Manuel Antonio Overview
Before tourists started to arrive massively here, this was just a small community made up of palm and banana plantation workers and fishermen, but as time passed, the park became the strongest ally to the local economy.
Manuel Antonio offers accommodation for all budgets, but the hilly road (renting a scooter is a good a good idea while in here) that leads to the park is filled with the most luxurious hotels and the best restaurants in the area (many bars can also be found here, a sign of the town’s active nightlife).
If you don’t want to pay much, Quepos is where you should stay, as you can rent a cabin or a room at the various small hotels for a good price.
Getting to Manuel Antonio
If you decide to drive, take the new highway to Caldera and follow the road until you see the signs for Jaco/Quepos, take that exit and keep on following the signs until you make it to the town of Quepos, and it is a 15-minute trip from there to Manuel Antonio.
If you don’t feel like driving, you can take the bus at the Coca-Cola Market located in downtown San Jose.
The road trip to Manuel Antonio takes about 3 hours, though the fastest and the most comfortable way of traveling there is by air (a short 40-minute trip), and there are different companies that offer straight domestic flights to Quepos.
You can depart either from the Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela or from the Tobias Bolaños Airport in Pavas.
What to do in Manuel Antonio
There are different tour operators in Manuel Antonio offering a variety of activities including Fishing Trips, Kayaking, Rafting, ATV Rides, or Canopying.
It is recommended that you ask at the hotel you are staying in for these, or go near the park, where the offices for most of these tour operators are located.
Visiting the Park:
Although it is small (with only 1700 land acres) the park is probably the most popular in the country among both locals and foreigners, and it is usually packed during the high season, though this won’t prevent you from appreciating its natural diversity as access is restricted to only 600 visitors per day.
It is closed on Mondays, but it is open the rest of the week from 8 am to 4 pm. There is a $10 fee for getting inside the park.
Get your camera ready for some outstanding shots, as the wildlife here includes a good number of animal species (109 types of mammals), including 3 of the four varieties of Monkeys present in Costa Rica: The Squirrel Monkey, Howler Monkey, and White Headed Monkey.
You will also find Iguanas, the White Nosed Coati, Snakes, and Sloths. There is also a large number of birds (184 species), including Toucans, Parakeets, Motmots, Woodpeckers, Tanagers, and Hawks.
There are two beaches within the park, Espadilla Sur Beach, and Manuel Antonio Beach.
The first one is where you’ll find the surfers, and the second one is better for a good swim or some Snorkeling.
Although both of them are perfect for sitting down under a shade and have a relaxing time.
Espadilla beach is located just outside the park, and it is usually packed with locals during the weekends.
Which makes it the perfect place to meet people and see how locals enjoy themselves (you can rent a beach umbrella, a surfboard or a boogie board here, which is something you can’t do inside the park).
Once you are inside the park, you can take a 25-minute hike to Punta Catedral, a high point from where you can appreciate all the natural beauty of Manuel Antonio.
Even though there are some steep areas along the trails, most people should be able to make it without a problem. There are guided hikes available, and they should cost between $20 and $40 for 3 hours.
Important Numbers and Websites:
- Municipalidad: 2777-2214
- Máx Terán Hospital (Quepos): 2777-0922
- Buses: 2223-5567