A Visit To Manuel Antonio National Park

Sloth sightings in the park always draw a crowd

Manuel Antonio National Park is located off the the main road going from Quepos to Manuel Antonio. It is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, yet one of the busiest. Covering 1,700 acres (688 ha) and over 130,000 acres (52,609 ha) of water, the park offers some of the best wildlife watching with more than 100 species of mammals, 180 species of birds, white-faced capuchin monkeys, iguanas, lizards and sloths. It is not uncommon to find groups of tourists huddled together with their necks craned upward at the sighting of a sloth. Often these much admired creatures are hidden among the thickness of tree foliage and need to be pointed out by a guide.

Besides the flora and fauna, the park also has three stunning beaches that are only accessible to visitors. The most famous is Playa Manuel Antonio, a tranquil cove with glistening, calm aquamarine water and ivory colored sand. The park only adds to the beauty of its beaches which has made Manuel Antonio the most popular Costa Rican beach destination.

Trails, Beaches,Tour Guides

With five trails and three beautiful beaches, Manuel Antonio National Park ranks high

We recommend arriving early to Manuel Antonio Park to avoid crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. The number of visitors allowed per day is 600 on weekdays and 800 on weekends and you can expect lines to get in. The park entrance fee is $16 and there is the option of a personal tour guide for an additional cost. The guides are very familiar with the wildlife, flora and fauna within the park and have powerful scopes that can get you a close up view of an animal without disturbing it. Since the guides work in groups and stay on the main trail, you may decide to hike any of the other well marked trails alone. There are five in all and you can pick up a free trail map at the ticket booth at the entrance.

Snorkelling to explore the coral reefs, remember to bring your own gear


Most popular Playa Manuel Antonio has tide pools to explore in addition to  beautiful coral reefs.  Snorkeling is possible here, just plan on bringing your own gear. Other beaches includes Gemelas (Twins) and Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port), both of which can be reached from the trails in the park. Gemelas is smaller, less crowded than Playa Manuel Antonio and also suitable for swimming. You can only get to Puerto Escondido during low tide when you can hike to the viewpoint. Make sure to check with the park rangers before attempting to get on the beach.

Manuel Antonio has three white sand beaches within the park


Playa Espadilla Sur/Norte (South and North) lie right outside the park entrance. This is where many visitors prefer to spend the day if they are not exploring the park itself. Here you can relax on the white sand beaches under the palm trees to the sound of the waves gently crashing on the shore. Many people come here to swim, sail, fish, parasail, surf or boogie board. Surfboard rentals are available on the beach.

Tips For An Enjoyable Visit 

Hiking shoes are recommended to walk the trails although you definitely want to bring your sandals or flip flops for any of the beaches. Be sure to bring a swimsuit; there are changing stations and showers in case you don’t want to wear it walking through the park. The trails are well paved with platforms and you won’t be going into the forest, so shorts and t-shirts are perfectly appropriate. Make sure to bring mosquito repellent and sunscreen. You can bring packed sandwiches into the park but no chips or peanuts are allowed; sodas and water are permitted but no alcoholic drinks. However, there are restaurants within walking distance. Don’t forget a camera and binoculars if you have them to observe the abundant and diverse wildlife.

If you decide to hire a guide, make sure they are ICT (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo) certified.

Manuel Antonio National Park is handicapped accessible and good for anyone with limited mobility.

Where To Stay

The hotels closest to the park are El Faro Beach Hotel and Hotel San Bada. The Hotel La Mariposa has one of the best views of Manuel Antonio National Park. Consequently, the view of the sunset from the infinity pool and  restaurant terrace is breathtaking. All the rooms have either an ocean or park view and incidentally balconies with hammocks..  Gaia Luxury Boutique Hotel and Reserve eco-friendly resort includes its own restaurant, 24/7 room service, gym, pool, a spa and offers many one day tours.

Guided tours are available with round trip transportation from Manuel Antonio/Quepos vacation homes including entrance fee, bilingual certified guides, 2.5 – 3 hours of guided tour including time to spend at the beaches. If you decide to spend the rest of the day inside the park or the beach you can take a bus or taxi back to wherever you are staying.