Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is the super tiny beachside town that’s most known for its paradise-like beaches and noteworthy national park. This inconspicuous little spot on the map has generated quite a bit of buzz as visitors have come and gone with words of acclamation pouring from their lips. Perhaps it’s the draw of dreamy palm-lined shores or the lure of silly monkeys playfully bouncing on fluffy white sands that keep the streams of paradise-bent visitors coming in. Whatever it may be, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica has a certain draw to it that brings visitors in by the masses and sends them back out with an inspirited grin stretched across their face.
If you’re ready to see what all this beachside town has to offer, you’ve come to the right place.
The Complete Guide To Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park
Since 1972, the Manuel Antonio National Park has been protecting the habitats of nearly 109 mammal species and 184 bird species, a number of which are endangered. The sheer number of unique species found in this tiny area make it one of the most biologically diverse parks on the face of this earth. This is the only place in all of Costa Rica where you can see all four native monkey species in one day. You can also see two and three-toed sloths, iguanas, and various types of frogs and birds–just to name a few.
If you’re coming to the area, it would simply be a crime not to stop and explore this National Park for yourself. There is a well-maintained system of trails that you can get lost in for hours or hire a local guide to teach you the ins and outs of this rich natural oasis.
The park is open every day except for Monday, from 7 AM to 4 PM. It costs $16 for foreigners and $3 for locals. Children under 12 are free. Guided tours run around $51 for adults and $35 for children, and private tours are $71 for adults and $55 for children. You can find more information about the park, booking tours, and special circumstances on the National Park website.
There are four main beaches in Manuel Antonio: Puerto Escondido, Playa Espadilla, Playa Espadilla Sur, and Playa Manuel Antonio. Each of these beaches are quite beautiful and well worth a visit, however, some are safe for swimming but some are not. It’s important to know about each beach before going.
This beach isn’t really one for swimming and playing, but it’s a remarkably beautiful discovery if you’re up for the slight challenge of accessing it. Check with local rangers, and be sure to time it just right so you don’t get stuck during high tide.
Right by the entrance to the Manuel Antonio National Park, you’ll find this Playa Espadilla, a gorgeous public beach. This beach is far more suited for families, and is one of the better ones for swimming (although the currents can sometimes still be strong.)
On the northern tip of Playa Espadilla, you will find this itsy-bitsy, incredibly serene beach. Once-upon-a-time, before a few hotels popped up behind this beach, free-spirited individuals took advantage of La Playita’s secluded feel and turned it into a famous nude beach. Today beachgoers must be clothed, but the beach remains as secluded and jungly as ever. It is important to note that if you’re heading to La Playita from Playa Espadilla you will have to cross over some rocky terrain that is totally inaccessible during high tide. The time it right, however, and you can easily pop over to this little beach and take some time away from it all.
Playa Manuel Antonio
And last, but certainly not least, is Playa Manuel Antonio, the beach located within the National Park itself. Ranked as one of the top 25 beaches in the world, Playa Manuel Antonio rarely, if ever, disappoints. One of the only downfalls is that since this beach is located within the national park, you must pay the park’s entrance fee to access the park.
Restaurants in Manuel Antonio come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors making even the pickiest of eaters content to find their favorite fare here. Here are a few restaurant choices to get you started on your foodie journey through Manuel Antonio:
This unique cafe boasts an all around wholistic cup of joe that you can sip from the lush, garden encapsulated patio until you’re hungry enough to dive into a scrumptious hand-made wrap. Cafe Milagro is a proud “source for premium, single origin, estate grew, micro milled coffees,” and as if it couldn’t get any better, they also have a swanky little bar complete with a happy hour and live music 7-days a week.
Real New York-style bagels for a buck fifty. Yes, in Costa Rica. I think that’s enough said. 🙂
Lush Tapas And Lounge
This restaurant and bar is a brand new addition to Manuel Antonio and has already infused the town with a fresh breath of vitality. Dig into fresh, delicious tapas made from all local ingredients as your sip on fine wine, enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean, and let your body sway to the beat of the tunes that pulsate through the restraunt.
Useful Budgeting Tip:
Check out this awesome budget created by Nomadic Matt to help you understand how much you should be prepared to spend on your time in Manuel Antonio
Should You Go During High Or Low Season?
Deciding when to come to Costa Rica is an important decision as it will directly affect your trip. There are two main seasons in Costa Rica: The Dry Season (aka the High Season for tourism) and The Rainy Season (aka the Low Season for tourism.) Different people will like different things about both seasons. Take a look at the pros and cons of both and decide what will work best for you.
December through April:
This is Costa Rica’s dry, summer season, and the most popular time to visit. Coming during this time is good if you want to join in on all the fun and excitement that comes with busy tourist seasons, or escape the cold winter of North America. The other good thing about this season is that there’s no rain! You can enjoy bright skies and warm beach-friendly weather all day long. (As long as you’re okay with the heat!) The downside is that prices will rise, and you will need to make reservations in advance for most things before they get full. Beaches and restaurants will be much more crowded, as well.
April through November:
This is Costa Rica’s rainy season and the low season for tourism. It’s a great time to come because prices will decrease a bit, and you’ll find yourself having several beaches to yourself. You also will have a much easier time booking tours and making reservations with little to no wait time. The downside is that nearly every day, without fail, there’s a good, heavy rainfall that lasts a couple hours. Mornings and nights are usually clear of rain, and you will enjoy the extra-lush jungles and abundant natural beauty that flourishes during this rainy season.
Manuel Antonio has a way of wedging itself deep within your heart and tapping at your mind and soul so that you find yourself returning time and time again for more.
Have you been to Manuel Antonio? Do you have any useful tips or awesome places you think we should add to this guide? Share your thoughts in the comments below!