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8 Things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (+Best Beaches)

You might know that Costa Rica is a country where you can see all sorts of ecosystems, a ton of national parks, lots of different animal species, and beautiful black-and-white sanded beaches. The best part is that in some places you can see it all at once. Manuel Antonio National Park is one of those places, plus it is surrounded by lots of restaurants, luxury hotels, spas, and great nightlife. Here are my 8 best things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, also I’ll let you know the best beaches in the area and useful information.

man stading next to a tree and palm tree in Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio National Park

The story of this place started as a place filled with banana plantations, but it has evolved to become one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations. However, the whole area is known for being home to the amazing Manuel Antonio beach, tropical forests, and over 100 animal species such as monkeys and sloths. It is also the smallest national park in Costa Rica.

This is the second most visited park in Costa Rica, but I’m sure it would be number one if it was closer to San Jose like the Poas Volcano National Park. This park has the killer combination of the rain forest, black and white-sanded beaches, mangroves, and almost over 100 mammal species including the cute yet endangered squirrel monkey. In my opinion, this is the best place to see wildlife after the Corcovado National Park.

Popular Things to Do in Manuel Antonio:

1. Flying through the forest’s canopy in zip lines

Manuel Antonio offers some of the best ziplines in the whole country. This isn’t an option for animal lovers because the sound of the lines as you go down them pushes them away, but it will allow you to get stunning views of the forest. This is a must-do in Costa Rica, don’t miss it.

2. Surfing on one of its great beaches

The region offers a few beaches where the waves and the tides are strong. One of the best ones and less crowded is Puerto Escondido but keep in mind that this isn’t the friendliest place for beginners. If you are looking for a smaller waver you might want to stay in Manuel Antonio Beach.

If you want to know more about surfing in Costa Rica, here’s a post with 12 of the best spot to surf in Costa Rica.

3. Horseback riding along the beach or in the middle of the forest

This is the best option for those looking to explore nature comfortably and yet without disturbing the local animals with the nice of ATVs or motorcycles. It is also the preferred adventure for those looking for some romance on Costa Rican beaches.

4. Hiking the trails of the Manuel Antonio National park

When you get to the park you will notice that the trails are mostly flat, making the hike easy but keep in mind that some of the stretches can have steep parts. The park is 1,700 acres of land and you can explore it all. There are many well-kept trails that you can explore. One even takes you to a beautiful waterfall where you get to relax and hang out.

5. World-class sport fishing

You can’t fish at Manuel Antonio park, but 10 minutes away in Quepos you will be able to find many of those tours available. Great fishing can be done year-round, but billfish, for example, will find the peak Marlin and Sailfish bite between December and April.

6. Cruising

The branches and water off of the coast of the park are clear, clean, and filled with gorgeous animals, it is also quite relaxed, making it an awesome place to fop on a small cruise, catamaran, or yacht for a relaxing day at sea. You may even find whales and dolphins between December and August

7. Snorkeling

These usually come combined or as an added option to the cruising tours. During these tours, you will be taken to relatively shallow water where you can enjoy swimming along with local fish.

8. Renting jet skis

This is yet another fun way to enjoy the waters off of the gorgeous beaches of the area. You will find a few companies that are offering jet skis for rent and their guides will even give you a quick tutorial if you don’t have experience with them.

a beach in manuel antonio national park costa rica

Best Beaches In Manuel Antonio National Park

As you might be able to see, the beaches of Manuel Antonio are one of the best places to go to in Costa Rica for those looking for a mixture of luxury, nature, and beautiful private beaches. It is definitely a place you should consider for your next vacation.

Playa Espadilla Sur

This is the longest and widest beach in the Manuel Antonio / Quepos area and is great for those looking to do some surfing.

Playa Manuel Antonio

This one is perfect for a family day out, it has picnic tables, drinking water, showers, and plenty of shade. It is also the most crowded one with tons of tourists.

Playa Gemelas

On one of the less crowded beaches because of the strong tides, I don’t recommend going with kids. But experienced surfers might have a blast riding its waves.

Playa Playitas

It has tranquil and super clear waters, great for a romantic walk or a chill time with older kids.

How to Get There

Once you’re in Quepos the easiest way to get to Manuel Antonio is by car or bus. There are also public buses that run between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. It’s really close, and it’s usually a 20-30min trip, the buses have several stops, and it runs from 6 am to 9 pm, and you can find a bus departing every 1h or 1h30min.

Getting Around

You can easily get around Manuel Antonio by bus. But you must know there are other ways to do it, many hotels and roadside stands have bike rentals for at least $10 to $15 per day. You must know that the road to Manuel Antonio is super hilly and steep and can be challenging for most people.

Another good way to get around is by taxi. In Quepos you’ll find a lot of taxis, the official taxis are red and have a bright yellow sign on the side.

How Much Time Should You Stay in Manuel Antonio?

To visit this area and get to know it, you will need a lot more than just a short day visit. I recommend a stay of at least 2 nights in the town of Quepos. Here is where you will find most of the hotels and restaurants. Plus, this town is really close to the Manuel Antonio National Park.

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