Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica is the jewel of the Pacific Coast that is home to one of the top beaches in the world located within the Manuel Antonio National Park. It is one of the smallest parks in Costa Rica but it is the most visited due to its varied fauna with 109 species of mammals and 184 of birds. It’s popular because of its expansive white sand beaches flanked by an evergreen forest that grows right up to the high tide line. The town of Manuel Antonio is small but host several hideaway hotels and luxury vacation rentals. In this small town, you can enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies from the “feria” (weekly market), have a five star meal at many of the restaurants, hire a private chef to cook for you or mix in with the locals and join them eating a “casado” (typical Costa Rican meal) at any of the “sodas”(little local restaurants). Whether you are a wildlife lover, adventure seeker or you just want to be a beach bum, the array of activities is endless and you can book several tours to help you enjoy your tropical paradise vacation. The region is a treasure for biodiversity, attracting nature buffs, eco-travelers and adventure-seekers alike.
Manuel Antonio Park Weather (When to Visit)
You will be able to see wildlife and hike the trails any time of the year. However, there are a few things to keep in mind about visiting this national park. The weather at Manuel Antonio is hot and humid with temperatures in the 90’s and high humidity. This area experiences typical tropical weather so you have the normal dry season from roughly beginning of December – end of April and rainy season from beginning of May to end of November.
It is very crowded the end of December thru the end of April. This is high season and this park gets very crowded Weekends and holidays (New Years, Christmas and Holy Week) are very busy. July is also a busy month. The best time to visit and skip the crowds is September thru November. However, these months are the peak rainy months.
What to Wear and Bring
- Bring your swimsuit (there are changing stations) if you don’t want to wear it in, towels, water, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
- If you’re visiting in rainy season, make sure you have a waterproof backpack or backpack cover.
- You can walk the trails with flip flops but hiking sandals are the best if you want to hike and go in the water.
- You don’t need to wear long hiking pants or shirts, the trails are nicely made with platforms. I suggest wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s so hot there. Just make sure to use mosquito repellent.
- For photographers or wildlife lovers, bring binoculars or a camera with good zoom lens (at least 250 mm) for photographing wildlife.
Best Manuel Antonio Area Beaches
Damas Island Mangroves
One of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches, Playa Manuel Antonio frequently hosts parties and festivals, and it is an ideal destination for avid surfers. This beach is host to tidal pools and offers the opportunity to go snorkeling. Rated as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, Playa Manuel Antonio is a half mile long with white sands and bordered by deep green mangroves and palms.
Playa Biesanz is a deep cove with sparkling turquoise water and peaceful jungle surrounds. It’s a favorite beach among the locals, and on weekends, you’re likely to see families stocked up for the day with bags full of food and maybe even hammocks. Biesanz has calm water that is perfect for swimming. This makes it a great place to bring children.
The family-friendly nature of this beach makes it perfect for just about any activity such as swimming, soccer or just laying around with a good book. It features a sandy beach that stretches out for nearly a mile, so it’s also a great spot to wind down with a long, leisurely beach watch.
Playa La Mancha
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of Playa Espadilla, Playa La Mancha is the perfect spot for you. It’s famous for being one of the quietest and most serene Manuel Antonio beaches. You have to be willing to put in a little work to get this beach, though. The trail that leads to this beach is tricky and difficult to locate if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
This is one of the smaller beaches of Manuel Antonio Park. But, even though it’s small, it still shouldn’t be missed. This beach is only accessible before or after high tide, so plan your trip ahead of time. Also, you’ll need to wear proper footwear, as the hike to it is very rocky.
Best Manuel Antonio Tours & Activities
Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner
In just one day, it’s possible to visit top Costa Rica attractions like Arenal Volcano, La Paz Waterfall, and Arenal Hot Springs when you book this guided tour from San Jose. All-inclusive private transport smooths over otherwise tricky transportation logistics, and your guide keeps you well entertained and informed as you explore. This tour includes all entrance fees plus two meals, adding up to a great value. Learn more about the Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour.
Sarapiqui River Rafting Class II-III Rapids
Unleash your inner daredevil as you tackle the hair-raising rapids of the Sarapiqui River on this full-day tour from either San Jose or La Fortuna. Hurtle downstream over class II and III rapids like the ‘Roller Coaster’ and ‘Superman’; marvel over the dramatic scenery of the Sarapiqui canyon, then cool off with a swim. After 2.5-hours of adrenaline-fueled fun, tuck into lunch by the riverside, before heading back to the city. Learn more about the Sarapiqui River Rafting Tour.
Los Suenos Sport Fishing Tour
Journey into the waters aboard a 32-foot custom Maverick on this Los Suenos sport fishing tour. Choose from a full or half-day experience and follow your expert bilingual captain and mate into one of the top fishing destinations in the country. Gear and tackle is included, ensuring a fun-filled day on the water and non-alcoholic beverages plus beer and lunch are included in the full-day option. This Los Suenos sport fishing tour is guaranteed to be a day of fun, sun and outdoor adventure on the water. Learn more about the Los Suenos Sport Fishing Tour.
8-Days Costa Rica: Volcano, Tropical Jungles and Cloud Forests
An all-inclusive tour is an efficient and affordable way to visit Costa Rica’s essential highlights in just a week. Transportation, activities, meals, and lodging are included on your visits to Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Tortuguero Canals, and more. Plus, traveling with a guide means gleaning lots of insight into local culture and history that you might miss traveling alone. This tour is limited to just four people for a more personalized experience. Learn more about the 8-Day Costa Rica Tour.
Costa Rica Full Day Combo Tour – Zip lining, Waterfalls, Volcano & Hot Springs
Discover many beautiful attractions of Costa Rica on this Combo Tour from San Jose. Fly over the Rainforest Canopy on a zip lining course and rappel down 50 meters (150 feet). Visit 2 beautiful waterfalls in the Rainforest; admire wildlife of Costa Rica at the exotic birds’ viewing point and the Iguanas Center. Learn about coffee of Costa Rica and taste the delicious local cuisine. Participate of a native tribe presentation. Relax in thermal mineral hot springs pools at the base of Arenal Volcano. Lunch and dinner are included. Learn more about the Costa Rica Full Day Combo Tour.
Best Manuel Antonio Restaurants
La Luna Restaurant at Gaia Hotel and Reserve $31 – 60
For fine dining and first-class service, head to La Luna Restaurant at the luxury Gaia Hotel. You will be whisked away by friendly hotel staff on a golf cart to the plush open-air restaurant on top of the hill. The five-star, open-air restaurant atop Manuel Antonio’s Gaia Hotel & Reserve, boasts panoramic views of the Pacific and surrounding rain forest—surpassed only by the killer menu of tenderloin steak, ginger-and-panko-crusted tuna in a sesame viniagrette, and innovative vegetarian options. Telephone: 506 2777-9797 Web: La Luna
Rafael’s Terrazas $11 – 30
Rafael’s Terrazas is a friendly, locally owned restaurant that serves upscale Costa Rican cuisine. The lunch menu has sandwiches, salads (the fresh tuna salad is recommended), seafood dishes, ceviche, and pasta. The dinner menu has more refined dishes that incorporate sauces like Mahi-Mahi in lemon and tuna in ginger-wasabi. The ocean view at Rafael’s is outstanding and we’ve even seen whales breaching while dining. This casual spot is kid and dog friendly. Telephone: 506 2777 6310 Web: Rafael’s Terrazas.
Marlin Restaurant $11 – 30
Manuel Antonio doesn’t have a lot of options for dining near the beach, but Marlin is a good one. This open-air restaurant serves traditional Costa Rican dishes like casados and fried snapper, but also has American classics like sandwiches, burritos, and fish tacos. Marlin is a popular spot during the day with people relaxing with a cool beverage after soaking up the sun or walking in the national park. Places come and go, but this restaurant has been around for a long time. Telephone: 506 2777 1134 Web: Marlin Restaurant.
Barba Roja $11 – 30
Barba Roja has been in Manuel Antonio since 1975. Even in the low season, this chill restaurant/bar is a fun spot to hang out. Both tourists and locals come for the delicious food and good vibes. The menu, which has been recently updated, includes smoked ribs, sushi, and fresh fish dishes. Tuesdays are still big with 2-for-1 burgers and live music. Sunset is spectacular as well, as the restaurant sits high on the hill. Telephone: 506 2777 0331 Web: Barba Roja.
Mar Luna $11 – 30
About 100 meters north of the elementary school in Manuel Antonio, the wooden, blue seafood restaurant Mar Luna sits on a hilltop overlooking the treetops and sea coast. The view, especially at sunset, is spectacular, but it’s the fresh seafood caught each morning by the cooks that attracts so many customers. Grilled over volcanic ash (instead of charcoal), the sea bass, red snapper, mahi mahi, and lobster are infused with a flavor that is distinctly less smoky than the norm. Live Latin music accompanies the evening meal from Thursday to Saturday. Telephone: 506 2777 5107 Web: Mar Luna.
Best Manuel Antonio Bars
As one of Manuel Antonio’s first restaurants, this is still one of the best places to go for sunset cocktail hour and local beers on tap. Telephone: 506 2777 0331 Web: Barba Roja.
With large-screen TVs and pool tables, Manuel Antonio’s consummate sports bar fills up on game nights. Ladies’ Nights are on Monday and Friday, and there are free Latin dance lessons on Thursday. You can also try your luck in the casino. Telephone: 506 2777–0411 Web: Billfish Bar.
Salsipuedes Tapas Bar
This colorful tapas bar hidden behind tropical foliage is a great sunset venue. It’s one of the few places you can enjoy a quiet drink, except on Monday and Friday when they have live music (December–June). Telephone: 506 2777–5019 Web: Salsipuedes Tapas Bar.
This upscale Italian restaurant is also a popular nightspot, with classical guitarist Rafa Mora performing most evenings. Telephone: 506 2777 5143 Web: Victoria’s.
Night owls and people looking to dance can find live salsa and merengue music at Bambu Jam. Telephone: 506 2777 3369 Web: Bambu Jam.
Best Manuel Antonio Hotels
Gaia Hotel & Reserve
A luxury, boutique resort, located in Manuel Antonio Beach, Costa Rica, is a 5 star eco-friendly hotel. An ideal blend of modern amenities and natural scenery for guests to enjoy. Their hotel´s well-appointed, terraced suites and villas offer you amazing views of lush and pristine surroundings that are beyond compare. They offer a variety of top services such as fine dining in their on-site La Luna restaurant, luxury spa treatments at Terra Spa, gym, pool, one day tours, plus the availability of many personal services.
Tulemar is a thirty-three acre residential resort located right in the heart of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. They have a collection of over 50 unique and individual accommodations, top-rated on TripAdvisor, ranging from 1-4 bedrooms including our Tulemar Bungalows, the Buena Vista Villas, the new Tulemar Bamboo Villas and their luxurious Private Villas. The property is surrounded by jungle and the wildlife is abundant; you’ll see monkeys, sloths and exotic birds throughout the property and on their hiking trails.
Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort
Located within walking distance of Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenas del Mar is unique among the resorts in the area. This luxury hotel is set within 11 acres of private nature reserve, where the rain forest meets the Pacific Ocean. Their 38 suites and rooms offer sustainable, luxurious lodgings — set in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings. You’ll feel right at home with their warm staff and personalized service. With a strong focus on fresh, wholesome and local food, you’ll eat well at their two world-class restaurants.
Makanda By The Sea
Boutique Hotel Makanda By the Sea provides fully equipped fancy villas and studios carefully placed in rainforest gardens, 100 meters above the ocean. From this vantage point, you will enjoy breathtaking sunset views of the sixty mile coastline and a diverse host of the plant and animal wildlife of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. Luxury and stylish, with 2 amazing infinity swimming pools with huge Jacuzzi, high-end restaurant with international Cuisine and open bars, private beach and spa.
Hotel Vela Bar
The Hotel Vela is a modern and quiet hotel exclusively for adults and only 5 minutes walk from one of the best beaches in Costa Rica and also at the entrance of the famous Manuel Antonio National Park. The rooms are built in an oasis of peace, around green gardens and refreshing pool, all have anatomical mattresses and bedding made with Egyptian cotton, air conditioning, plasma tv, Internet WiFi, safes, minibar, coffee machine, bathrooms with shower , hairdryer, amenities, beach towels and free parking is also available. Breakfast buffet included.