Are you planning a trip to Manuel Antonio? We’re here to help! Manuel Antonio holds a special spot in our hearts. Anna and I set off on our very first trip to Costa Rica together, and guess where we headed? Yes, you got it… Manuel Antonio!
Now, we made a little mistake by only allowing ourselves two days to explore this paradise (definitely not recommended!). But hey, we made the most of every second and fell in love with the place. Since then, we’ve returned many times, using it as our home base to venture into the surrounding areas. Let’s take a look at our ultimate 7-day itinerary in Manuel Antonio, where you’ll experience the perfect blend of beach time, waterfalls, and national parks.
Lodging: Tulemar Resort
There are a ton of nice vacation rentals, but without question, our favorite place to stay in Manuel Antonio is Tulemar Resort. Even if you’re not a “resort person”, this place is for you. They continue to be rated one of the best hotels in the WORLD on Tripadvisor for a reason. The 40+ exclusive bungalows and private villas are built into the natural surroundings and exploring the grounds is an activity in itself.
The prices range from very reasonable to crazy expensive, and everything in between. We recommend one of the two “Mini Suites” for a comfortable stay that allows you to enjoy the resort’s amenities and easy access to the beach. It’s a no-frills spot and you can often find it for under $200/night. There is an on-site sloth sanctuary and abundant animal life. Okay, we’ll leave it at that, and you can check out our top 3 hotels in Manuel Antonio here.
Anna at “El Escondite” Villa in Tulemar
Our favorite “Mini Suite” at Tulemar
So, when you’re looking into flights, make sure that you select the airport code SJO (San Jose), and not LIR (Liberia). Liberia is the secondary airport in Costa Rica, and it’s up in the northern part of the country. You’ll add an extra 3-4 hours of drive time if you select the wrong airport. No thanks!
We prefer to take red-eye flights when possible. You’ll touch down in SJO, pick up a rental car or shuttle, and you’ll be in Manuel Antonio by check-in time. If your flight gets in later in the evening, spend the night at a nearby airport hotel and get a fresh start in the morning. It’s not enjoyable driving the 3-4 hours at night if you’re exhausted from a long travel day.
Rental Car or Shuttle
We strongly recommend renting a car for your trip. It gives you the freedom to explore on your own time, and Manuel Antonio is a VERY hilly town. You’ll be stuck walking or using taxis which adds up quickly. If you really don’t want to make the drive from San Jose, ILT Travel is a great shuttle option. We’ve used them a few times when traveling with larger groups, and their English-speaking drivers were friendly and professional.
There is also an Economy Rental Car office in the heart of Manuel Antonio, which makes it very easy to rent a car only for the days you want to go adventure. Check out our guide to renting a car.
Day 1: Arrive in SJO
After arriving in Manuel Antonio, take some time to unwind, explore the area, and soak up some stunning views. Stop by a local market on the way into town and grab some snacks and beach beers to enjoy. Don’t forget to bring an insulated can koozie to keep your drinks cold. Foam koozies just don’t hold up to the Costa Rican sun.
Day 2: River Rafting
You came to Manuel Antonio for adventure, right? Fuel up for a day of river rafting on the Savegre River. We love going with Amigos Del Rio, and you can check out their tours HERE. The guides have always been fun, professional, and safe. Book in advance to secure your spot and have a great day on the river. Have an early breakfast and bring some snacks because you won’t have the chance to eat much once you get going. They serve an authentic Costa Rican lunch when you get back to the office after the tour, and you’ll have the opportunity to purchase photos of your rafting trip.
So much fun rafting with Amigos Del Rio
Day 3: Manuel Antonio National Park
Start your day with breakfast at Emilio’s Cafe. You’ll have a sweeping view of the park from above before you head down the hill to the entrance. Buy your tickets online before you arrive. They don’t sell tickets in person, and it’s a nightmare trying to use the computers at the park. Playa Espadilla Sur is our favorite beach in Manuel Antonio and can only be accessed by going through the park. Be sure to read our full guide on Manuel Antonio National Park for more info.
Starting the day at Emilio’s Cafe
Day 4: Marino Ballena National Park and Nauyaca Falls
Start your day with breakfast at Cafe Milagro before a day trip to Nauyaca Falls and Marino Ballena National Park. Which one should you go to first? That depends on the tide schedule for the day. It’s best to visit Marino Ballena on the lowest tide possible to see the famous whale tale emerge from the ocean. Check out our full guides for Marino Ballena National Park and Nauyaca Falls.
The whale tail on a low tide!
Day 5: Playa Baisanz
Looking to mix it up with a new beach? Playa Biesanz is a hidden gem offering calm waters with few waves. Spend the day relaxing on the beach, snorkeling in the coves, or renting a kayak from nearby beach vendors. This beach can be tricky to find, so check out our directions HERE.
The calm waters of Playa Beisanz
Day 6: Free Day
Enjoy a free day 🤙
Day 7: Return to SJO
It’s time to say adiós to Manuel Antonio. Head back to San Jose, board your plane, and start planning the next trip! Want access to the VIP Lounge in SJO? Check out our Top 5 Cost a Rica Travel Tips.
Manuel Antonio Activities:
- Adventure Tours: Ziplining, ATV tours, horseback riding, or white-water rafting.
- Sailing and Snorkeling: Enjoy a catamaran tour, complete with snorkeling stops to explore the underwater life and possibly dolphin sightings.
- Sport Fishing: Manuel Antonio is a paradise for anglers. Venture into the Pacific for the chance to catch marlin, sailfish, tuna, and more.
- Spice Farm Visit: Take a guided tour of Villa Vanilla Spice Farm to learn about sustainable organic farming and the production of spices like vanilla, cocoa, and cinnamon.
Manuel Antonio Tips:
- Consider traveling during the shoulder months to avoid the crowds.
- Take caution while swimming at the beach and be mindful of rip tides.
- Check out MA Fitness if you’re looking for a gym.
- Jolly Roger Bar is the place to watch sports in MA
- Don’t miss our Ultimate Packing List for Costa Rica
So that’s our 7-day trip to Manuel Antonio and Uvita. Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Feel free to customize it to suit your preferences and add additional activities or destinations along the way. Costa Rica is a land of endless fun, and we encourage you to keep exploring, embracing adventure, and living the pura vida way!
Note: Always check travel advisories, local regulations, and current conditions before planning your trip.