Are you wondering if you should take a trip to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?
Take a trip to Manuel Antonio Costa Rica because it’s a one stop shop with magical activities for everyone. It’s purely a Central American paradise.
Sharing coasts with both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, Costa Rica offers rainforests, volcanos, beaches, and some of the most exciting wildlife you’ll ever see.
Pura Vida means, pure life, or, more accurately, the lovely Costa Rican way of life.
Costa Rican’s use this phrase for lots of things!
Greeting, commenting, and praising. They are a warm and beautiful people, who, in my brief encounter, are very proud of their country, their land, and their culture.
A trip to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica offers both the magic of the rainforest and the most divine beaches. Literally, the rainforest stops where the white sand beach begins.
Here are the 10 best things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
#1. Take a Tour in
Manuel Antonio Park
Any trip to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica includes the famous Manuel Antonio National Park.
The park encompasses rainforest, hiking trails, and an exquisite beach. It’s a small but robust park that is world renowned for its wildlife.
We learned a lot about squirrel monkeys, whiteface capuchins, howlers, two and three toed sloths, birds, lizards, and ants!
You must have a guide because you cannot find or see the animals without the help of their magnifying scopes. I recommend you pay extra for a private guide so you don’t have to wait to look through the microscope!
The park was filled with a lot of tour groups like ours, so that definitely impacted the experience.
#2. Hike in Manuel Antonio Park to the
Manuel Antonio Beach
Following the tour, you’ll be provided with a refreshing ice tea and fruit snack. Don’t leave with your tour group, instead opt to stay in the park.
Enjoy the rest of the day hiking on the great park trails with magnificent vistas along the way which lead to the public beach.
We saw a mother and her baby sloth in a coastal, coconut tree and had a rare sighting of an Agouti.
The most exciting moment was a major capuchin experience!
They look adorable, but are actually pretty intense and aggressive.
Swim at the beach for a while before walking back to the park entrance to find a taxi home.
#3. Swim at the Manuel Antonio Beaches
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is known for its pristine beaches.
You can access the public beaches from the National Park, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.
The more private beaches such as Playa Gemelas, Playa Puerto Escondido, Playa Biesanz and Playa La Macha may require a taxi ride or a hike through the rainforest, but are well worth it.
The water in Costa Rica is like soft velvet of a perfect temperature!
Vendors rent chairs and sell ceviche and cocktails on the beach!
We felt very safe, however, do not leave your things unattended. Always be tourist savvy!
Monkeys may steal your stuff!
#4. Hike to Nauyaca Waterfall
My favorite excursion was the Nauyaca Waterfall hike with
The hike felt like actual exercise with the glorious waterfall to jump into as a reward at the end. And our tour guide was phenomenal.
Yes, the falls were a bit crowded, but it didn’t interfere with the fun.
Plus, our guide served us fresh pineapple and watermelon and then gave us each a mud face mask after our swim.
Lunch was at a lovely open-air restaurant on the drive home. This is a must do in my book!
#5. Have a Sunset Picnic on the Beach
The skies in Manuel Antonio are perfect for spectacular sunsets. Watch from your favorite beach with some delicious snacks from a local market.
The beaches get quiet in the evening and its a great chance to watch the night roll in and listen to the spounds of the rainforest.
#6. Take a Snorkel Boat Cruise
Enjoy a catamaran boat ride on which you can wine and dine, slide into the water, and snorkle off the coast of the Manuel Antonio beaches.
Pro Tip: When booking, be sure to read reviews. I would have preferred less crowded booze cruise and more private snorkeling cruise.
Planet Dolphin Cruises picked us up at the house in one van, then transferred us to a bus with more people, then brought us to the boat dock.
It was a gorgeous day for a ride on the sea, but not one dolphin was in sight.
We got a very brief tutorial on how to use a snorkel mask and then jumped in the water with three other full boat loads of snorkelers.
The water was very cloudy from all the human traffic who scared the fish away.
There was a very mediocre buffet lunch and plenty of drinks offered.
The bathroom doors didn’t close.
The guides didn’t offer any information about the fish or area at all.
#7. Go Ziplining through the Rainforest
People rave about ziplining in Manuel Antonio. You can take a zipline canopy tour from the rainforest right in Manuel Antonio. I regret not having the chance. It’s on my bucket list for next time!
#8. Take a Whale Watching Cruise
You can enjoy a tour in the marine park – the Marino Ballena National Park, where humpback whales are mating, as well as dolphins and turtles too! Snorkel and see caverns up close.
Whale Season is either from from July to October, or from January to March. Depending on when you go, you’ll see:
American Humpbacks November through March.
Minke Whales October through December.
Antarctic Humbacks July through September.
#9. Go Shopping in Quepos
As in any tourist area, you will find plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants in and around Manuel Antonio and Quepos.
Look for open air shops, souvenirs, high end stores, and lots of local arts and crafts.
Take the local bus or walk into town. Perfect for an evening activity.
#10. Enjoy the Food in Manuel Antonio
I didn’t realized how great the food would be in Costa Rica!
The local cuisine is very fish centered. Ceviche everywhere you go, and options such as mahi mahi and shrimp.
OMG, the fruit!!!
The most juicy pineapples, watermelons, and mangos I have ever eaten! The intense amount of rain makes for very delicious summer harvests.
Pro Tip: If you are staying in a VRBO, hire a private chef for a couple of nights!
We hired chefs Javier and Kathleen who came to the house twice to cook us the most exquisite three course meals for about $30 per person.
All gluten free (per our request), hors d’oeuvres, fish, vegetables, and deserts.
When is the best time to visit
The weather is best between mid December through April.
I found February to be very affordable and not terribly crowded. It was beautifully hot with no rain, and no mosquitos! Temperatures ranged from the high 80’s to low 90’s.
There’s virtually no night sky pollution in Manuel Antonio, so every night, you can see stars, stars, and more stars!
Rainy season begins in May and continues through November. This may be less crowded and less expensive, but…rainy!
How to get to Manuel Antonio
Fly into the San Jose Airport, known as SJO, Juan Santamaria International Airport.
SJO is less than 100 miles from Manuel Antonio, which is about a 3 hour drive.
From the airport, rent a car or take a shuttle.
There is a small aiport in Quepos, XQP Quepos La Managua Airport, which is 20 minutes from Manuel Antonio, if you prefer to transfer from San Jose via plane.
I recommend hiring Oscar’s car service (email me for his phone number!) or asking your lodging to arrange airport pick up.
Oscar stopped along the way to show us crocodiles, have lunch, and to buy coconut from his father’s roadside stand. On the return, he took us for a wonderful breakfast!
The transport price was $190 for five people. This is both the safer and more convenient option over renting a car.
Travel Tips for Costa Rica
~ The currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. One US dollar equals approximately 540 Costa Rican Colón.
~ Most places, including tours, will accept US dollars and credit cards.
~ Tipping your drivers, servers, cleaning people, tour guides, and property manager is an expected part of payment. The percentage is up to you, but it would definitely be rude if you did not tip.
~ Costa Rica uses 110 volts, 60 cycle, the same electricity as in the US.
Where to stay in Manuel Antonio
The Best Mid Range Hotel – Parador Nature Resort and Spa – This is a beautiful property in 12 acres of rainforest with views of the ocean, pools, restaurants, and spa services.
The villa is not only “as advertised” but “better than advertised!”
Six bedrooms, tucked into the rainforest, overlooking the beach. Each bedroom has an en suite bathroom and balcony. The infinity pool wraps around the house and is kept at the perfect temperature.
The property manager arranges airport pick up and drop off, all of the excursion tours, food shopping, and chef-made meals in advance.
You can easily walk from the house to restaurants and a near-by grocery store.
The squirrel monkeys came leaping through the trees and drank water from the pool while we were swimming! We saw a toucan in a tree on the property and had Walter the blue iguana living in the yard while the howler monkeys entertained us at night!
Pura Vida! Have a magical trip to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
In a nutshell…
Manuel Antonio is a beautiful spot for a family vaction, a girlfriend trip, or a romantic excursion. It offers both relaxation and exciting adventure. Emerse yourself in the sweet culture of Costa Rica and have a hassel free trip by doing it all in the region of Manuel Antonio.
If it wasn’t obvious, this was one of the best vacations I have ever had! I hope the same for you!