Manuel Antonio National Park, an insiders\’ guide

This article was published first on Epic Adventures Costa Rica

What is Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica?

Manuel Antonio National Park and its surrounding region are one of Costa Rica\’s most comprehensive tourist destinations. It boasts beautiful beaches, a vibrant rainforest, plenty of wildlife sightings, and a superb selection of lodgings, activities, restaurants, and other experiences for any traveler.




In this post, you will find:


Manuel Antonio region is located in Costa Rica\’s Central-South Pacific region, in the province of Puntarenas. Its main town -and international port- is Quepos, followed by the smaller Manuel Antonio, located on the way to the National Park.

What is the best way to get to the Manuel Antonio National Park Region?

You can reach there by bus, private shuttles. car or by plane.

The distance from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is 154.19 kilometers or 95.81 miles.

Guanacaste International Airport (LIR) is located 248.92 kilometers (154.67 mi) from Liberia.

(If you are coming from Guanacaste, public buses will be a struggle. We highly recommend you to go to San José and travel from there.)

By public bus: 

Tracopa buses (2221-4214) run between San José and Quepos throughout the day.

Take a directo (\”direct\”) bus instead of a Colectivo (\”collective\”) bus, which makes many stops and takes two hours longer. The straight bus ride takes roughly 3.5 hours.

The cost is $4,500 (about $9).

San José – Manuel Antonio Hours:

6 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.

Manuel Antonio – San José

4 a.m., 4:05 a.m., 6 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 12:05 p.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 5:30

Buses to Manuel Antonio

There are buses that take visitors to the edge of the Manuel Antonio National Park.  They all depart from the Quepos bus station and stop several times on the way up the hill. So, if you\’re staying at a hillside hotel and want to ride the bus, there are plenty of bus stops where you can wait. The bus costs 315 colones each way and departs every half hour or so from 530 AM till 930 PM.

It\’s worth noting that the bus does not travel all the way to the park\’s entrance. It will drop you off near the beach at the roundabout. To get to the park entrance, stroll the \”Beach Trail\” from there.

You will cross a little river on a bridge with a large sign directing you to your destination. The entrance is about a 5-minute walk from the roundabout.

Private Transfers

One of the greatest ways to go to Manuel Antonio is by private shuttle. These comfortable vehicles transport you from the San Jose airport (or your San Jose hotel) to your Manuel Antonio lodging. Even wifi is available in the nicest vans. Private shuttles are also provided between Manuel Antonio and some prominent Costa Rican locations, including Monteverde, Tamarindo, and Arenal.

A private shuttle from San Jose to Manuel Antonio costs around $55 per person.

Flights to Quepos

Another option for getting to Manuel Antonio is flying from SJO; the Sansa Airlines timetable is available here (Please confirm with us this information as it may change):


Region of Manuel Antonio

The Manuel Antonio Region is separated into five sections. Manuel Antonio town and road, Biezans Beach and road, Espadilla Beach, the National Park, and Quepos. And all are worth a visit.


Quepos, in the Manuel Antonio region, is an international port founded by the banana firm for exports and the region\’s most important population center.

It\’s a lively town with various restaurants, shops, and a Central Market serving up traditional Costa Rican fare at reasonable prices.

It also features a cruise ship port and a marina for small yachts, sailing boats, and catamarans. In addition, there is an airport for local flights.


The village of Manuel Antonio and the route that leads to it:

As you leave the city of Quepos, you will begin traveling on a 7-kilometer twisting route surrounded by nature, and you may encounter monkeys, sloths, and other creatures. (Be careful and drive slowly, please!).

This is also the location of most hotels, several restaurants, nightclubs, some of the most prominent tour operators, banks, grocery stores, and various shopping opportunities.


Beach and road in Biezans:

Some of the most rated hotels, as well as the well-known snorkeling bay, Biesanz beach, are accessible through a detour from this gravel road.

Some of these properties include stunning rainforest panoramas as well as spectacular vistas.


Beach of Espadilla:

These are the most popular neighborhoods in the area.

It is home to Costa Rica\’s most gorgeous beaches as well as the entry to the country\’s smallest and most well-known National Park.

The beach stretches for around 2 kilometers, passing by various restaurants and bars before ending with a few of hotels and the park\’s entrance.

Manuel Antonio National Park

\"ManuelThere are various beaches in The National Park, but the main one is called The Third Beach and is located at the very end of the Park\’s entrance road.
However, as shown in the chart below, there are various pathways to amaze at the region\’s fantastic fauna, and if you want and are a competent hiker, you may even visit other beaches such as Gemelas or Puerto Escondido.

Admission and Operation Hours: 

The Manuel Antonio National Park is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday and is closed on Tuesdays.

The beaches close at 3 p.m., and everyone must be out of the park by 4 p.m. Around 3 p.m., park officials begin informing individuals that they have one hour left. The park is open on holidays such as Christmas and New Year\’s Day as long as they do not fall on a Tuesday.

The entrance charge to Manuel Antonio National Park is $16 USD + tax for adult foreigners, $5 USD + tax for children aged 2 to 12, and free for children under two. Both cash and credit cards are accepted.

You are not permitted to bring firearms, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, speakers, or food such as chips, cookies, crackers, etc.

Because of COVID allows the park to accommodate up to 1500 visitors daily.

Online Reservations (IMPORTANT)

There is now an online system to purchase Manuel Antonio National Park tickets. Unfortunately, this is the only option to obtain park tickets; they no longer sell them at the entry. If you arrive at the park without pre-purchased tickets, they will not let you in unless you buy them online.

Check the video to follow the procedure:

Parking at Manuel Antonio National Park

We recommend two parking lots at Manuel Antonio National Park. When you go down from the slope to the beach, look for a left turn between Bar Las Gemelas and Marlins. Turn left and continue on this tiny road until you reach the national park\’s entrance.



When driving down to the national park, at the base of the last hill on the road from Quepos to MA, you will see guys waving from a parking lot to your right and the beach back there. This isn\’t the national park! You\’re still about a mile away from the park, and these folks will offer you a parking spot in their \”national park\” lot and try to sell you \”guide services.\” Or tell you that you can\’t visit a national park unless you park there. Or you won\’t be able to visit the national park until you employ them.

Please do not park here. These men are not telling the truth and are attempting to defraud tourists.

Go on until you see restaurants and stores on your left, and after you pass the Super Joseth convenience store, you will see a small road on your left. Turn left here and follow the road through Hotel Vela Bar to the national park entrance and parking spaces. It is a narrow road, so go with caution. On Google Maps, enter \”Hotel San Bada,\” as this hotel is immediately adjacent to the entrance.

An overview of the Manuel Antonio Region\’s history

The city takes its name from the region\’s ancient inhabitants, the Quepoa. A subgroup of the bruncas or borucas who still live in Costa Rica\’s Southern Mountains.

Manuel Antonio\’s Conquest and Colonial Periods:

The Spaniards recognized it first, before any other territory in the country. And this location is mentioned in various Spanish documents and letters. In addition, there have been several pirate incursions. (There\’s more to hide than anything else.)

For hundreds of years, it was simply abandoned, along with the surviving indigenous residents.

You might also be interested in learning about Costa Rica\’s history.

The given name \”Manuel Antonio\”:

The name Manuel Antonio is the subject of two major theories:

The first is about a man who used to dwell in the area, and the second is about a Spanish conqueror who was murdered and buried in the area.

Bananas arrived in Manuel Antonio.

Small banana plantations began to sprout near the end of the nineteenth century, and while the United Fruit Company struggled with diseases and worker strikes, they ended up purchasing all of Costa Rica\’s banana fields on the Central and South Pacific coasts. From Parrita to the Panamanian border.

Region of Quepos

Initially, this location was recognized as a banana exporting port.

Because of a fungal banana disease, African palms replaced bananas as the principal crop in the 1980s, as well as because the completed product is lighter for transportation.

The coastal route was still a dirt road from the 1950s until the late 1990s, flanked by pastures, forest, and palm trees. The bridges were overgrown or made of old railroad lines, and the area had a general sense of neglect.


Manuel Antonio National Park History

Throughout history, the area that is now the National Park has been owned by a variety of people. And the last property owner was a Frenchman who forbade locals from swimming on the beaches and surrounded them with gates and security dogs.

Because of this unjust choice, in a country where beaches are public, the government established the Manuel Antonio National Park in 1972, after a long struggle. In 1980, it was extended to a much larger zone.

Tourism in Central America is only getting started. Quepos and the Manuel Antonio National Park gained popularity.

The first flights from Sansa arrived in the 1980s, and a few hotels opened.

The National Park was open for camping, and the location was usually visited by backpackers or travelers looking for a remote sanctuary.

When the twenty-first century arrives, the travel sector has already established itself in the area. The region currently has a plethora of options for lodging and activities.

Manuel Antonio Region Weather

The weather is hot and humid all year. As shown in the graph below, half of the year, from November to May, is bright, while the other half is wet. However, it usually rains for a few hours at the end of the day or at night.


Accommodations in Manuel Antonio Region

The Manuel Antonio region includes a wide range of hotels, and it is up to you to decide which is ideal for you.

The first point to make, and this is critical, is that there are relatively few hotels directly on the beach. The majority of the hotels are located on the roads up on the hill, surrounded by rainforests, filled with wildlife, and offering breathtaking views.

There are a couple of high-end options with small secluded beaches (Not private as it is illegal in Costa Rica to fence a beach).


On the other side, some hotels on the beach may also be fairly affordable.

But, more importantly, be aware that some of the region\’s most beautiful and pleasant lodgings are focused on the views and the surrounding forest rather than the beach.

Some of them employ shuttles regularly.

There are options for all budgets, from backpacker hostels in Quepos to modest family-owned \”cabinas\” and stunning five-star resorts.

The hotel you choose for you and your party should be based on why you want to visit Manuel Antonio. Inquire with our staff who live in the region and personally know all of the hotels.

There are also pet-friendly, LGBT-friendly, and adults-only resorts.

Activities in the Manuel Antonio area

Outdoor Activities

With a few exceptions, because the rainforests of Manuel Antonio are pure and gorgeous, and the National Park is tiny, the activities to experience its amazing environment are concentrated in the region.

There is an abundance of wildlife in the whole region as the rainforests are gathered in a small area, you may see: howler, white-faced, spider, and squirrel monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, toucans, two types of iguanas, agouti paca, coatimundis, and occasionally, American crocodiles and spectacled caymans, among other amazing creatures.

Hikes ranging from very easy to strenuous, as well as night and day trips through the different wilderness areas are available.

Hiking in the National Park may be possible in the morning or afternoon. Although it is highly advised that you talk with one of our travel experts about the optimal times for the tour and choose one of the region\’s finest tour guides with optical equipment to observe the wildlife up close and personal.

There are also waterfalls in the center of the rainforest, hot springs, and wonderful mangrove forest safaris by boat or kayak.

You may also wish to go on sea sailing cruises to see dolphins and whales or snorkeling to see the gorgeous little fish schools.


Cultural Options in the Manuel Antonio Region


You can have a couple of lovely tico experiences in Manuel Antonio, where you can observe the farming, the food, and the Costa Ricans\’ kind demeanor.  You can also learn about the indigenous customs of the region\’s remnant Boruca indigenous community.

Although we do not operate these activities in Epic Adventures, ask us, and we will help you choose the best of them all.


Adventure Activities in the Manuel Antonio Region

There are various options for excellent rafting in Manuel Antonio, including some of the most pristine forests you\’ve ever seen. The water is warm, and the scenery is stunning. Rivers like Savegre, Naranjo, and Chorro are fantastic options that water lovers will definitely enjoy.

There are also magnificent ziplining options and sea and mangrove kayaking.


To summarize

As previously stated, the Manuel Antonio Region is a highly full place that is great for vacations with family or friends.


Please contact our travel experts for more information on these and other options in this world-famous place.

\”Manuel Antonio National Park – Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio – Costa Rica\” by David Berkowitz is licensed under CC BY