Costa Rica is a prime vacation spot for any world traveler, but the Manuel Antonio National Park is one of its main destinations.
Between the countless beaches, active volcanos, and other assorted national parks, you may feel a little overwhelmed trying to narrow down your choices. But having been named one of the best national parks in the world, a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park is an easy one to make.
We’ll take a look at some of the park’s best features and what sights and activities you need to check out on your next trip!
Some Basic Manuel Antonio National Park Information
Location: Costa Rica
Area: 1,983 ha (7.66 sq mi)
Nearest city: Quepos
Governing body: National System of Conservation Areas
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. closed Mondays
Entrance Fee: $16 per person (free for children 12 and under)
Best season to visit: The best time to visit Manuel Antonio is from mid December to April (the dry season)
According to the Manuel Antonio National Park website, the park is a 682-hectare landscape.
Surprisingly, it’s one of the smallest national parks in the entire country.
But this shouldn’t deter anyone from checking it out. In fact, quite the opposite.
This park is often praised for its densely packed foliage, beaches, views, and more. Plus, it’s all condensed enough to be fully enjoyed within a fairly short timeframe.
No need to worry about hitting up one activity in favor of another! All activities here are capable of doing in only a day or two.
Speaking of day trips, the national park is open every single day (including holidays) but excluding all Mondays.
Entrance fee is $16 (free for Children 12 and under) and you have the added option of guided and private tours for an additional fee.
So, unless you’re aiming for a romantic getaway or an adult’s escape, this would be a fantastic opportunity to bring the kiddos along as well.
Life’s a Beach
Manuel Antonio offers two pristine beaches:
- Manuel Antonio Beach (or Playa Manuel Antonio)
- Espadilla Sur Beach
Manuel Antonio Beach is probably the number one choice for a lot of people. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the entrance of the park, but it’s a trek well worth making.
The beach is a prime spot for surfers, families, festival goers, and more.
There’s plenty of grand vistas to discover while relaxing in the snow-white sand and its quaint nature is perfect for sunbathing and taking it easy with the family.
It’s not without its amenities either. The beach features some excellent restaurants and vendors, such as Ronny’s Place, where you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy vivid sunsets or sunrises.
However, there are times throughout the year where it may get a little crowded. This can be hit or miss, though, so it is recommended to go as early as you possibly can or consider a backup if it’s too crowded for your liking.
In fact, if you don’t mind heading a little further down the main trail, check out Espadilla Sur Beach.
Espadilla Sur is even more relaxing and low-key if that’s more your speed.
Either way, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, is filled with gorgeous beaches with amazing views and plenty of wildlife to discover. Beware that no Manuel Antonio hotels are situated on the beaches themselves. Instead, some of them are situated on cliffs in the park, which arguably offer even grander views.
If you decide to hit up the beaches (like many do), be sure to look behind you at the forests as well as the horizon. Catch a sloth sighting or two while you soak up the rays if that’s what you’re into!
Hike the Trails
The main trail at Manuel Antonio National Park is a flat sandy trail that’s almost a mile and a half.
This is what connects most of the beaches, so if you’re already heading there, you might as well hike them and get some exercise while you’re at it.
This is a very easy going trail that will not take very much effort on your part. Think of it like a Sunday stroll and enjoy the vegetation and wildlife on your way.
If you’re a more experienced hiker and would like a little more challenge, consider Punta Catedral.
Punta Catedral is a loop that’s slightly less than a mile, but it’s more advanced with steeper inclines.
You’re still not climbing Mount Everest or anything like that, but it’s perfect for the hiker that wants to explore a little more thoroughly.
As with almost everything on this list, make sure to get up early and get started straight away. The quicker you are to beat the crowds, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of the hike.
Discover Wildlife in the Rainforest
On your hiking adventures, you have the option to explore and discover wildlife in the rainforest.
Just like on the beaches, some common animal sightings you’ll experience include three-toed sloths, howler and capuchin monkeys who roam the forests as well.
There are plenty of majestic birds to spot and if you don’t mind getting down a little closer, some people enjoy discovering the insect life.
While not necessary, you may want to consider shelling out a little extra for guided or private tours. The nature experts at Manuel Antonio National Park work a little harder than most to know their way around the rainforest. If you are a bird watching enthusiast you may want to consider contacting a biding tour operator such as Costa Rica Focus to plan your birding trip.
You’d be surprised by what you miss without a proper guide to lead the way.
Break Away to Quepos
While it may not be on the grounds of the National Park, Quepos is a nearby town that is well worth the visit. It’s only a 15-minute drive from the park, and it’s an excellent tourist hub for your nightlife needs.
Since the park itself is only open until 4 p.m., you may want to check out this town for its famed restaurants, bars, and nightlife. There, you’ll find all of the activities you’d expect from a typical tourist destination, yet it still manages to retain that picturesque quality of Costa Rican life.
Planning a Trip to Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is a prime vacation for a reason. It’s filled with natural sights and wonders and still houses plenty of activity for a couple on a honeymoon or a family getaway.
The Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the many popular destinations for your Costa Rican trip. If the colorful sunrises and sunsets or preserved wildlife don’t catch your interest, maybe nothing will.
If you’re interested in some of the specific tours offered in Manuel Antonio, check them out here!