10 Must-Do Things During Your Vacation in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

By Camila Perez on Jan 05, 2021

No visit to Costa Rica would be complete without a stop in Manuel Antonio. Located on the Pacific coast, this natural haven is perfect for travelers vacationing in Quepos who want to go off-grid and experience a more slow-paced lifestyle. From surfing to hiking, ziplining, and coming up close and personal with the region’s diverse wildlife, these are some of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, that you can’t miss out on.

In this guide, we'll take a look at:

  • 1. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
  • 2. Go snorkeling
  • 3. Sign up for surf lessons
  • 4. Visit the hot springs
  • 5. Enjoy whitewater river rafting
  • 6. Hop on a whale watching tour
  • 7. Cool down on a waterfall tour
  • 8. Go parasailing
  • 9. Try sportfishing
  • 10. Explore Manuel Antonio at night
  • 11. FAQs

Visit Manuel Antonio National Park

One of the most popular national parks in all of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is a great place to come up close and personal with the country’s impressive flora and fauna in their natural habitat. Perfect for nature lovers and visitors hoping to indulge their senses for a moment, the park has different trails visitors can enjoy that will take them to some of the hotspots. From the elevated bridge walks, so you can watch nature beneath your feet, to easy treks that lead to some of the park’s many beaches, you’ll be sure to find a walk that best suits what you’re looking forward to experiencing during your visit.

Some of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio National Park, in Costa Rica, are hiking through the dense rainforest, cooling down at one of the park’s beautiful beaches, snorkeling around the nearby reefs at Playa Manuel Antonio, and pointing out the animals that swing above your head through the treetops. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, deer, howler monkeys, snakes, and over 350 species of birds!

Go snorkeling

With direct access to some of the best beaches in the region, it’s no surprise that snorkeling in Manuel Antonio is one of the best things you can do during your visit to the area. Head underwater to see some of the abundant marine life that inhabits the Pacific coast and come face to face with an array of colorful tropical fish and sea creatures that live just off the shore!

One of the best places to snorkel in Manuel Antonio is Playa Manuel Antonio. Located within the famous national park, Playa Manuel Antonio is brimming with wildlife both on and off the land. If you’re hoping for the best visibility, we suggest you visit the beach during the dry season because the rain can muddle the water and make it difficult for visitors to see. Additionally, we also recommend you head to the end of the beach – near the southern tip – and stay close to the rocks for a better chance of meeting some of the peculiar creatures (surgeonfish, angelfish, blowfish, etc.) that live there.

Sign up for surf lessons

Well-known with locals and travelers as one of the best surf spots in the world, Costa Rica continues to top every surfer’s bucket list as a must-ride destination in Central America. Manuel Antoni is no exception. Surfing in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, has become increasingly popular, and people travel far and wide for a chance to ride waves there.

Home to some of the top surf spots in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio has beaches that are ideal for all-level surfers. From beginners who have never touched a board to expert surfers looking to show off their skills, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot to ride some waves. Some of the best surf breaks in Manuel Antonio include:

  • Playa El Rey: With big swells and breaks to the right and the left, this beach is perfect for beginners, intermediates, and experts. Visit the beach at mid to high tide for the best waves.
  • Playa Manuel Antonio: With its gentle waves, Playa Manuel Antonio is perfect for beginner and intermediate surfers looking to hone their skills.
  • Playitas: One of the best beaches for beginners, this beach is well-known for its easygoing waves.
  • Boca Quepos & Boca Damas: Seasoned surfers rejoice! With fast breaks and hollow waves, these two spots are what surf dreams are made of.

Visit the hot springs

A well-kept secret, the hot springs near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, are a great way to relax in nature and enjoy the quiet serenity of the region’s lush rainforest terrain. Located within a privately-owned farm, the natural pools are all dotted around the property so guests can enjoy them privately or relax alongside a larger group of people. There are also natural creeks and rivers that run through the farm, making them the perfect place to cool down after sitting in the hot springs with a delicious plate of fresh fruit and juice. Looking for a little more excitement? Ask your guide – or the owners – about the natural slide!

Enjoy whitewater river rafting

For travelers looking to spike their heart rate with a little more excitement, Manuel Antonio is a great place to buckle up and enjoy some adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting! River rafting is a very popular activity with visitors who travel to Manuel Antonio, especially if the activity takes place in Río Naranjo.

Guests can enjoy class-III and class-IV rapids on this rapid river that borders Manuel Antonio National Park, which means the sights are guaranteed to be truly spectacular. Fly past the pristine rainforest landscape as you make your way through the rocky river bends and twists, and get ready for an exciting day out in nature. River rafting in Manuel Antonio is unlike anything you’ve ever done before!

Hop on a whale watching tour

Costa Rica is a prime spot for whale watching because of the migration pattern of two different groups of humpback whales. The great mammal’s journey begins when temperatures in the North and the South cool down too much for comfort, prompting the large groups to travel in search of warmer climates like the one just off the coast of Costa Rica. Once they reach the perfect temperature, the whales take their time to mate, breed, and raise their young.

The best time to enjoy a whale watching tour in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, is between August and October. This is the time when they’re most active just off the coast, and when you’re more likely to see them if you decide to hop on a catamaran boat tour along the Pacific coast.

Cool down on a waterfall tour

When the warm Costa Rica weather gets a little too much, why not try and cool down with a waterfall tour? Located just 45 minutes outside of town, the Nauyaca Waterfalls tour from Manuel Antonio is the perfect opportunity to explore more of the region’s natural beauty and disconnect from the buzz of everyday life.

The waterfalls are located on private property, and the entrance fee is 10 USD for adults. Once you’re there, there are three different ways you can reach the waterfalls: on foot, on horseback, or on a 4×4 truck. The hike is about 4 kilometers long, so make the decision that best suits your needs beforehand in order to reserve any additional transportation if you decide not to walk.

There are two sets of waterfalls: the upper falls and the lower falls. Although you can’t bathe in the upper falls, the lower falls are open to the public and the perfect chance for you to wash away the sweat after a long hike or horseback ride. We also recommend you bring your own water and snacks, and that you pack a lot of bug repellent!

Go parasailing

Another one of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio is to go parasailing. Playa Espadilla Norte, located just outside of Manuel Antonio National Park, is the best place to find a reliable and safe parasailing tour. Plus, because of the location, this also means you’ll enjoy a front-row seat to the park’s stunning beauty from above – something not many people get to do!

Although parasailing in Manuel Antonio is not cheap, it’s a great chance to see the surrounding nature from a birds-eye view. Travelers can choose between a 15-minute or 30-minute ride. While 15 minutes up in the air costs about 85 USD, half an hour will set you back 140 USD.

Try sportfishing

If you love fishing, you’ll be happy to hear that Manuel Antonio is one of the best spots in the country to reel in a great catch! Just outside of town, in the Quepos marina, you’ll find plenty of fishing charters that cater to Manuel Antonio visitors looking for a little excitement and a day out at sea.

Most tour companies set out from Quepos, located just 10 minutes away via taxi, and specialize in deep sea fishing, inshore fishing, and offshore fishing. Some of the fish you might find include roosterfish, snappers, groupers, tuna, mahi mahi, and different species of marlin.

You’ll also find that Quepos is home to world-renowned sportfishing tournaments that drive in avid fishermen from all around the world. From the Quepos Billfish Cup to Pelagic Rockstar Offshore Tournament, these events usually culminate with some of the best catches in the world.

Explore Manuel Antonio at night

Small but fun, nighttime in Manuel Antonio can be just as exciting as daytime. There are plenty of things to do in Manuel Antonio at night: from jungle tours to fancy dinners and catching up on sports.

One of the most sought after experiences in Manuel Antonio is the jungle night tour. A true once in a lifetime experience, explore the beauty of El Seibo Wildlife Refuge at night as you listen to the frogs sing while you make your way across the dense jungle. Tickets for the nighttime jungle tour in Manuel Antonio cost about 50 USD for adults (35 USD for children under 8 years old).

If you’re looking for something a little more lively, and with great music to enjoy, we suggest you head over to Balu’s Beach Bar for a few sunset cocktails before heading to Cuban Republik Disco Lounge to dance the night away with other locals and expats. Another one of the best bars in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, Dos Locos is a great spot to meet up with tourists who packed up and settled in the lush green town to make a new life of their own. With live music shows every Wednesday night at 7 PM or Saturday at noon, plus an exciting round of trivia every Thursday night, you’ll feel right at home.

As you can see, some of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, involve getting outside and connecting with the beautiful nature that surrounds you. From heart-pumping whitewater rafting excursions to relaxing on one of the many beaches or learning more about the local wildlife, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on your visit to this beautiful town.

FAQs

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?
The great thing about Manuel Antonio is that there are a lot of fantastic places to stay that are accommodating to every type of budget. Whether you’re looking for luxurious, private accommodation or you’re happy to get social in a community room, Selina Hotel Manuel Antonio, in Costa Rica, is the perfect mix of upscale and affordable travel. With an on-site beach bar, outdoor pool, surf club, and wellness area, it ticks off all the boxes for what you need while you’re on the road. Plus, with access to a state of the art coworking space, you’ll never be too far out of reach and surrounded by inspiration to fuel your next projects!

How to get to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?
There are a few different ways to get to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, from other destinations inside the country. If you fly into San Jose, you can either drive to Manuel Antonio – this will take about 3.5 hours – or hop on a local flight to Quepos. There are two domestic airlines with flights from San Jose to Quepos: Sansa and Skyway.

What is the best time to go to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?
The best time to visit Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, is between December and April. During these months, you’ll find constant sunshine and rainfall will be minimal. Plus, it’s also a great time to escape the cold in the North if that’s where you’ll be traveling from. These months are also the most-visited months in Costa Rica, so be ready to run into some crowds when you visit some of the most popular tourist attractions.

Why is Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, worth visiting?
Manuel Antonio is worth visiting because it’s brimming with excitement and adventure! Home to one of the most popular national parks in the country, the small town brings in visitors from all over the world who are looking to learn more about Costa Rica’s wildlife, try their hand at some surf, and relax on one of its many picture-perfect beaches. Whether you’re traveling simply to relax or hoping to keep your schedule busy with different activities, Manuel Antonio is the place for you.

Is it better to stay in Quepos or Manuel Antonio?
When choosing whether to stay in Quepos or Manuel Antonio, it all depends on what you’re hoping to get from your trip. The distance between both towns is relatively short, which means you’ll be able to move around between them with no problem. If you’re hoping to stay closer to the park, we suggest you stay in Manuel Antonio. However, if you’re concerned about your budget, you can stay in Quepos and simply take a bus to the park the day of.

Why is Manuel Antonio famous?
The town of Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is famous for a variety of reasons. The main one is, without a doubt, its namesake national park: Manuel Antonio National Park. With its dense green landscape, brimming with local flora and fauna, visitors flock to Manuel Antonio for a chance to explore the park and see the wildlife that inhabits it. The town is also well-known for its beautiful beaches and great surf spots suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers.

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos?
Costa Ricans are commonly referred to as “Ticos” because of their tendency to use diminutives in Spanish and adding “tico” to the end of a word. Warm-hearted, friendly, and welcoming, this way of speaking is popular throughout the country. The term “Tico” is used by locals and people from other Spanish-speaking countries, so you don’t need to worry about using it and causing offense. Most people quite enjoy the nickname, and the people of Costa Rica have embraced it.

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