Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Manuel Antonio

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio? | By Olga Saenz, writer and painter

When you choose among destinations to go to Costa Rica, you will repeatedly notice some choices. So aiming to give a more precise point of view, I decided to create these comparison posts that will guide you from the most popular places to the off-the-beaten pathways.  This post will discuss Tamarindo Beach in the North Pacific and Manuel Antonio Beach in the Central South Pacific.



Which is best? Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo?


Ok,  to be honest, it’s impossible to say! Both are super touristic spots, but that is not it. It really depends on who you are as a traveler? What do you want to experience while at the beach in Costa Rica? Are you into partying? Then it’s Tamarindo for you! Are you into wildlife and tranquil settings? Manuel Antonio is for you.

But let’s begin by getting some elephants out of the room: if you are meaning to stay at one of the prime brand resorts in the Guanacaste region, Tamarindo is your place.

And I am beginning by that simply because is one of the first questions I would make if I was still a travel agent (I am not).  So well! Having said that, let’s talk about some of the main questions.

Where is Manuel Antonio National Park? And where is Tamarindo Beach?

If you look at the map below you can see where is each, however, if you don’t know much about Costa Rica that map doesn’t mean a thing.


So, let’s talk about some facts here:

Which airport should I use to get to Manuel Antonio and which to get to Tamarindo?

As you can see, Tamarindo is much closer to the Guanacaste International Airport and Manuel Antonio is closer to the Juan Santamaría International Airport.


Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio Chart of Distances

So, at first glance, if you already have your flight booked, that alone is a reason to go to one or the other.



This is another reason to go to one or the other. Both are in the tropics, thus are hot and humid. However, Tamarindo is drier than manuel Antonio, for instance (In the sunny season mainly).

Let’s check the following chart to decide where to go between Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo?


Now, having seen all this, what else do we have to consider in order to chose Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo?

About Tamarindo Beach

Tamarindo is one of Costa Rica’s most attractive and sophisticated beach locations. The region has a variety of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy.

The town is geared toward visitors, with a great sort of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife to complement the stunning beaches.

Tamarindo is the place to go if you want a stylish spot to stay with an abundance of sunshine and blue ocean. Tamarindo’s beaches are ideal for swimming, surfing, and fishing, and there are other activities to keep you entertained.

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Tamarindo Beach

Tours in Tamarindo

In Tamarindo there are all sorts of water and beach sports like surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, banana boats, and kite and wind surfing.  You can also find great fishing trips, diving, and beach hopping rides.

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Tamarindo Beach

As well as, if you don’t mind staying for a couple of hours, or more, you will have the chance to go check the Rincon del Vieja National Park, the Monteverde Cloud Forests, and fantastic adventures like rafting, rappelling, canyoning and ziplining.

Beaches around the area:

Tamarindo is a popular tourist destination, yet the long beaches allow enough space for everyone to enjoy. In the area of Tamarindo you can find a wide sort of beaches to hop on or as choices to stay close by but not in the bustle of town. These are great for swimming, start surfing and depending on where you go some of the most worldwide known wave breaks.

In Las Baulas National Park you can find Playa Grande. A renowned surfing beach and a leatherback turtle hatching site to the north. Turtles come to shore and deposit their eggs at night and between the months of mid-October and mid-February. There are also night tours available to watch this fantastic nature event.

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Tamarindo Beach

Playa Langosta has magnificent white sand beaches to the south. It has a great swimming area and many spots better suited for surfing. You will find rock formations that divide this beach into tiny and more private beaches.

In Tamarindo you will notice the influence from the US and Europe, with plenty of choices of restaurants, pubs and stores of all kinds. This is a place for those who like comfort and the leisure feeling of a vacation in the tropics. However and even though Tamarindo is a tourist destination, you will also be immersed in the Costa Rican culture and traditions as several outdoor markets sell fresh vegetables and seafood that are harvested each morning.


A vacation in Tamarindo?

We would highly recommend to see more of Costa Rica, combining Tamarindo with volcanoes, forests and adventures of all sorts.



As you arrive in Manuel Antonio -and depending on the season- you will find out why this is the most popular national park with over 140,000 visitors per year. And the reasons why visitors swarm the area will be abundantly clear as you see the luscious forests, the wildlife teeming on the trees, and sink your feet in the soft sand and the warm ocean.

Manuel Antonio has been considered among the most beautiful beaches in the world. (N.a. “Best Beaches in the World – Travelers’ Choice Awards – Tripadvisor.” Tripadvisor.com. n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2022. )

First, we must differentiate between the Manuel Antonio beach located inside the Manuel Antonio National Park and the region of Manuel Antonio.

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Manuel AntonioThe region of Manuel Antonio encompasses all the area that goes from Quepos to the National Park.  It starts with a paved road uphill, and you will find that it detours into other roads as you get closer to the National Park.

The primary public beach, Playa Espadilla, has good surfing waves to the north and smaller waves to the south ideal for swimming and body surfing.

This is quite a long stretch of public beach, where you will find a multitude of options, including lounge chairs, umbrellas, coconut water, ice cones, and much more offered right there by plenty of people.

You can also enjoy surfing lessons, banana boat tours, kayak rentals, and paragliding.  If you want to reserve any of those in advance, talk to our Epic Adventures Team, and we will make it happen!

Manuel Antonio National Park:

There are three main paths across Manuel Antonio National Park, providing unique bird watching and wildlife viewing opportunities. We highly recommend getting a local guide that will discover a lot of wildlife and the region’s natural history secrets. Of course the national park natural beauty and diversity is evident to the eye, but a guide will enhance the experience by far.

Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Manuel Antonio
Tamarindo or Manuel Antonio | Manuel Antonio

The park only authorizes 600 visitors per day, and all tickets are sold online and in advance. Please ask your travel designer about these if you are driving.


Manuel Antonio Town:


Manuel Antonio town is a small hamlet on the hill that connects Manuel Antonio to the port city of Quepos, and it’s is lined with dozens of hotels, spas, restaurants, and bars in the area, with breathtaking views of the ocean below. Sunset cocktails are a great way to cap off a fun-filled day at the park.

This is where you will find the center of Manuel Antonio town. There are also pharmacies, supermarkets, vegetable and fruit stores, laundry shops and all needed if you are staying at an apartment or a house in the area.


Vacation in Manuel Antonio?


As with Tamarindo, we recommend a minimum of three to five nights in this region, and two or three more locations to really get to see more of Costa Rica. However, if you like to stay throughout the whole vacation in Manuel Antonio, please let us know! We have a variety of choices in houses, apartments and fantastic hotels for longer stays, and great sort of activities in the area for you!

In Manuel Antonio you can find great rafting rivers, waterfall rappelling, canyoning, ziplining through the forest, scuba diving, river and sea kayaking, mangrove boat safaris, sunset sailing boats, and expeditions to see whales and dolphins.

In Manuel Antonio, you do not need to have a car as parking places are few, it might be a hassle. And there is a beach bus that travels every half hour between Quepos and Manuel Antonio costs around 50 cents.  There are also a lot of taxis.




Beach attire

Swimming Suits

Beach Towels

Sun Screen


Walking shoes

Hiking boots

Flip Flops

Water Shoes

Rain Gear

T Shirts and Shorts.


In Conclusion


As usual, the best destination is whatever suits you best. Depending on the sort of vacation you’d like to have Tamarindo Beach and Manuel Antonio Beaches are both fantastic, but please, if you want to find more, send olga@olgasaenz.com a message and I will contact you with a great travel agent!


Find here the distances from both places to the most usual places to visit in Costa Rica:


TamarindoManuel Antonio
Dominical369 km52 km
Drake Bay539 km221 km
La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano219 km243 km
Liberia77 km255 km
Flamingo Beach25 km316 km
Jaco255 km73 km
Malpais-Santa Teresa215 km181 km
Manuel Antonio328 km189 km
Monteverde213 km283 km
Papagayo Gulf68 km386 km
Puerto Viejo475 km285 km
Rincon de la Vieja107 km283 km
Samara105 km139 km
San Gerardo de Dota345 km174 km
San Jose266 km253 km
Sarapiqui342 km328 km
Tortuguero365 km275 km
Turrialba335 km236 km


Who wrote this?

Olga Saenz is a Costa Rican painter and copywriter. Olga has worked in the travel industry since the late eighties, as a tour guide for a couple decades, as a product manager for a couple of big companies, and as a content writer, SEO specialist, and community manager for the last ten years. If you want to connect with Olga, you can send her an email at writer@olgasaenz.com.