had the guide only for ourselves. That was not the case. The guides will wait for a few minutes to get a few more people on the tour. In
The guides will wait for a few minutes to get a few more people on the tour. In total we had 7 people on our tour. This was fine with us, but when you pay that much for a guide you might think that they are personally for you.
Also, the park gets so full that if you choose to walk on your own you will see plenty of guides pointing out wildlife to their tours and you can just look at what they are pointing to.
3. Leave the snacks at your hotel
Park rules state that you are not allowed to bring food into the park with you, but a lot of people ignore the rules and sneak snacks in. Don’t do this! It may seem like a stupid rule that is only in place so you don’t leave trash or feed the animals, but it is actually in place for your own safety. The monkeys in Manuel Antonio are crazy. Like cray cray to the max. Click To Tweet
They are so used to being surrounded by humans that they are not scared of you. This means if they smell food they will steal your bag or attack you.
Last time we were there the monkeys tried to take a woman’s backpack who was sitting on the beach next to us. She ran after the monkey and tried to grab her backpack. The monkeys responded by clawing her down her whole back. It was terrifying and I felt horrible for the woman.
You can bring drinks though and we suggest bringing a lot of water. It can get hot, hot hot!
4. Find the quiet beaches
After walking down the main trail in Manuel Antonio you can go to either the right or left. I suggest going to the right if you are looking for a nice beach. Towards the end of this path you will see a beach on the left which will probably be filled with people. Skip this beach and keep walking. The main trail will end and there is a nice short hiking trail. There on the left side is a quieter beach.
If you go to the left at the end of the main trail there are also a few beaches that are usually empty, but they are a bit rockier.
5. Hike all the trails
For the price, you pay to enter the national park you should try to get the most out of it. We like to hike all of the trails, not just the main path. By doing this you can experience more of the park and you get away from the crowds.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 7am to 4pm
Cost: $16 for adults. Children under 12are free. They accept dollars or colones for payment.
To bring: Water, binoculars, swimsuit (there is a bathroom with changing stations), towel, camera, strong sunscreen, bug spray.
To wear: It tends to get really hot here and the trails are not intense. You don’t need to dress as if you are doing serious hiking. I usually opt for shorts, a t-shirt, hiking sandals (like Chacos), and a backpack. If visiting during the rainy season you may want to bring a rain jacket and a rainproof cover for your backpack.
The amount of time you need: I think 5 hours is enough time to see the whole park and do some swimming. We usually eat a big breakfast before going, get there around 7am, stay until lunch time and then head out to find food.
Directions: Manuel Antonio National Park is about an hour south of Jaco. Just follow the highway down from Jaco until you get to Quepos. It gets a bit confusing around Quepos for a few minutes, so we suggest using your GPS then. We like the Waze app for directions here. Just plug in “Manuel Antonio National Park” as your destination and you’ll be good to go.
Is It Worth A Visit?
We think, yes. It is definitely an interesting place to see and visit, but we don’t like to go there too often. We find it to be too full with people. It is beautiful though and is a great place to see a lot of amazing wildlife in a condensed area while also enjoying tropical beaches.
Need more help wth planning your stay in Manuel Antonio? Check out our complete guide to the Manuel Antonio area here, complete with suggested activities, hotel, and restaurant recommendations.