Manuel Antonio National Park is one of our favorite places in Costa Rica. This Pacific Coast park is full of natural beauty and wildlife. Despite being one of the smallest national parks in the country, Manuel Antonio will wow you with its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and rich biodiversity. In this travel guide, we’ll share tips for making the most of your visit.
The Manuel Antonio Park entrance
Getting to Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is about 3 to 3.5 hours by car from San José. The most popular route is via Route 34, which is an easy and scenic drive along the coastline. Don’t forget this wireless phone charger if you’re using a navigation app the whole time. Google Maps and Waze work best but they’ll drain your battery if left on for the whole drive.
Alternatively, you can book a domestic flight to the nearby Quepos airport, followed by a short taxi to Manuel Antonio town. We prefer driving and you can read our guide to renting a car here.
There is no official parking area for the national park, and it can get really intense with people guiding you into their private parking lots. There are private parking areas available around the park entrance for ₡4000-₡5000 for the day. Beware of scammers that try to sell you overpriced parking and tours when you get close to the park entrance.
Directions from Tulemar
Best Time to Visit
Manuel Antonio National Park is open year-round, except on Tuesdays (as of May 2023). The high season, from December to April, offers sunny skies and dry weather, making it an excellent time to visit. The green season, from May to November, is characterized by afternoon rain showers. The crowds are less and we love the evening thunderstorms after a long day at the beach. The Green Season is actually our favorite time to visit Manuel Antonio.
Entrance tickets can only be purchased online, and your passport number is required for registration at the national park. When booking a guided tour, the tour normally includes the entrance fee, and the guide will have your tickets.
Beaches and Hiking
Manuel Antonio National Park is home to some of Costa Rica’s most stunning beaches, including Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur. These idyllic white-sand beaches, bordered by dense jungle, provide a perfect backdrop for sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing pura vida style. We always pack a microfiber towel like this in our day bag to dry off quickly after a swim.
The park offers several well-maintained hiking trails that cater to various adventure levels. The main trail, almost a mile path, is an easy hike that connects the park’s primary beaches and offers several viewpoints. For more adventurous travelers, the Sendero Perezoso trail offers a moderate hike with more to see.
The main park beaches
Wildlife and Birdwatching
Manuel Antonio National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts with over 100 mammal species and nearly 200 bird species. Among the park’s most iconic inhabitants are white-faced capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys (my favorite), sloths, and a variety of colorful birds. To increase your chances of spotting wildlife, consider hiring a local guide. They can help you navigate the trails and spot some hard-to-find animals. Don’t forget binoculars like these that attach to your phone so you can get some good pictures of the animals like this baby sloth 😍.
A baby sloth in the park!
Travel tips for Manuel Antonio
Purchase your national park tickets in advance
Tickets are available ONLINE ONLY, and you’ll have to use the computers at the park entrance if you don’t get them before. You can get them here.
Stay on marked trails
To protect the park’s delicate ecosystems and to keep safe, always stay on designated paths and avoid venturing off-trail.
Respect the wildlife
Keep a safe distance from animals, and NEVER feed them. The white-faced monkeys in the park are now accustomed to being fed by visitors at the snack stand. They can get aggressive, so keep your distance.
Bring the essentials
Pack reef-safe sunscreen, non-deet insect repellent, water, and snacks for your visit. Aside from a small restaurant, There are no food or drink vendors inside the park, so come prepared. Check out our full packing list here!
Playa Espadilla Sur is our favorite beach
Manuel Antonio National Park offers a blend of diverse wildlife and outdoor activities that cater to all ages and interests. Whether you’re a hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or a beach lover, Manuel Antonio is a must-visit destination on your Costa Rican adventure.
Are you staying in Manuel Antonio? Don’t miss our guide to the best hotels in the area.