The Guide To Manuel Antonio National Park

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The Guide To Manuel Antonio National Park


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.

Getting to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is about 3 to 3.5 hours by car from San Jos矇. 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 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.

The entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park

The entrance of the Park

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 for beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. 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.

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.

You can buy your online tickets for self-guided tours here

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, fringed by emerald forests, provide a perfect backdrop for sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing. We always pack a microfiber towel like this in our day bag to easily dry off after a swim.

The park offers several well-maintained hiking trails that cater to various fitness 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

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 likethis baby sloth .

A baby sloth in the park

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-safesunscreen, 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!

An empty stretch of beach in the park

Our favorite beach in the park

Let’s go!

Manuel Antonio National Park offers a captivating blend of natural wonders, diverse wildlife, and outdoor activities that cater to all ages and interests. Whether you’re an avid 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.

Thanks for your support

We just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for using our affiliate links. Each purchase you make through these links helps us continue traveling and sharing our guides and tips, at no extra cost to you. It’s the easiest way you can support us, and we truly appreciate it.

Trip questions? Let us know!

Cody & Anna

Were Cody and Anna, and weve fallen in love with Costa Rica over the past decade. Were not experts in every region of the country, but our countless adventures have inspired us to create this Costa Rica travel guide. Our goal is to share our experiences and help you jet off on your own unforgettable journey. Let’s go!

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