9 Best Things to Do in Manuel Antonio National Park & Quepos

The Experts Recommend: A guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park (closed on Mondays).
Don't Miss: Sunset at Ronny's Place

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.

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio National Park & Quepos, Costa Rica

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.

Manuel Antonio Travel Guide

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.

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio National Park & Quepos, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Squirrel Monkey from Arenas del Mar Beach Resort

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.

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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

Things to Do in Manuel Antonio National Park

Coastal view from Hotel Si Como No

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.

Quepos Sportfishing

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

Things to Do from Manuel Antonio & Quepos, Costa Rica

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:

Manuel Antonio is known as a great place to get your beach and rainforest fix all in one location. Best Beaches: Playa Espadilla, Playa Biesanz, and the beaches inside Manuel Antonio National Park Best Manuel Antonio Rainforest Activities: A guided hike of Manuel Antonio National Park, Kayaking in the Isla Damas Mangroves, witnessing nocturnal wildlife on a Jungle Night Walk, Sea Kayaking, Catamaran cruise
Yes! Manuel Antonio has a wide selection of restaurants to try. The hotel restaurants are some of the best. Try Claro Que Si at Si Como No or Karolas at Los Altos.
Manuel Antonio is best connected with the Central Highlands, Arenal, Monteverde, the South Pacific, and the Osa Peninsula.

Suggested Itineraries: Costa Rica Family Highlights, Romantic Costa Rica Adventure, Costa Rica Tropical Honeymoon, Jungle Fever
Santa Juana Mountain Tour, Villa Vanilla Spice Tour, Tocori Farm & Waterfall, Los Campesinos tour for guests of Arenas del Mar
Manuel Antonio is 2.5 - 3 hours by car from San Jose. Most travelers opt for a private ground transfer, though there are some short domestic flights available daily. Driving times from Manuel Antonio to popular Costa Rica destinations:
  • 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
Manuel Antonio maintains a coastal rainforest environment. Mid-December to April is the dry season, though the occasional shower does occasionally happen during this time. May through November is the “green” season, when daily afternoon showers are the norm. October is typically the rainiest month of the year.
The temperature in Manuel Antonio is consistent year-round, usually sitting between 85F high 92F, depending on the season.  The key player in Manuel Antonio’s climate is the sun, which can be very strong. The temperature can feel different depending on the amount of cloud coverage.
Manuel Antonio is a beach AND rainforest destination, so prepare for both. A pair of sandals and a pair of hiking shoes or sneakers will be helpful. Overall, Costa Rica is a very casual country, so you don’t need to over-pack. Light, comfortable clothing and basics like sunscreen and bug spray should do the trick!