Manuel Antonio National Park and the nearby town of Quepos are located on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The rich biodiversity of this area, coupled with a wealth of activities make this a destination that offers something for everyone. It’s easy to spend your entire holiday in this area of the country! Manuel Antonio is the premier destination of the Central Pacific region offering a variety of small intimate hotels artistically built into a rainforest hillside between town and the popular Manuel Antonio National Park.
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park.
Manuel Antonio National Park (closed on Mondays) contains three beautiful beaches, casual forest trails, and a dense rainforest teaming with animal life. In 2011, it was named by Forbes as one of the world’s most beautiful parks.
Explore Manuel Antonio Beaches.
The two main beaches inside the park, Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach are about a 30-minute hike from the main entrance of the park. Playa Manuel Antonio is best known for its spectacular views, but if you’re looking to beat the crowds, venture a bit further down the main trail to Playa Espadilla Sur. The beaches of Manuel Antonio are singularly beautiful with stunning, brightly-colored sunsets. The light sand beaches in the coastal park are popular for relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, and surf lessons.
Because of environmental restrictions, the hotels in the Manuel Antonio area are not beachfront but set cliff-side with sweeping views. Only a few Manuel Antonio hotels have direct beach access. To reach the public beaches and the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, travelers can take the hotel or public shuttle.
Related Article: Best Beaches of Costa Rica
Discover Rainforest Wildlife.
Manuel Antonio is the smallest park in the Costa Rica, but abundant with wildlife. Capuchin, Howler, and Squirrel Monkeys are some of the most social creatures in the park. Don’t feed them, and hold on to your snacks! You can also expect to see sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and hundreds of species of birds – just to name a few. Book an early morning guided tour of the park with a professional naturalist guide to avoid the crowds and increase your odds of seeing more wildlife. Naturalist guides have an eye and an ear for locating wildlife that most people miss.
Hike Manuel Antonio Trails
You’re sure to see plenty of wildlife throughout your stay in the Manuel Antonio region, but hiking the trails within Manuel Antonio National Park will certainly bring you up close to many of the shyer rainforest animals. Plus you’ll get to take in the rainforest views from a unique vantage point. The main trail within the park is a 1.3-mile flat, sandy trail that links the park’s beaches. This trail is perfect for travelers of all ages. Our Experts recommend visiting the park with a professional, naturalist guide and hitting the trails early to avoid crowds and see more wildlife! Another slightly more challenging trail for the adventurous is Punta Catedral, a beautiful 0.9-mile loop trail of moderate difficulty and some steep inclines. The trail is accessible from both Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla Sur Beach.
Related Article: 16 Best Hikes in Costa Rica
Pass Through Quepos Town: Gateway to Manuel Antonio
The town of Quepos could be described as the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s just a 15-minute drive (4 1/2 miles) from Quepos to Manuel Antonio and a 25-minute drive (7 1/2 miles) from the Quepos Domestic Airport to Manuel Antonio. Quepos has a great selection of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. The streets of Quepos are easy to walk, with a mix of local shops, markets, and cafes. It has all the amenities of a tourism-hub, yet maintains that ineffable charm of Costa Rica with an authentic laid-back feel.
Espadilla Beach Surfing
Espadilla Beach is the main beach of Manuel Antonio and a fantastic beach to learn to surf. Surf lessons can be arranged an advance or you can rent surfboards or sign up for lessons right from the beach in Manuel Antonio. The southern end of the beach at high tide is good for beginning surfers, while the northern end of the beach can get bigger waves.
Sportfishing from the port town of Quepos is world-famous. It has even earned the title of Sailfish Capital of the World. Fishermen might also reel in Marlin, Tuna, Dorado, Wahoo, Snook, Roosterfish, and Snapper. Fishing from Quepos is good year-round, but frequency can vary by month for different species. Ask a Costa Rica Expert for fishing recommendations. Fishing charters are available for half-day and full-day excursions.
Related Article: Top Destinations for Sportfishing in Costa Rica
Damas Island Estuary
Cruise the waterways of Damas Island Estuary on a boat or kayaking tour. Just a 15-minute drive from Quepos, Damas Island is its own unique ecosystem where estuary animals like monkeys, snakes, sloths, and crocodiles can be observed in their natural habitat with a professional guide. This is a wonderful adventure for travelers of all ages. Tours can be arranged during the day or in the evenings.
Santa Juana Mountain Village
For a change of scenery, consider a day trip to the nearby Santa Juana Mountain Village. Located in the Central Pacific mountains — about an hour from Quepos, Santa Juana offers the unique opportunity to experience the campesino lifestyle of rural Costa Rica. Tour the village, and try traditional Costa Rican cooking, tilapia fishing, and horseback riding on this cultural adventure.
Manuel Antonio FAQ:
- Arenal: 4.5 - 5.5 hours by ground or 30-minute private flight
- Monteverde: 3 hours
- Jaco/Playa Herradura: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Uvita/Ojochal: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Sierpe: 1.5 - 2 hours
- Drake Bay: 1.5 - 2 hours by ground to Sierpe + 1 hour by boat on the Sierpe River
- Puerto Jimenez: 3.5 hours by ground
- San Jose: 2.5 - 3 hours by ground or 30-minute domestic flight
- Central Highlands (San Ramon, Bajos del Toro, La Paz): 3 – 3.5 hours