A Tourist’s Guide to Explore the Beauty & Wildlife Of Manuel Antonio National Park

Last updated on March 15th, 2024 at 12:25 pm

There are countless incredible places to visit and things to do in Costa Rica but one of the most beautiful slices of paradise in Costa Rica is the Manuel Antonio region. This area located on the Central Pacific Ocean coastline is one of the most popular tourist hotspots of the entire Central Pacific region. A visit to Manuel Antonio, which is a few hours north of the Osa Peninsula and a 3-hour drive from San Jose, presents plenty of opportunities for travelers to engage with diverse wildlife, gorgeous landscapes, and the Pura Vida culture of the Costa Rican people.

One of The Highlights in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio Park

The main attraction for this area of the country is Manuel Antonio National Park. Though small in terms of square mileage, it packs a serious punch with biodiversity and natural beauty. If you will be visiting Manuel Antonio Costa Rica, it’s a smart choice to allocate one entire day to visit the Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s a must-see attraction that belongs at the top of your itinerary priorities. The following is a brief guide to help you enjoy the beauty of Manuel Antonio National Park and immerse yourself fully in this natural paradise.


Why Visit Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park has often been described as a Costa Rican tropical paradise, and it’s not hard to see why. With its incredibly diverse ecosystem, this stunning park boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, surrounded by lush, verdant rainforest that’s home to an incredible variety of wildlife. It’s no wonder that Manuel Antonio has become one of the most popular national parks in the country.

Visitors to the park can expect to see everything from howler monkeys and sloths to exotic birds like scarlet macaws, and reptiles. But the real draw of Manuel Antonio is its unspoiled scenic beauty – the turquoise waters of the Pacific crashing against the white sand of the beach, the lush greenery of the forest canopy, the fresh scent of salt air and tropical foliage.

At the heart of the park lies Manuel Antonio Beach, a picturesque stretch of coastline that attracts visitors from all over the world. This beach is surrounded by lush greenery and is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. However, there are several other beaches within the park, each with its own unique charm.

Aside from the stunning beaches, Manuel Antonio National Park is also home to a vast array of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and a wide variety of birds. The many hiking trails offer visitors the chance to explore the park’s lush forests and spot some of its amazing inhabitants.

In short, Manuel Antonio National Park is an incredible destination for nature lovers that offers visitors the perfect mix of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience this stunning park for yourself during a visit to Costa Rica.

Getting To Manuel Antonio National Park

Taking a domestic flight or driving to Manuel Antonio National Park from San Jose Costa Rica is an excellent way to see the different lush landscapes of Costa Rica. Whether you’re staying in Quepos town or just passing through Manuel Antonio, there are a variety of ways to get to the lush jungles and pristine beaches within the national park. In this section, we’ll cover the best ways to arrive and prepare for your visit to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Transportation Options

Getting to Manuel Antonio National Park is easy with several transportation options available. Visitors traveling from San Jose can rent a car and enjoy a scenic drive from the capital city, which is just about three hours away. Alternatively, hiring a shuttle van to Manuel Antonio provides a comfortable and convenient ride, especially for groups. For those who want to save time, taking a domestic flight from San Jose to Quepos town is a great option. Finally, the public bus is a cost-effective way to reach Manuel Antonio National Park. Regardless of the mode of transportation, Manuel Antonio National Park is easily accessible and worth the trip.

Directions To Manuel Antonio National Park

As you plan your journey to Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s helpful to know the directions from Costa Rica’s major airports. The maps below will guide you from either Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, these maps will ensure a smooth and efficient journey to the untamed beauty of this amazing national park.

Directions from San Jose Airport

Directions from Liberia Airport

National Park Entrance

As you make your way to Manuel Antonio National Park, keep in mind that there is no private access to this pristine oasis. You must enter through the main park entrance, which can be found near the southern end of Playa Espadilla Norte in the Puntarenas Province, a few hours west of San Jose. Once there, simply head to the visitor center to pay the entrance fee and start your adventure. Don’t worry about parking, as a low day rate will allow you to park in a convenient nearby lot.

Admission Fees

Entrance fee tickets for Manuel Antonio National Park vary depending on whether you are a foreigner or a resident of Costa Rica. As of 2023, foreign adults pay $18 per person to access the park while children aged 12 and under access for free. Costa Rican residents pay a lower fee of around $7 per person. For both national and international tourists, it is recommended to bring cash to pay the park entrance fee tickets as credit cards are not always accepted. Keep your the receipt of your tickets as it is required to re-enter the park on the same day without paying again.

Operating Hours

Manuel Antonio National Park is open daily from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, except on Mondays when it is closed. It is important to arrive early to avoid crowds and make the most of your visit. The park sometimes extends its hours during peak season, so be sure to check their website for any updates.

What Currency is Accepted at the National Park?

If you’re planning a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s important to know what currency you’ll need to bring. Fortunately, the park accepts both colones (Costa Rican currency) and U.S. dollars. However, it’s worth noting that you may receive change in colones, so it’s a good idea to bring some local currency as well. While credit cards are accepted for payment at the park entrance, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash just in case. With the knowledge of the accepted currency in Costa Rica, you can kick back and revel in the awe-inspiring views and exotic wildlife, leaving your currency exchange worries behind.

Things to Bring to The Park

When visiting Manuel Antonio National Park, take note on some of the essential items to bring for a unforgettable and comfortable visit. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, insect repellent, bug spray, comfortable shoes, and a camera or cell phone to capture the beauty of the wildlife and scenery. If you’re planning on going for a swim at one of the national park’s many beaches, don’t forget swim trunks or your bathing suit. A reusable water bottle is also recommended as there are several refilling stations available throughout the park. The white face monkeys and racoons in the park love to steal anything they can get their hands on, especially when you are taking a break on picnic tables or Manuel Antonio beach. Remember to keep your belongings secured and avoid bringing any food items that could attract animals.

Things to Do and See Inside Manuel Antonio National Park

Paying for a guided tour through Manuel Antonio Park is worth the price. While you can navigate the hiking trails on your own, you’ll miss so much interesting tropical floral and wildlife that only the trained eye of a private tour guide to spot in the national park. With telescope and tripod in hand, an expert guide will leading the way, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing the wildlife during a private tour, plus they will use their telescope to take pictures for you with your phone or camera. A guided tour will usually take between two and a half to three hours. And don’t worry, an expert tour guide will be bilingual.

However, don’t make the mistake and hire just anyone you see at the entrance of the park, make sure that you only pay for a sanctioned guided tour. Many individuals may pose as guides outside Manuel Antonio National Park, charging outrageous prices to lead you through the trails but without the expert knowledge of a sanctioned tour guide.

Various Walking and Hiking Trails

Manuel Antonio park hiking trails

There are several trails to explore within Manuel Antonio National Park and the surrounding area. They can lead you to the beautiful beaches that the park offers, as well as to views of the ocean, coral reefs, various marine life, and the rainforest. Just north of the park, you can find a trail to see a beautiful but fairly small waterfall with rainforest views. In the park, the Punta Catedral trail takes you out onto the small peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. 

The main trail offers about five miles of relatively simple trekking through the park. The Sloth trail runs parallel to the main trail and is a little deeper into the forest. This short trail gives you a better chance of seeing the two or three-toed sloths that populate the area. There are other trails in the park that branch out to different views and beaches, so be sure to reference a trail map to get the full experience.

The Main Trail - Sendero Perezosos

The Main Trail, also known as Sendero Perezosos, is one of the most popular trails in Manuel Antonio National Park, and for good reason. As you walk along this picturesque path, you can’t help but feel transported to another world. The trail takes you through lush, tropical rainforest, where the sunlight filters through the canopy and illuminates the vibrant foliage.

It’s a perfect trail for lovers of nature to observe the wildlife, including howler and white-faced monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and countless bird species, including the yellow-headed caracara and toucans in their natural habitat. The trail leads visitors through different habitats, from the humid tropical forest to the mangrove estuary, and finally to the secluded Playa Espadilla Sur. The trail also offers breathtaking views of the pristine beaches and emerald green waters in the park.

The Sloth Trail

The lovely trail, also known as the Titi Trail, is one of the most popular hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park. The trail’s namesake, the sloth, can often be seen sleeping high up in the trees, giving visitors the thrill of seeing a sloth for the first time. The trail also passes through lush forest, providing an opportunity to see other species that call this national park home.

The Waterfall Trail - Sendero Cataratas

The Waterfall Trail, or Sendero Cataratas, in Manuel Antonio National Park is an unforgettable hike. The trail features a stunning waterfall and picturesque streams, surrounded by lush vegetation. What sets this trail apart from others in the park is the opportunity to take a refreshing swim in the waterfall’s pool. As you make your way through the trail, the sound of the crashing water grows louder and the mist in the air becomes thicker. When you finally reach the waterfall, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view and a chance to cool off in the crystal-clear waters.

The Lookout Trail - Sendero Mirador

This trail in Manuel Antonio Park is also sometimes referred to as the Cathedral Point Trail. It is one of the more challenging trails in the park and it offers stunning panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding rainforest. The trail leads hikers to a rocky outcrop that resembles a cathedral, hence the name. Once you reach the top, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe at the breathtaking views of the coastline and the dense rainforest. This trail offers a unique opportunity to take in stunning views of the surrounding landscape, unlike any other trail in the park. The climb up to the lookout point can be a bit challenging, but it is well worth it for the spectacular views.

Puerto Escondido Trail

The Puerto Escondido Trail is an enchanting path in Manuel Antonio National Park that leads you to the secluded Playa Puerto Escondido. Unlike other trails, this one takes you through dense forests of tall trees and vibrant flora, offering glimpses of mesmerizing fauna. The trail’s serene surroundings and peaceful ambiance will have you feeling like you’ve entered a hidden paradise. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with the scenic beauty of Playa Puerto Escondido, a pristine beach with turquoise waters and soft, sandy shores. 

Punta Serrucho Trail

Punta Serrucho is a rocky headland that is located just beyond Playa Puerto Escondido in Manuel Antonio National Park. It can be accessed the Punta Serrucho trail that links the two beaches, and the trail itself features some sea caves that are great to explore. However, It’s crucial to be cautious when hiking beyond Playa Puerto Escondido, as what appears to be an effortless beach walk at low tide can become dangerous or impassable at high tide, potentially leading to getting trapped.

Mangrove boardwalk Trail - Sendero Manglar

This trail meanders through a lush mangrove forest, providing a glimpse into a fascinating ecosystem. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of tropical animals, including crocodiles, crabs, monkeys, and a plethora of bird species. The boardwalk ensures that visitors can safely explore the mangroves and observe the wildlife without disturbing the natural balance of the environment. This trail is perfect for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers looking to get up close and personal with the diverse wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Activities to Do Inside the Park

Manuel Antonio National Park offers a variety of exciting activities besides hiking. Explore the crystal-clear waters with sea kayaking, scuba diving, or paddleboarding, or discover the vibrant underwater world with snorkeling. Swimming in the park’s gorgeous beaches is a must. With these exhilarating activities and other activities available inside the park year-round, you’ll have a great time exploring the scenic beauty of Costa Rica.

Wildlife Inside the National Park

There are many animals that you might see when exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. There are many species including multiple monkey species that are common sights for tourists, including howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys. There is also the poison dart frog, two-toed and three-toed sloths, various lizard species, iguanas, agoutis, coatis, armadillos, squirrels, toucans, parrots, scarlet macaws, pelicans, and several species of snakes and lizards and other species, all in their natural habitat.

You might even get a chance to see some unique marine animals when you have views of the ocean on the trails or beaches. Arrive early in the morning to start your trail exploration for the best chance of seeing the animals.

Visitors to the mangroves in Manuel Antonio National Park can also see a variety of animals, including several species of crabs, lizards, snakes and crocodiles. Additionally, there are numerous bird species that call the mangroves home, such as herons, egrets, and kingfishers.

Near the coastal waters in the park visitors may spot a variety of marine life such as dolphins, whales, and sea turtles.

The park is also home to a variety of insects, including butterflies, beetles, and ants, as well as a range of plant species that provide food and shelter for the park’s diverse animal population. Go on a guided tour for the best chance to the many species. 

Best Time To Spot Animal Life

If you are hoping to spot some of the amazing wildlife that calls Manuel Antonio National Park home, not only is it important to take a guided tour, it is important to visit during the right season and time of day. As the best tour guides will tell you, the best time to observe wildlife in the park is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the animals are most active. Additionally, the dry season, which runs from December to April, is the best time to visit for wildlife spotting as the animals are more likely to venture out of the dense forest in search of water. Keep your eyes peeled and be patient, and you may just be rewarded with the sight of some incredible creatures.

Safety Tips Around Animals In Manuel Antonio National Park

When exploring the beauty of Manuel Antonio National Park, it is important to be mindful of the abundant wildlife. While it is certainly an exhilarating experience to observe animals in their natural habitat, it is crucial to keep a safe distance and never try to touch or feed them. Additionally, visitors should avoid wearing strong fragrances, loud colors or making loud noises that may startle the animals. Staying on marked trails and following the instructions of park rangers and signs will ensure a safe and best possible experience for all.

National Park Beaches

Manuel Antonio beaches are renown for being some of the best beaches in Costa Rica, and its national park in no exception. This tropical paradise is a haven for both national and international tourists. Manuel Antonio National Park boasts of some of the finest beaches in the country, and the best part is that they are all within walking distance from the park entrance. Take a leisurely stroll and discover the various sandy shores that Manuel Antonio National Park has to offer. These spots, particularly Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur, are some of the best beaches in the country for swimming and relaxing, especially during the low tide.

Manuel Antonio National Park Map

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Beach, aka Playa Manuel Antonio, is a stunning beach situated within the breathtaking Manuel Antonio National Park, rated one of the 6 best beaches in the area. This is the largest and main beach in the park and is often regarded as the best beach amongst tourists. What makes this beach stand out is its nearness to Playa Espadilla Sur. 

Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla Sur are separated by a land bridge, allowing visitors to effortlessly relish the beauty of both beaches without covering much ground. The warm, clear waters of the Pacific Ocean and the availability of snorkeling gear make it a great destination for snorkeling enthusiasts. With its serene atmosphere and natural charm, Manuel Antonio Beach is a must-visit destination in the park.

Playa Espadilla Sur

Playa Espadilla Sur, also known as Playa Dos or Playa Segunda, is one of the most stunning beaches within Manuel Antonio National Park. Playa Espadilla Sur is located closest to the park’s main entrance and just south of the public beach, Espadilla Norte Beach, this crescent-shaped beach boasts a picturesque setting and a calm atmosphere, making it the perfect beach to relax and catch a sunset. This beach sits on the northern side of the land bridge that connects it to Playa Manuel Antonio and Punta Catedral, the towering rock formation that is the icon of Manuel Antonio and Costa Rica. A wonderful serene and private escape after a day of hiking in the park.

Puerto Escondido Beach

Manuel Antonio Beaches Costa Rica

Playa Escondido, also known as Playa Puerto Escondido Beach, while it is a hidden gem, its actually one of the largest beaches within the park. What makes this beach unique is its secluded location, visitors can relish a beach with fewer crowds and the opportunity to relish the serene beauty of the shore. Playa Escondido is also a great spot to encounter the park’s many species of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and many species of birds. Though less well-known than other beaches in the park, Playa Escondido’s stunning attractiveness and abundant wildlife make it a must-visit destination for those looking for peaceful and relaxing beach time.

Playa Las Gemelas

Nestled in the heart of Manuel Antonio National Park lies a hidden gem: Playa Las Gemelas. Accessible through Sendero Playa Gemelas, this secluded beach offers a feeling of being on a deserted island. Compared to other beaches, it’s smaller and more secluded, offering a private escape from the crowds. You can also reach it through a rocky hike from Playa Manuel Antonio. Exercise caution while swimming, as the submerged rocks can be hard to spot. Despite its small size, Playa Las Gemelas’ picturesque setting makes it worth exploring for anyone seeking a peaceful oasis away from the masses.

Other Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Attractions

Although Manuel Antonio National Park is the highlight of the region, there is plenty to do outside of the park during your visit to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. From attractions geared towards kids to adventurous activities for thrill-seekers.

First, there is Quepos, where you can find many less expensive accommodations like hotels or villas with various amenities as you would find in Manuel Antonio. Whether you want free wifi, a private pool, a spa, or luxurious rooms, there is a large selection in Quepos. You’ll find great deals at a gift shop or one of the many souvenir shops. Additionally, there are lots of great restaurants where you can sample Costa Rica’s cuisine.

Second, there are lots of cultural tours nearby Manuel Antonio. Discover the rich culture of Costa Rica with a range of cultural tours available near Manuel Antonio. Visit a butterfly farm to learn about the country’s diverse insect population, or explore the coffee plantations to see how coffee is produced. There are also chocolate tours and indigenous tribe visits to choose from. Immerse yourself in the local culture and gain a deeper appreciation for the traditions and history of Costa Rica.

Third, there are many beaches to enjoy in Manuel Antonio that are outside the main entrance of the park. Playa Espadilla is perhaps the most popular public beach in the area. There is also a beach called Playa Biesanz on the north side of the Quepos peninsula which offers incredible views of the ocean.

Forth, There’s no shortage of tours and exciting activities to choose from near Manuel Antonio, which happens to be the mecca of adrenaline filled activities of Costa Rica. Whether you’re looking for a thrill of a lifetime or a peaceful retreat, there’s something for everyone. Popular choices include canopy tours, horseback riding, zip-lining, wildlife tours, kayaking, surf lessons, scuba diving, and stand-up paddleboarding. There are also guided hikes and nature walks, rappelling waterfalls, and snorkeling trips to nearby islands. For those looking to relax, there are yoga and meditation classes, massages, and spa treatments. Whatever your interests, there are plenty of choices for every type of traveler.

Fifth, After a long day of exploring, take advantage of Manuel Antonio restaurants and nightlife that offer a delightful fusion of flavors and entertainment. From beachfront eateries serving fresh seafood to cozy bars with live music, there’s a plethora of great restaurants and bars for every taste. Indulge in the local cuisine, sip on tropical cocktails, and immerse yourself in the vibrant Manuel Antonio nightlife atmosphere. A culinary adventure awaits in this coastal paradise.

Plan Your Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Vacation Soon

Costa Rica is one of the most popular travel destinations and the safest country in the Central Pacific region, and Manuel Antonio is a big reason why. The area is full of biodiversity, tourist attractions, and the gorgeous Manuel Antonio National Park. When planning to visit Manuel Antonio, there are a few things to remember:

Choose Accommodations that Suit Your Group

Whether you are traveling to Manuel Antonio alone, with a spouse, with the family, or in a large group, you’ll need to find accommodations that can serve your needs. A luxury villa with stunning views like Vista Hermosa Estate makes sense for larger groups, while the Gaia Hotel, the Si Como No Resort, or the Selina Manuel Antonio would work better for a small family or couple that is traveling together. Some Manuel Antonio hotels have not one, but two pools for you to enjoy, as well as access to private beaches. There are many hotels, resorts, and villas that are within walking distance from the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Pack the Essentials

Ah, the age-old question of what to pack for your journey. While the answer to this conundrum may vary from person to person, one crucial factor to consider is the time of year you plan on visiting Costa Rica. The lush greenery and sandy beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park can be enjoyed year-round, but the weather can fluctuate greatly, so be sure to pack accordingly. Don’t forget to bring light and breathable clothing for the tropical climate, comfortable walking shoes for the many hiking trails, and plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin from the bright sunshine. Costa Rica has two distinct seasons, the wet season and dry season. Whether you’re visiting Costa Rica during the dry season or the rainy season, packing smart will ensure you’re prepared for whatever adventure awaits you in this remarkable destination.

No matter when you visit, it’s important to know what to pack for your trip to Costa Rica.


So there you have it, Manuel Antonio National Park is a tropical paradise that showcases the remarkable, charming beauty of what Costa Rica is all about. With its beautiful beaches and lush rainforests, this park embodies how special and unique this extraordinary part of Central America is all about. With its diverse wildlife, beautiful hiking trails, and breathtaking vistas, Manuel Antonio National Park is an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling to Costa Rica.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy a beautiful Costa Rican beach, spot exotic animals, or explore its many hiking trails, Manuel Antonio National Park is the perfect oasis to do it all. So, plan your Manuel Antonio trip soon and take a guided tour to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of this incredible park. With its pristine beaches, exotic wildlife, and stunning scenery, you’ll create memories that’ll remain etched in your mind for years to come – guaranteed.




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