Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is one of the most popular attractions from the country for tourists from all over the world looking for wild beaches, lush Costa Rica rainforest and incredible wildlife encounters.
Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica or Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio as it is named in local language is located on the central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in Puntarenas Province, right near the city of Quepos.
It is only 1985 hectares of land and 55.000 hectares of marine area, so it is not a very large protected area but it has one of the richest flora and fauna from the whole country.
Those of you interested in visiting this piece of heaven can spend their day on one of the five beaches from the park or exploring the lush rainforest full of wild creatures.
Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica is a very popular destination not just for tourists but also for school children.
It has a very extensive educational program for schools, independent visitors and also organizations to help you enrich your knowledge about wildlife.
This national park is home to a large variety of endangered species including sloths, white-faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, howl monkeys as well as toucans, iguanas and many others.
Getting to Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Costa Rica National Park Manuel Antonio is about 175 kilometres northwest of the capital city of San Jose, so in less than 4 hours you will reach this magnificent place by car or bus.
Every two hours, from Monday to Sunday there are buses that leave from San Jose with final destination Costa Rica Manuel Antonio and for about 50 USD you can get to Manuel Antonio town.
During the peak season, there are also daily flights from San Jose International Airport to the park and the cost for a round trip is between 100 to 150 USD.
Or, you have the option of renting a car directly from the airport and in about 3 hours you reach the park and have the mobility and freedom to explore not just the park but also the surrounding areas.
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If you plan to rent a car and get to the park then you have to know that there are tolls on Route 27, the highway that gets you from San Jose to the park so you’d better have some cash with you.
Best time to visit Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
Without any doubt, the best time to visit the park is during the dry season and that is between December to March, followed closely by the green season from April to November.
Bear in mind that this part of Costa Rica as most of Costa Rica rainforest have their own microclimate, so rain during the dry season is not something unusual.
The wettest month for visiting Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica is September, a period when animals are pretty hard to spot because of the weather conditions.
The temperatures are high during the whole year with average daily temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius and pretty high humidity.
Opening hours and entrance cost to Manuel Antonio park
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica might get very crowded, especially during weekends and public holidays so if you want to avoid the crowds visit the park during the weekdays.
Because of the increased number of tourists and their impact on the environment, Costa Rican national authorities decided to limit the number of tourists that can enter the park at the same time.
The limit was established at 600 tourists for the weekdays and 800 tourists for weekends, visitors that are allowed in the park at the same time.
So, to be sure that you can enter the park and spend a great day in nature our advice is to wake up quite early and be among the first ones at the entrance to the park.
Another good reason for coming early in the morning to the park is that the animals are more active in the morning when outside is chill so you have higher chances to observe wildlife.
The park is open every day except for Tuesdays (it used to be closed on Mondays but not anymore) from 7.30 a.m to 4 p.m and the entrance fee is around 18 USD per person for adults and 5.7 USD for children between 2 to 11 years.
For those of you who want to find out more details about the park and the animals that live inside, you can buy a guided tour available at the price of 55 USD for adults and 40 USD for children, while locals and residents have a preferential cost of 38 USD.
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Beaches in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica has 5 beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches and amazing sceneries.
Playa Espadilla Sur is the first beach that will appear in front of your eyes once you reach Manuel Antonio town.
This is a public beach full of tourists and locals with many beach vendors and a great place for starting a boat tour in the area.
Playa Manuel Antonio can be reached only if you enter the national park and is located right across the street from Playa Espadilla.
You won’t find any vendors on the beach or shops so bring with you everything you need for a day on the beach.
Don’t leave your things or any food on the beach as monkeys might steal them if they found them interesting (monkeys like shiny things so cellphones and cameras are their favourite).
Playa Gemelas is a small and secluded beach with white sand located right on the hiking trail to Puerto Escondido and it is not a very popular place among tourists so you might have the beach just for yourself.
Playa Escondido or Hidden beach as you call it in English is a popular beach from the park with crystal clear waters, white sand and amazing sceneries.
Before going to this beach we strongly advise you to check the tide schedule as the beach might become inaccessible during the high time.
Playa Biesanz is a quiet beach with great swimming conditions that is located right near the Parador resort.
Animals from Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
One of the best attractions of the park is the red-backed squirrel monkeys that can be found only here and in Corcovado National Park.
White-faced monkeys, spider monkeys and howler monkeys are other species of monkeys that can be found in this protected area together with sloths, racoons, coatis and other indigenous mammals.
Inside the park can be found more than 355 species of birds out of which I would like to name toucans, red-capped manakins, barred woodcreepers, more than 5 species of kingfishers and many other colourful and beautiful birds, some of them living only in this part of Costa Rica.
On your way to the jungle keep an eye on reptiles and amphibians as small geckos, Jesus Christ lizards and all kinds of species of frogs that can be found in this Costa Rica rainforest.
Hiking in Costa Rica Manuel Antonio
The park is crossed by 10 different paths with lengths between 300 metres to 9 kilometres, with different categories of difficulty.
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The most famous trails are the Main Route and the Sloth/ Mangrove Routes that run from the centre of the park to the entrance Manuel Antonio National Park Beach, the most popular entrance.
For those of you anxious to spot wildlife in their natural environment we strongly recommend taking at least 2 or 3 paths including the ones that lead to the waterfall, to Gemelas Beach and to Puerto Escondido.
These three ones are quieter, less populated so you have higher chances to spot animals from the park.
Let me tell you some words about each of these popular trails, like how long they are and where each of these trails starts and ends.
Sendero Principal or Main Route is 2 kilometres long and is definitely the most popular path that starts at the entrance of the park and goes to the beautiful Manuel Antonio beach.
Sendero Punta Catedral or Punta Catedral Trail is 1.5 kilometres long and is a loop that connects the Main Trail and starts at Punta Catedral viewpoint up to Turtle Trap.
Sendero Mirador or Lookout Trail is 1.4 kilometres long and to Escondido Beach, being also considered to be an extension to Sendoro Playas Gemelas.
Sendero Playas Gemelas or Gemelas Beach trail is 1.5 kilometres long and links the Main Trail with the Official Road and if you want to reach Gemelas Beach or Escondido Beach Lookout then you should follow this trail.
Sendero La Trampa or the Trap Trail is quite a small path, only 250 metres long and connects Turtle Trap to Punta Catedral Trail; it is one of the best trails for spotting wildlife.
Sendero La Catarata or Waterfall Trail is almost 1 kilometre long and goes to a beautiful waterfall just near the Official Road.
Camino Vehicular or Official Road is a 1.4 kilometres long path that starts at the entrance of the park and goes along the park intersecting the Main Trail and the Gemelas Beach trail.
Sendero Perezoso or Sloth Trails is 1.3 kilometres long and runs parallel with the Official Road in the middle of the park.
As the name suggested it is a great trail to follow if you want to spot the beautiful three-toed sloths and many other wild creatures.
What to pack for Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica
If you are planning a visit to this park you should take with you the following items:
- Dry bag
- Sun cream
- Insect repellent
- A beach towel
- Plenty of water
- Comfortable shoes
- Swimsuit under the cloths
- Sandwiches and similar if you plan to stay longer
Accommodation around Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
There are a few interesting options for your overnight stay close to the park, out of which our favourite ones are:
- Gaia Hotel Reserve Manuelanton Costa Rica Gaia Hotel Reserve Manuelanton Costa Rica, a beautiful 5-star resort surrounded by lush jungle and wildlife, featuring 17 luxurious suites with access to 3 stunning infinity pools. Gaia hotel has a wonderful spa centre and offers top services and amazing rooms.
- Arenas Del Mar Beachfront Manuelanton Costa Rica is a luxurious hotel with many eco-friendly practices that is located right on the beach, close to the national park. Arenas del Mar is within a walking distance from the entrance to Manuel Antonio Park in Costa Rica making it a great choice for your overnight stay.
- Los Altos Manuelanton Costa Rica is a fancy hotel located right in Manuel Antonio town featuring luxurious rooms with a kitchen and a balcony. Los Altos have a beautiful outdoor pool, a private pool and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.
The park is the perfect habitat for many marine animals and terrestrial creatures, some of them unique in the world.
This national park is not just about nature and animals, it is also about beautiful beaches, scuba diving and spending relaxing moments with your beloved ones.
I strongly recommend you to include this park in your travel plans as it is conveniently located close to San Jose and is one of the most beautiful and wild parks in the whole of Costa Rica.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.