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Manuel Antonio National Park

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Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular and most visited national parks in Costa Rica — and it’s easy to see why! This beautiful natural paradise is filled with white-sand beaches, rainforests, mangroves, and lagoons, as well as exotic mammals and marine life, making it easy to experience all the best that Costa Rica offers in a small seven square miles.

Though Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest of Costa Rica’s protected parks, the park offers more activities and attractions than many other parks in Costa Rica combined! Keep reading to discover all the best things to do in Manuel Antonio National Park and some practical logistics, like what to pack and the park’s hours, cost, location, and more.

Overview of Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Since Manuel Antonio National Park is such a popular destination, the park has established several rules and regulations to protect this tropical paradise. Please read through all the information below to ensure you’re well-prepared to visit Manuel Antonio National Park.


Manuel Antonio National Park is located in the Puntarenas Province on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. It’s located “smack dab” in the middle of the coast between the North Pacific, where you’ll find the beaches in Guanacaste, like Playa Flamingo and Playas del Coco, and the South Pacific, where you’ll find more rural destinations, like Corcovado National Park.

It takes approximately 3.5 hours to arrive in Manuel Antonio from San Jose and 4.5 hours to arrive at the park from Liberia. Many tourists stay near Manuel Antonio National Park in Manuel Antonio or Quepos for a few nights for quicker access to the park.


Manuel Antonio National Park is open Wednesdays to Mondays from 7 AM – 4 PM. The beaches and trails inside the park are also available from 7 AM – 4 PM. The park is closed on Tuesdays, so plan your trip to Manuel Antonio National Park accordingly.


The entrance fee for Manuel Antonio National Park is $18 for adults and $5.65 for children aged 2–11 years old (children under two can enter for free). Tickets can only be purchased online through Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion (SINAC). You can visit their website to buy tickets. You must also be prepared to provide your passport number for entry (a photocopy of your passport will suffice).

Manuel Antonio National Park also offers guided tours and private tours that include round-trip transportation from vacation rentals and hotels in Manuel Antonio or Quepos. These tours include the park entrance tickets, a bilingual certified guide, and a three-hour tour that includes time at the beaches inside the park. Guided tours (with other tourists) cost $65 for adults and $50 for children, and private tours (with your private group) cost $75 for adults and $60 for children.

Suppose you are planning on staying somewhere other than Manuel Antonio Park. In that case, you can always book a tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with another tour company that includes round-trip transportation from your destination, or you can take a self-guided tour of the park.


When arriving at Manuel Antonio National Park, you will want to park as close to the park entrance as possible. There are two parking lots next to the entrance, and you will need to pay for parking in either parking lot next to the national park, but parking should only be $5–6 per vehicle. We recommend arriving early to snag a parking spot as close to the national park as possible.

If someone is trying to charge you significantly more than this price, proceed with caution.

You’ll likely encounter many imposter “guides” on the road to Manuel Antonio National Park, attempting to sell overpriced parking, guide services, and tours. Ignore these scammers and keep driving until you arrive at the official park entrance. Also, please don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle during your day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Other Rules

Since Manuel Antonio National Park is such a popular tourist destination, it has “stricter” rules than other national parks in Costa Rica.

Food, pets, and drones are prohibited in the park, but beverages, including water, soda, and juice, are permitted. If you get hungry during your day in Manuel Antonio National Park, there is a small kiosk near the park entrance where you can purchase snacks and meals, like salads and sandwiches.

Popular Activities & Attractions in Manuel Antonio National Park

Wondering what to do once you arrive in Manuel Antonio National Park? This park has plenty to do to keep you busy — including the following activities!

Hiking Trails

Nature lovers will enjoy taking a short walk or hike on the many popular hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park. Though there are other trails besides the ones listed below (11 in total, to be exact!), these are the ones we recommend checking out during a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park.


Main Trail (Sendero Principal)

The Main Trail is a 1.4-mile trail that runs from the entrance of the park to Manuel Antonio Beach. Many other trails in Manuel Antonio National Park connect or run parallel with the Main Trail. You’ll likely find yourself on the Main Trail at some point during your visit to the park — especially since it leads to the park’s most popular beach!


Sloth Trail (Sendero El Perezoso)

If you only have time for one hike in Manuel Antonio National Park, the Sloth Trail is the one to explore. This short out-and-back hike is just over two miles long and takes under an hour to complete. The trail gets its name from the two-toed and three-toed sloths you can spot in the trees. You also have a good chance of seeing other wildlife, like toucans, monkeys, and lizards.


Waterfall Trail (Sendero La Catarata)

The Waterfall Trail is a short trail near the park’s entrance leading to a small waterfall. Since this out-and-back trail is so close to the entrance, it’s worth checking out. You might even see some poison dart frogs along the way!


Punta Catedral Trail (Sendero Punta Catedral)

The Punta Catedral Trail is a 1.4-mile loop and one of the best trails for beautiful ocean views in Manuel Antonio Park. This trail connects Playa Manuel Antonio to Playa Espadilla Sur and also offers stunning views of Playa Espadilla Norte and the islands surrounding the park.


Manuel Antonio National Park is home to some of the best beaches in Costa Rica. Here are the four beautiful beaches you can visit inside this national park.


Manuel Antonio Beach (Playa Manuel Antonio)

Manuel Antonio Beach, also known as Playa Manuel Antonio, is the most popular beach in Manuel Antonio Park. You’ll find a half-mile stretch of white sand and turquoise waves, and there is even a coral reef directly offshore where you can go snorkeling to see schools of tropical fish.

While swimming and snorkeling are both popular pastimes at this tropical beach, you don’t have to get in the water to get face-to-face with marine life. During low tide, you’ll see small fish and crustaceans in the tide pools that form on the beach.


Espadilla Beach (Playa Espadilla Sur)

Espadilla Beach is divided into two parts — Playa Espadilla Sur, a private beach located inside the park, and Playa Espadilla Norte, a public beach located outside the park.

Playa Espadilla Sur is the second-most popular beach in Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s generally less busy than Manuel Antonio Beach, so it’s a great secluded location for sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing after a day of exploring the national park’s trails.


Escondido Beach (Playa Escondido)

Escondido Beach is a “hidden beach” in a cove that can only be accessed at low tide — if you’re here during high tide, you’ll get stuck! To get to this beach, you’ll need to walk through a lush jungle and rocky coastline, but the natural beauty that awaits is worth the adventurous trek.


Las Gemelas Beach (Playa Gemelas)

Playa Gemelas is another beach that can only be reached during low tide, and it’s off the beaten path. However, if a serene, quiet atmosphere is more your vibe, you’ll likely love this beach.

Wildlife Spotting

Popular wildlife sightings in Manuel Antonio National Park include monkeys (white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, and squirrel monkeys are all present in the park), as well as sloths, white-tailed deer, and coatis. You can also see exotic birds, like toucans, hummingbirds, and macaws, in the rainforest area, as well as reptiles and amphibians, like poison dart frogs, iguanas, lizards, snakes, and crabs.

If you want to see as much wildlife as possible, we recommend hiring a naturalist guide to take you on a guided hike through places in Manuel Antonio National Park known to be dense with animals, like the Sloth Trail.

Whitewater Rafting

Although the Savegre River is technically located outside Manuel Antonio National Park, whitewater rafting on its Class II, III, and IV rapids is still considered one of the best things to do if you’re in the area. Some of the rapids on this river include The Washing Machine, Boca Diablo, and Screaming Child.

Savegre River is just a 30-minute drive from the park, so consider booking a whitewater rafting tour here if you’re feeling adventurous!

Best Time to Visit Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

The most popular time to visit Manuel Antonio National Park is during the dry season from December – April. While you can enjoy dry, sunny weather during these months (perfect for the beach!), you will have to contend with larger crowds — especially on holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Since Manuel Antonio National Park is small, being packed in with tons of other tourists can take away from the experience. Because of this, we recommend visiting this popular park during the rainy season.

The beginning of the wet season (May, June, and July) and the tail end of the rainy season (November) are still great months to visit. The rains are usually limited to late afternoon showers, but the tourists won’t crowd the park quite as badly during these off-season months.

What to Bring to Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Before heading to Manuel Antonio National Park, here is everything you need to wear or pack for a fun day in the park:

  • Swimsuit — If you plan to swim or sunbathe at the beach, remember to bring a swimsuit and a change of clothes. If you don’t want to wear your swimsuit into the park, there are places inside the park where you can change. Also, don’t forget a beach towel.
  • Sunscreen — You’ll spend plenty of time in direct sunlight if you’re heading to the beach, so bring sunscreen (and sunglasses) to protect your skin and eyes.
  • Bug spray — There shouldn’t be many bugs on the beach, but if you plan on hiking in the rainforest, you’ll want to have insect repellant to deter mosquitos and other pests.
  • Waterproof gear — If you’re visiting Manuel Antonio National Park during the rainy season, be sure to bring a rain jacket, poncho, and other rain gear.
  • Hiking boots or sandals — Most of the trails in Manuel Antonio National Park are easy to navigate and are well trafficked, so you might only need hiking sandals (instead of boots) that can be worn on the sandy beaches, too. However, if you’re visiting during the rainy season, you might prefer waterproof boots for hiking to keep your feet dry.
  • Breathable clothing — Manuel Antonio National Park is hot and humid, so you’ll want to wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Something you can easily throw over a swimsuit but still hike in easily would be ideal for a day trip to this national park!

Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica for a Memorable Costa Rican Vacation

It’s pretty much impossible to visit Costa Rica without visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. This iconic park offers a little bit of everything we love about Costa Rica — stunning beaches, lush rainforests, exotic wildlife, and fun adventures!

If you plan a visit to Costa Rica, we hope you’ll stay with us at Special Places of Costa Rica. We offer beachfront vacation homes, quaint condos, luxury mansions, and beautiful villas in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. Browse our Costa Rica vacation rentals to find the perfect property for your vacation!

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.
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