Manuel Antonio is one of the best beach towns in Costa Rica. Looking for things to do in Manuel Antonio other than just hanging out on the beach? Here are seven sublime things to do on your next trip.
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WHERE IS MANUEL ANTONIO
Manuel Antonio is in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica. It is a beach town that sits right next to a national park teeming with wildlife. Manuel Antonio has a handful of beaches, which are some of the most gorgeous in the entire country.
WHERE TO STAY IN MANUEL ANTONIO
There are many great places to stay in Manuel Antonio. Personally, we stayed in Villas Mymosa, a lovely and conveniently located accommodation with big condos and a pool! It’s important to know that the town of Manuel Antonio is quite hilly, so many accommodations are located on a hill. Here are some great accommodations options based on your preferences and budget.
- Tico Tico Villas. 2 star, adult only, swimming pool.
- Waterfront Hotel Verde Mar. 3 star, sustainable property, beachfront, swimming pool.
- Shana by the Beach Manuel Antonio. 4 star, beachfront, swimming pool, spa.
- Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort. 5 star, sustainable property, beachfront, swimming pool, evening entertainment, hammam.
HOW TO GET TO MANUEL ANTONIO
There are four ways to get to Manuel Antonio: flight, bus, shuttle bus, or car.
Flight. There are a few domestic flight carriers that fly between San Jose and Quepos (the nearby airport to Manuel Antonio) everyday.
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Bus. There are numerous buses per day that go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. The ride is 3 hours. If you aren’t coming from San Jose, check out the bus schedule from where you are traveling. This is the least expensive but probably least comfortable option.
Shuttle bus. Costa Rica has many private shuttle bus companies that take tourists from one place to another. You can arrange this by contacting the shuttle bus companies directly or through a tour package. As part of our package with Anywhere, we had shuttle buses from between each of our destinations. We went from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio on a shuttle bus, which took almost 5 hours.
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Car. Many people rent a car when they travel to Costa Rica. This gives you the most flexibility when traveling from one place to another. Just make sure you check out the parking situation before arriving at your accommodation!
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THINGS TO DO IN MANUEL ANTONIO
Despite being a small beach town, Manuel Antonio is one of the most visited places in Costa Rica. Many tourists come for the incredible beaches, but I’m going to tell you seven sublime things to do in Manuel Antonio other than relaxing on the beach.
#1. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park (with a guide)
Manuel Antonio National Park receives more visitors than any other national park in the country. Within the park there are a few stunning beaches, but in my opinion the most exciting thing to do is walk around and explore the biodiversity. We went to Manuel Antonio National Park with a guide, which I definitely recommend. Our guide taught us so much about the park and the plant and animal species that live there. He had high-tech binoculars to help us see more difficult-to-spot animals like sloths high up in the trees. Without a guide I feel that we wouldn’t have had as authentic an experience. If you’re going to do one thing in Manuel Antonio, it should be to visit the national park!
#2. Eat at El Arado Restaurant
This restaurant was close to our accommodation so we ate there multiple times. It was some of the best food I had in Costa Rica! They also had great cocktails, especially the mojito. We usually went during Happy Hour, which is 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM, and got some great deals. This restaurant also has live music Wednesday to Sunday starting at 6:00 PM!
#3. Zipline over the jungle
I have always wanted to go ziplining and I felt like Costa Rica was the perfect place to cross that off my bucket list. We booked with Titi Canopy Tour and were the only people in the group that day, which was nice because we could go at our own pace. Over the course of an hour or so we went on about eight different ziplines, all varying in length. It was really fun because the guides were encouraging us to flip upside down and try spinning as we went. All in all, we felt super safe and got some great photos!
#4. Take a surf lesson
My boyfriend has surfed a handful of times before our trip to Manuel Antonio, but I never had. However, he convinced me that Manuel Antonio was a great spot for beginner surfers. I was easily convinced! We booked a private 2 hour surf lesson with the Manuel Antonio Surf School. The instructor was really nice and helped me figure out how to stand up on the board, and I was even able to ride like 10 waves to completion. Woohoo! At the halfway point of the lesson we were given fresh pineapple. We enjoyed the surf lesson so much that we booked another one two days later. I really feel like everyone needs to try surfing at least once in their life.
Taylor Travelgram Tip: The back of your legs are usually not exposed to the sun, except when surfing. Make sure to use and reapply VERY strong sunscreen with zinc all over your body. I got so sunburnt surfing that I basically had to apply this every time I went outside to avoid getting any more sun!
#5. Explore the rainforest at night
The rainforest in Manuel Antonio is a wild place. In the best way! We explored it during the day when we visited the Manuel Antonio National Park, but we were also keen to see what it was like at nighttime. The Night Rainforest Tour, in addition to our entire trip package, was booked through Anywhere. The tour started at 5:00 while it was still light but lasted for three hours. We were given flashlights to make it easier to navigate in the dark. During our walk through the rainforest our guide pointed out various animal species including A LOT of toads and spiders. If you’re afraid of bugs, I probably wouldn’t recommend it! If not, exploring the rainforest at night is a super unique experience and something you should definitely do in Manuel Antonio.
#6. Enjoy a cocktail with a view
If you need a break from the beach, it’s always great to enjoy a cocktail (or non-alcoholic beverage) with a view. The main beach in Manuel Antonio is Espadilla Beach. If you’re on the beach and facing the street, walk to your right and you will see numerous restaurants. You can also search Restaurante Marlin in your maps app which will take you to this area. Costa Rica of course can get very hot, so it’s always nice to take a break and sip a cocktail under the shade!
#7. Watch the sunset over Bahía Vieja
One of the most sublime and relaxing things we did was watch the sunset over the bay, Bahía Vieja. Manuel Antonio has a bit of a town surrounding the port, so we got some dinner and then headed to the bay to watch the sun go down over the water. There were a lot of grassy areas to sit on and enjoy the view, and many other people doing the same! We did this on the final night in Costa Rica, and it was a fantastic way to end the trip of a lifetime. The exact coordinates of the photo below are 9.43018° N, 84.16550° W.
Have a great time in Manuel Antonio!
If you don’t already have your trip booked, I’m sure I’m convincing you to visit. Check out these resources and tools to help book and plan your trip!
- Booking.com – offers accommodation and unique places
- Vrbo – world’s leading marketplace for vacation rentals
- Hostelworld – global hostel-focused online booking platform
- Wayaway – flight aggregator to find the best rates on airline tickets
- Rentalcars.com – the world’s largest car rental service
- GetYourGuide – find top-rated tours and activities in your destination