Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica is a dream destination where a unique kind of vacation awaits you. Its paradise-like beaches, picture-postcard landscapes, and rainforests of rich diversity in incredible species of fauna and flora, are all part of the attraction of an unmissable destination when you travel to Costa Rica.
If you still haven’t had the chance to get to know Manuel Antonio, we invite you to continue reading to discover everything you need to know about this astonishing place.
You may have heard the saying that Costa Rica is known for being the country of “Pura Vida”? In this article we are going to show you just why living life to the full in Manuel Antonio is the embodiment of this Costa Rican concept.
Where is Manuel Antonio?
Manuel Antonio is the smallest National Park in Costa Rica and it is also part of a small town located only 7 kilometers away from the port city of Quepos, in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is a natural conservation area 157 kilometers from the city of San José, in the province of Puntarenas.
It has a surface area of almost 2000 hectares, with another 55,000 hectares of marine conservation area, all of which is dedicated to conservation, research, and ecological tourism.
Created in November 1972, it was listed in the prestigious Forbes magazine as one of the twelve most beautiful parks in the world. Despite its relatively small size, it is a preferred destination for a multitude of tourists from all over the world who flock to enjoy the beauty and wealth that it treasures.
The wealth of the Manuel Antonio Park in Costa Rica
The countless natural riches that it harbors make Manuel Antonio Park in Costa Rica a true paradise. It combines tropical jungle, coral reefs, and beaches – a remarkable mix of contrasts that will surprise your senses. It has been described by some as a kind of biological island because it is surrounded by cultivated farmland or areas of livestock, while, in the middle, concentrated in the park, the wildlife congregates.
There are a total of 109 species of mammal, 352 species of birds and countless marine species. Apart from the famous sloth (two species), we must add four kinds of monkeys, coatis, raccoons, guatusas, and white-tailed deer. Scuttling and slithering on the ground you will also find iguanas, snakes, and various types of lizards, whilst in the air you might glimpse the crabhawk, osprey, brown pelicans and various types of kingfisher. The marine life is no less interesting and varied, including the likes of angelfish, urchins and starfish.
Manuel Antonio’s magnificent flora deserves a special mention. Throughout the national park we find mangroves, jungles, beach species and even marine vegetation. Among the most outstanding species of them all is the black and white Guapinol, the Savanna Oak, the Cenízaro (known as the Monkey Pod Tree in English – a species of that is in danger of extinction), the Milky Way tree, and the world’s most poisonous tree, Manzanillo (sometimes called the Tree of Death).
To make the most of Manuel Antonio National Park, we recommend taking a guided tour so as not to miss out on any of its treasures with the help of a guide. Below we will look at some of the most interesting tours on offer.
Manuel Antonio Beach
Imagine drinking in the scene of a dream beach, like the ones that front travel magazines or grace the blogs of the kind of influencers that travel the continents of the world in search of the most beautiful corners of the planet.
How often have you imagined the feeling of wandering along a beach of fine white sand, your toes washed by crystalline ocean waters?
The Beach at Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica will give you the chance to realise this dream. And we’re not kidding! In 2019 it found its way among the 25 most outstanding beaches of the Trip Advisor 2019 Traveller’s Choice Awards as the only beach in Central America to grace the list. The locals and Costa Ricans far and wide are understandably proud of what it represents: a national gem.
It is the main beach of the national park and is carved out from in between the tropical vegetation and the infinite blue of the ocean, within which – if you’re lucky – you might spot dolphins and whales.
Despite almost giving you the feeling of being right out in the wild, you still have to hand all the mod cons of bathrooms, showers, and clean drinking water! We recommend the months of November and May as the best time of the year to visit.
The other beaches of Manuel Antonio
Although the former is the best known and – according to the country’s inhabitants and its visitors – also the most beautiful, there are other beaches in Manuel Antonio that are worth a visit. They are less popular, but perhaps that is reason enough to stray further.
These are the best expanses of sand for you to explore during your visit to the national park:
Espadilla Sur, which, along its 3.5 kilometers length, is made up of darker volcanic sand, and lush vegetation inhabited by abundant wildlife. Scientific tourism values the coral schools and the large number of fish and animals that can be seen here.
Puerto Escondido lives up to its name as the most remote beach in this paradisiacal environment. Its 800 meters of sand is surrounded by cliffs. Be sure to check the tide schedule in advance because the beach disappears altogether at high tide making it easy to get caught out!
The Twins is the name given to a pair of beaches that seem rather Siamese, since a piece of land joins the two eternally. Take the opportunity to take photos of them and bathe in the warm turquoise waters that wash the sand.
Biesanz, completes the list. It is the least crowded and the most hidden beach. Like the others, it boasts the richness of the nature that surrounds it and the species that populate it, among them the Squirrel Monkey and the Capuchin Monkey. This secret hideaway will allow you to take refuge in solitude, far from the areas overcrowded by tourism.
What to do in Manuel Antonio …
Of course, the most popular is activity a guided hike within Manuel Antonio National Park. As we have already said, it’s best to hire a specialized guide with good optical equipment so that you can see everything it has to offer up close.
Another no less spectacular tour is going in search of humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins by boarding a boat (there are both sailboats and catamarans that ply the area). Dolphins live permanently in the region, and it is usually easy to see them. The whales however are more dependent on migrations and are in the area from late July to early November, and then from mid-December to April.
Manuel Antonio lends itself to multitude of activities that will put you in direct contact with nature. Try your hand at surfing, kayaking, sport fishing, rafting and zip lining between the tree canopies. If you get the chance take a visit to the Nauyaca Falls, a 45 meter high cascade that promise to dazzle all its visitors. Just the journey to reach them is a fantastic ride.
The Sunset of Manuel Antonio.
Something that you cannot miss is watching the sunset from one of the best viewpoints on Manuel Antonio Bay. Hotel La Mariposa has one of the most beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean out there, with a fantastic panorama of Manuel Antonio National Park making it – for the view alone – one of the best hotels in Manuel Antonio. Come and enjoy the Manuel Antonio sunset with a romantic dinner at the hotel’s Le Papillone restaurant for one of the very best experiences you will take home with you from your visit to Manuel Antonio.