• June 22, 2022

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica — A Mini Paradise in Central America

Manuel Antonio National Park is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and a countless variety of reptiles, insects, and plants. It’s hard to walk very far into the park without encountering some of its fascinating wildlife. Additionally, Manuel Antonio National Park offers spectacular views of the ocean and nearby islands. We are not alone in considering it one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Just outside the park is a huge white-sand beach prized by surfers, swimmers, and sun worshipers alike. The beach offers a variety of activities, including jet ski rentals, banana boat rides, and mangrove tours.

From the northern end of the beach, the curvy but well-maintained main road leads up a steep hill. About 1.6 miles (2.5 km) uphill, several restaurants offer a view of one of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet. This whole area is full of hotels, restaurants and bars and casinos that offer an active nightlife to those who want it.

Even further north is the town of Quepos, famous primarily for its sport fishing. The cheapest accommodations in the area are available here, along with several local restaurants and numerous tour operators.

Buses run along the main highway from the town of Quepos to the Park every half hour between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm, and every hour between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm The trip costs approximately 100 colones (about 0.20 to 0.25 US cents).

Things you should know about Manuel Antonio National Park:

Manuel Antonio National Park is home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and a countless variety of reptiles, insects, and plants. It’s hard to walk very far in the park without encountering some of its fascinating wildlife. Additionally, Manuel Antonio National Park offers spectacular views of the ocean and nearby islands. We are not alone in considering it one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Just outside the park is a huge white-sand beach loved by surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers alike. The beach offers a variety of activities, including jet ski rentals. [http://majetskis.com]banana boat rides and mangrove tours.

From the northern end of the beach, the curvy but well-maintained main road leads up a steep hill. About 1.6 miles (2.5 km) uphill, several restaurants offer a view of one of the most spectacular sunsets on the planet. This whole area is full of hotels, restaurants and bars and casinos that offer an active nightlife to those who want it.

Even further north is the town of Quepos, famous primarily for its sport fishing. The cheapest accommodations in the area are available here, along with several local restaurants and numerous tour operators.

Buses run along the main highway from the town of Quepos to the Park every half hour between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm, and every hour between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm The trip costs approximately 100 colones (about 0.20 to 0.25 US cents).

Things you should know about Manuel Antonio National Park:

  • The most secluded and beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio are located in the same Park. There are two of them and both are easily accessible from the Park entrance. The one closest to the entrance is usually emptier, but the busier and farther beach, still only a five-minute walk from the entrance, surrounds a cove, which provides remarkably calm water.
  • The Park is closed on Mondays and as a result, the beach outside the Park tends to be quite empty on Mondays. So if the Park is on your agenda, you may not want to include a Monday stay in Manuel Antonio. But if you want to enjoy the beach with a much smaller crowd, you may want to make a special effort to make sure you’re there on a Monday.
  • If you’re in good shape, you should be able to cover all the main trails in the park in about two days. However, if you’re not in great shape, you’ll want to avoid some of the longer trails, as they all tend to get a bit rough at some point.
  • The park has several restrooms and even cold water, low pressure showers. However, there is no food available inside the park. However, there are several beachside restaurants within a 5-minute walk of the park entrance, and your ticket entitles you to re-enter the park for the entire day. We suggest that if you plan to spend the day in the park, we recommend that you bring some lunch. But be sure to keep an eye on it, as the monkeys are always looking for something to eat.

Things you should know about the areas outside the park:

  • The sunset from the top of the hill between Quepos and the Park is one of the most spectacular we have ever seen. The two best places to see it are Barba Roja, a restaurant/bar, and the Hotel Mariposa pool. If you’re not staying at the Mariposa, you can still enjoy the sunset by their pool while ordering a cocktail from the pool bar.
  • Manuel Antonio has become a very visited area. The area has dozens of hotels and resorts that frequently sell out. As a result, prices are higher here than in most parts of the country. However, there are still cheap eats, especially in Quepos. Our recommendation: “Bar Restaurante Quepoa” a great local restaurant and pizzeria across from the bus station in Quepos.
  • Another consequence of the large tourist presence in Manuel Antonio is the existence of prostitution (legal throughout Costa Rica), drugs (not legal in Costa Rica) and crime. The first two are only shown at night, and mostly in the town of Quepos. However, crime is a very real danger, so keep an eye on your possessions at all times.

How to get to Manuel Antonio from the Santa María airport in San José:

  • By air: Two airlines will take you from San José to Manuel Antonio: Sansa (011-506-290-4100) and Nature Air (800-235-9272). The flight takes about half an hour and costs around $53 US each way. Keep in mind that baggage restrictions on these airlines are around 25 pounds, making them not an option for those traveling with a lot of luggage.
  • In Private or Semi-Private Transport: There are many private and semi-private transfers and taxis from the airport to Manuel Antonio. You can usually hire them at the airport. The trip takes 3 to 4 hours depending on road conditions and costs around $215 USD for a private transport (regardless of the number of people) and $30 per person for a semi-private.
  • By public bus: There are direct buses leaving from the main bus terminal (called “Coca Cola”) in San José three times a day. In addition to direct buses, there are also indirect buses that make numerous stops along the way. An advantage of this bus is that it can also pick you up on the way, in case you are not starting in San José. Please note that this is a much longer trip and can take upwards of 4-4 1/2 hours. You should know that Coca Cola is the pickpocket capital of Costa Rica. It is important to be aware of your things at all times, both while waiting for the bus and when you are on it. Make sure you have all your relevant documents (ie passport, license, money, etc.) with you at all times and do not store them with your luggage under the bus.
  • By car: If you rent a car at the airport, you can get to Manuel Antonio in about 3-4 hours, like private transports. From the airport, take the Pan-American Highway West approximately 10 km to the Atenas exit. Exit the road to the right at the Atenas – Orotina sign and turn left across the road which continues through the picturesque mountains through La Garita, Atentas and past Orotina. You will drive through the mountains for about an hour; once you reach the town of San Mateo, follow the signs to Jaco, Parrita and then Quepos (the town north of Manuel Antonio)

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