Located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It is easy to understand why, a nice beach, awesome views and most importantly the National Park.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the main draw for visitors to the area and is a place where you can spend the whole day. We ended up spending 3 nights in Manuel Antonio which was long enough. Due to its popularity, Manuel Antonio is one of the most expensive destinations in Costa Rica. If you are coming on vacation and have money to spend you could easy spend longer here.
Getting to Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is fairly easy to reach from San Jose, Jaco and Puntarenas by public bus. Most buses will terminate at Quepos (the main town near Manuel Antonio) and require a change to a local bus. The local bus is frequent, running about every 30 mins but at some points seemed to run at a higher frequency. Some buses from San Jose will run direct to Manuel Antonio and not terminate at Quepos. for bus times in Costa Rica click here. The local bus from Quepos to Manuel Antonio costs 310 Colonies per ride which is fairly cheap.
Where to stay
Manuel Antonio is not short on accommodation however, prices vary depending on location and level of service. We opted for a 4 bed dorm room in a hostel called Hostel Vista Serena. The hostel is about a 10 minute bus ride from the main beach of Manuel Antonio however, is a short walk from a small commercial area with a couple of supermarkets and a number of bars and restaurants. The hostel also had amazing views and the sunsets were magical.
If saving money is the main goal it may be cheap to stay in Quepos. The bus from Quepos would take about 20 minutes to reach the main beach of Manuel Antonio.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The main attraction in the area is Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is the smallest of the national parks in the country however, it is the most popular. The park has an area of 16km squared and sits right on the ocean. The combination of the rain forest and amazing beaches make this a very special place.
The rain forest is a hive of activity, the amount of wildlife within the park is huge. We saw a large number of native animals without much trouble and without paying for a guide ($25USD for a guide). The monkeys and raccoons are not scared of people and will come right up to you near the beach. It is recommended to keep an eye on your belongings as the monkeys and raccoons are both skilled at opening or taking your bags/ food.
Tip: It is easy to spot where the animals are as there are lots of tourists looking up
The park is open from 7am until 4pm and is closed on a Monday. Tickets for the park need to be bought at the Coopalianza which is about 50m from the park gate. For non residents of Costa Rica it costs $16USD to enter the park. The park will check your bag on entry and remove anything which is prohibited. Alcohol is prohibited as are crisps/chips. We would strongly recommend taking drinking water with you and/or a refillable bottle.
As noted above you also have an option to pay for a guide $25USD, there are many guides available but make sure to look out for their official verification tags. We found a guide not to be necessary. There are enough people and guides that you can hover and listen in/take a look, we also note that the guides don’t take you around the whole park. We saw most of the wildlife away from crowds and guided tours.
If you want to have a rain forest experience which is easy to get then Manuel Antonio National Park is for you. It a great place to see Costa Rica’s wildlife as well as swim at the beautiful beaches. Despite being expensive we felt that it was worth it and was one of our highlights in Costa Rica.
- Most expensive tourist spot in Costa Rica – be prepared to spend;
- To save money on accommodation try staying in Quepos;
- Entry to the National Park costs $16USD per person, plus an additional $25USDpp for a guide (optional);
- The National Park is closed on Mondays;
- Take lots of water as it is hot; and
- Some food can not be taken into the National Park.
Where to next? Check out these posts;
- Overview: Costa Rica
- Backpacking Montezuma and Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- How to get to Montezuma, Costa Rica
- By the beach – Jaco!
- Crossing the border: Costa Rica to Panama