The Guide To Manuel Antonio National Park

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The Guide To Manuel Antonio National Park

Hola 👋

Manuel Antonio National Park is a special place in Costa Rica, but it may frustrate you if you’re not prepared. For example… buy your entry tickets before you get there! It’s all digital now unless you’ve pre-booked a tour. This Pacific Coast park is full of natural beauty and wildlife. Despite being one of the smallest national parks in the country, This guide will cover what you need to know for a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park. Let’s go!

Manuel Antonio National Park
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Enter by land or sea. Whatever it takes

Getting to the 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.

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 who try to sell you overpriced parking and tours when you get close to the park entrance. We’ve experienced people nearly jumping in front of our car with official looking blue vests, trying to guide us to park with them. Don’t be fooled. They aren’t official and you can keep driving past them. We have a go-to lot in the area. Just shoot us a message or comment and we’ll drop a pin.

The entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park
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The main gate of the park

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 drier 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. It’s actually our favorite time to visit Costa Rica and we’ve been nearly every May and September for the last few years.

Entrance tickets can only be purchased online, and your passport number is required for registration at the national park. Save yourself the trouble and please book online before you get there. The park admins are unforgiving and it’s a major headache using their computers to buy tickets upon arrival, assuming they are still available. When booking a guided tour, the experience may or may not include the entrance fee, so double check before you arrive.

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. It’s a bold statement and not sure if I agree, but Playa Manuel Antonio has been rated one of the top beaches in the WORLD. Playa Espadilla Sur is our favorite because it’s normally much quieter. The steep sand bank lets us sit in the sand and listen to the surf crash before us.

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
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Espidilla Left… Antonio Right

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
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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 from the national park site.

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 cafe and market, 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
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Only our footsteps at Playa Espadilla Sur

Don’t Forget

You can buy almost anything you need in the area, but the prices of some items may surprise you. Sunscreen can cost upwards of $20 USD for a normal size tube at the local market. Some of our don’t forget items are listed below.

Sunscreen – Reapply all day when you’re outside. The sun is no joke here!
Bug Spray – Bugs are minimal in the day but mosquitoes often come out in the evening.
Quick-dry towel – These quick-dry towels are also sand free.
Waterproof hat – I like this floating hat, but anythig works.
Polarized sunglasses – They don’t have to break the bank. Check out these polarized sunglasses by Blenders.
Waterproof phone case – Great if you’re going to be on the ocean.

Let’s go!

Manuel Antonio National Park offers a blend of diverse wildlife and outdoor activities that cater to all ages and interests. The biggest mistake you can make is not brining a swimsuit to enjoy the ocean. Whether you’re a hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or a beach lover, Manuel Antonio is a must-visit destination if you’re in the area. Head to Ronny’s Place later and enjoy Manuel Antonio!

Are you staying in Manuel Antonio? Don’t miss our guide to the best hotels in the area.

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7 months ago

nice information and good article thank you

Cody & Anna

Cody and Anna Traxler

We’re Cody and Anna, and we’ve fallen in love with Costa Rica over the past decade. We’re not experts in every part of the country, but our countless adventures have inspired us to create this travel guide. Our goal is to share our experiences and help you jet off on your own unforgettable journey. Enjoy Ultimate Pura Vida and start planning here 🤙

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