Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica: It’s an incredible paradise that’s just waiting to be discovered. Located just a short distance from the town of Quepos, this park is home to an astonishing array of wildlife. With lush rainforest, coral reefs, and wonderful, warm beaches with beautiful white sand, Manuel Antonio National Park is a hot spot for biodiversity. This may be the smallest of Costa Rica’s national parks, but in terms of habitat and wildlife, it’s unequalled.
Getting There: The Best Way to Travel to Manuel Antonio National Park
Although this amazing national park feels like a different world, but it’s surprisingly easy to access via plane, car, or bus.
If you’re staying in San Jose, you can take a quick 20-minute flight to Manuel Antonio via Sansa Airlines. In case flying isn’t for you, you can opt to take a bus from San Jose’s Tracopa Terminal, which is located at Plaza Viquez.
From Quepos, you can get to Manuel Antonio National Park via taxi or public bus.
From Jaco, you can take a public bus, catch private transportation, or drive a car in. If you’re traveling from Uvita or Dominical, you can drive yourself or take private transportation.
Capuchin Monkeys greet visitors to Manuel Antonio National Park
Entrance Fees, Operating Hours, and Other FAQs
The Park is closed on Mondays, but it’s open every other day of the year, holidays included (unless they happen to fall on a Monday). The gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. If you’re visiting Manuel Antonio National Park on a holiday such as Christmas, Easter, or New Year’s day, it’s a very good idea to arrive as early as you can so that you can get in. Manuel Antonio National Park allows only a certain number of guests at any one time, so arriving late can mean a wait outside the gates. Most of the time people are coming and going, so your wait shouldn’t be terribly long if it happens.
Great news if you’re traveling with your family: Kids under 12 get free admission. Everyone else enjoys access to this amazing national park for $16. People who travel with service dogs may bring them in; simply get a permit at the guard station located at the parks’ entrance. Other pets are not allowed.
Everyone needs to have a ticket before getting in line. These can be purchased at the Coopealianza office in Quepos on Calle 3, or on the entrance road, one block before the gate.
Since there are no stores or restaurants inside the park, it’s a very good idea to bring snacks wrapped in paper or reusable containers. You can bring cut fruit, cookies, crackers, etc. but there’s a short list of items that are banned at Manuel Antonio. Don’t bring:
• Chips bags of any kind, or junk food packaged in aluminum/plastic bags
• Alcoholic beverages of any kind
• Nuts or seeds
• Cans of any kind
You can bring water, juice, or soft drinks in reusable plastic bottles. Insulated 1.5liter bottles are ideal as it’s hot and humid. Water refill stations are available, so you can stay hydrated while enjoying your visit.
Bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers are located throughout the park so you can swap your shorts out for a bathing suit and rinse off after swimming or snorkeling.
Self-Guided vs. Guided Tour
You’re welcome to wander through Manuel Antonio National Park on your own, and if you’re planning to stay all day, you’ll find that there’s plenty of time to explore. Guests who opt for guided tours have the advantage of their naturalist guides’ knowledge base. The guides know how to spot wildlife, plus they’re often equipped with excellent telescopes that you can use to get great close-up photos with your digital camera. If you want to see a certain species, be sure to let your guide know so they can try to make your wish come true!
Besides affordable group tours (usually about 10 people maximum), there are private tours available as well as tours designed to accommodate people with limited mobility.
Most guided tours take about two hours, leaving you with plenty of time to continue exploring on your own, snorkeling, or enjoying one of the national park beaches.
We do have on caveat for you: Watch out for unofficial guides who are basically scammer with fake IDs and sometimes uniforms and receipt books. These people sometimes hang around the area outside the park and they have been known to work in teams. After they take your money, they are likely to walk you to the beach and drop you off there. The official guides have an office next door to the ticket office, and if you book a guided tour online or through your hotel, you’ll be provided with detailed instructions for connecting with the right people.
Hiking Manuel Antonio Park
The park is an amazing place to hike, with trails that wind their way into the rainforest, leading the way to incredible sites including beaches, wonderful view points, and even a small waterfall. Everyone can enjoy this destination now that a universal trail leads from the entrance to the beach. It’s suitable for people who have difficulty walking, and it also accommodates people who use wheelchairs.
Some notable trails at the park include:
• Punta Catedral, which leads from Playa Manuel Antonio to Playa Espadilla Sur and Sendero Punta Catedral, as well as to some other trails. You can do this as a loop if you like.
• Sendero La Trampa, which is a very short trail to the beach
• Sloth trail, also known as Sendero el Perezoso, which takes you into the rainforest via a raised, wooden walkway. Watch the trees for sloths and look underneath for deer and smaller animals.
• Sendero Playa Gemelas, which is a fairly short hike that connects Play Gemelas beach with other trails. If other beaches are crowded, give this one a try. The views are amazing and the warm, white sand feels incredible.
• Sendero La Catarata, a very quick hike to a small waterfall. This is a convenient little side trip with some nice scenery and occasional wildlife sightings.
Rainforest Wildlife Encounters at Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Thanks to excellent conservation efforts, this national park is home to a diverse cast of characters. While you’re visiting, watch for 3-fingered sloths, 2-fingered sloths, deer, snakes, and poison dart frogs.
If you’re hoping for primate encounters, you’re likely to be thrilled with the monkeys you meet. Manuel Antonio Park is home to squirrel monkeys, white face capuchin monkeys, and howler monkeys who live up to their name by making plenty of noise.
Lizards, geckos, iguanas, white nose coatis, agoutis, and snakes are among the many animals that call this beautiful environment home, along with more than 350 bird species!
Watch for wildlife as you hike through Manuel Antonio’s rainforests.
Playa Manuel Antonio: Best of the Beach
Playa Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. With the jungle nearby and gorgeous turquoise water, this white, sandy beach is perfect for relaxing and swimming. Don’t worry if it’s busy – there are smaller beaches nearby where you can bask on the sand to your heart’s content.
When visiting Playa Manuel and other beaches at the park, be sure to watch out for the monkeys and the crab-eating raccoons! They’re famous for rifling through unattended bags in search of snacks – one reason why the park has such strict policies regarding food and drinks as well as the packaging it’s carried in.
Snorkeling Manuel Antonio
If you like snorkeling, Manuel Antonio National Park can be a fun place to spot surgeonfish, schools of rainbow wrasse, Passer angelfish, Cortez angelfish, three-banded butterflyfish, blacknosed butterflyfish, and other creatures. The best spot to snorkel is inside the protected, rocky area at the southern end of Playa Manuel Antonio – you can explore other areas if you like but the fish tend to congregate here. Visibility is better in dry weather since heavy rain brings sediment that clouds the water.
More to See: Other Things to Do around Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica
While Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the main attractions here, there are plenty of other fun things to do. Consider a thrilling raft trip down the beautiful Rio Naranjo, or watch for whales and dolphins from the deck of a catamaran. Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is famous for its surfing, and it is a great place for parasailing as well. If you’d rather enjoy land-based thrills, you’ll find them high in the treetops as you zipline through the rainforest canopy.
Other fun things to do around Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica include after-dark jungle excursions, beach parties and dining, skydiving, and even paddleboarding with the help of night vision goggles.
Jaco isn’t far away; there, you’ll find more excursions including tours to Tortuga island, ATV adventures, horseback riding in the jungle, and big waves for awesome surfing that attracts visitors from all over the planet. There are plenty of beautiful beaches to enjoy all along the way.
Manuel Antonio Hotels
You can find wonderful hotels in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica and other nearby locations including Jaco, San Jose, and Monteverde. Depending on where you plan to stay, you’ll be happy to find that there are plenty of amenities including pools, lounges, yoga decks, bars and restaurants, and free WiFi so you can save all of your photos to the cloud.
Manuel Antonio Costa Rica Weather & The Best Time to Visit
Remember, Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica is located in a rainforest! The park receives a little more than 150 inches of rain per year, with August, September, and October seeing the most precipitation. January and February are driest.
The “high season” is December through April. If you can come during the low season, you’ll encounter fewer people despite an increased likelihood of being rained on.
Nothing compares to this incredible destination. It’s a beautiful place, and it’s surprisingly accessible, with miles of trails, amazing beaches, and tons of wildlife to make your adventure complete. Searching for the perfect Manuel Antonio hotel? Come stay with us at Selina, where you’ll find tons of comfortable options and fantastic amenities including on-site bar and restaurant, pool, yoga deck, and so much more. We offer Manuel Antonio National Park tours, complete with well-educated naturalist guides. Read on to learn more about Manuel Antonio and nearby adventures including white water rafting and whale watching. Adventure is waiting!
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