Manuel Antonio is a small seaside town and one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beach destinations. It is best known for its stunning beaches, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking views.
There are plenty of things to do in Manuel Antonio.
Located on the Central Pacific Coast of the country in the province of Puntarenas, it is around a three-hour drive from the San Jose International Airport.
Most Popular Tour in Manuel Antonio
⭐️ Our top pick is Manuel Antonio National Park Guided Tour.
The national park is a MUST! Make it a guided tour to see more wildlife.
The best time to visit Manuel Antonio is during Costa Rica’s dry season, which occurs between December and April.
Since you are less likely to have rainy days, and it is the perfect time to escape the bitter cold winter months in the States.
During these months, rain is not common and the temperatures are very warm- making it for ideal swimming and surfing.
Manuel Antonio has a variety of activities that will be appealing to all travelers, especially those who love being in nature. Which is most of you, I hope.
11 Awesome Things To Do In Manuel Antonio
You can’t come to Manual Antonio and not visit their national park. It is by far, the most popular attraction. The Manuel Antonio National Park is a huge tourist destination and for good reason: it’s stunning.
It consists of coral reefs, rugged rainforests, and sandy white beaches. You’ll never run out of things to do while in there. Although it’s Costa Rica’s smallest national park, you could easily spend days exploring it.
Even though it is one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, it is also one of the most biodiverse parks in the world.
Manuel Antonio Park has 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Some of the mammals you may come across include howlers and white-faced monkeys. You will also find reptiles like iguanas, crocodiles, and boa constrictors in the park.
The monkeys in the park are not shy so make sure to secure snacks and personal items in a bookbag, or they may go missing.
Many people visit Manuel Antonio National Park with hopes of seeing a sloth. As it one of the best places in the country to spot mysterious creatures.
Despite there being many sloths in the park, they are incredibly difficult to find without a trained eye, as they blend in seamlessly with the surrounding foliage.
Therefore, if you really want to see a sloth, I highly suggest you hire a guide to help you catch a glimpse of one.
There are plenty of guides available for hire as soon as you enter the park entrance. They cost around $20 per person for a two-hour tour but are well worth it.
You will be provided with a lot of interesting information about animals and Costa Rica. They can also point out more animals you likely would have missed.
If you want to get the most out of the park, pay the extra money for a local guide.
Manuel Antonio National Park also has four beaches that are perfect for snorkeling and sunbathing.
The most visited of the beaches being Playa Manuel Antonio, which is about a 30-minute hike from the park’s entrance.
Playa Manuel Antonio is particularly great for swimming and building sandcastles. So if you plan on spending the day at the beach inside the park, make sure you plan ahead. Pack plenty of drinking water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Once you are in the park you will want to take full advantage of its beauty and enjoy it for the day.
There is a small admission fee to enter the park and you can either purchase tickets there or online prior to arrival.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 2,200 reviews Length: ⏳ 4 hours
The Manuel Antonio Hot Springs is a hidden gem that often gets overlooked, but it is hard to understand why.
They are located about an hour outside of Manuel Antonio and the easiest way to reach them is by signing up for a tour, and let them do the driving.
The tour includes a shuttle service that will pick you up at your Costa Rica hotel and drop you off at the end of the day. While driving to the springs you’ll travel through scenic countryside that is surrounded by rainforest.
Eventually, you will end up at a private farm owned by a Costa Rican family, which is where the springs are. Here you will spend the day lounging in and around the multiple mineral pools.
There is also a creek nearby that you can swim in with a natural waterslide.
The tour included fresh tropical fruit to snack on, lunch, and of course the springs.
This is by far one of my favorite things to do in Manuel Antonio.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 60 reviews Length: ⏳ 5 hours
3. Sport Fishing
If you enjoy being out on the water as much as I do, you will want to plan a day of sports fishing. Costa Rica is home to some world-class deep-sea fishing and you will want to take full advantage of it.
Manuel Antonio has some of the best sports fishing you’ll find in Costa Rica. There are several companies in the area that offer deep sea fishing charters, along with inshore fishing trips.
While deep-sea fishing you can expect to catch big game fish like tuna, marlin, and dorado. Inshore fishing is a better option for those who want a more relaxed experience and are happy with catching smaller fish like red snapper and Spanish mackerel.
One of the nice things about fishing charters is there are full-day or ¾ day options. Meaning if you don’t want to commit to spending a full day on the water you can choose an option that is suited to your schedule.
Also, if you don’t want to spend as much deep seas fishing, a ¾ day is a great option.
Want to sunbathe on a tropical beach all day, then heading to the beach is something you should add to your things to do in Manuel Antonio list.
Manuel Antonio has several gorgeous beaches, outside the park. These beaches don’t have an admission fee, so if you are trying to save money to enjoy other great tours, it is the perfect option.
If you are adventurous like me and enjoy surfing or want to learn how to, the beaches of Manuel Antonio are the perfect place to catch some waves.
There are a couple of surf shops in the area that offer lessons for beginners, or rent boards for the more advanced. Playa Biesanz is an ideal surf spot for beginners because it is a gentle uncrowded wave.
Also known as the “secret beach” to tourists, Playa Biesanz doesn’t have huge crashing waves but makes for a good setting to practice.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 220 reviews Length: ⏳ 3 hours
What is a trip to Costa Rica, if it is not filled with adrenaline-pumping activities? So why not add to your list of things to do in Manuel Antonio?
This adventure park is the ultimate spot for a fun time, and the property features activities like ATV rides, ziplines, and a high ropes course.
The ATV rides will take you through beautiful trails in the rainforest and Midworld is the only company in the area with fully automatic ATVs.
You won’t be disappointed by the amazing views of the jungle as you soar over the treetops.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 25 reviews Length: ⏳ 3.5 hours
I love food. I love eating food, I love creating food, and more importantly, when I am on vacation, I love learning about food.
If you are like me and love food, especially chocolate or coffee you won’t want to miss taking part in a Chocolate Tour. The tour takes place in a private jungle-reserve just ten minutes from Manuel Antonio.
Since you are in the jungle, it is not uncommon for animals like monkeys and birds to make guest appearances- you never really know what you might see!
The tour begins with background information about the cultural and biological implications of cacao and coffee in Costa Rica, and the rest of the world.
You will then go on to learn about how chocolate is made, along with how coffee is produced. Overall, the tour combines education and interactive activities for an unforgettable day.
You will even learn how to make Café-Chorreado, the authentic Costarican practice of preparing coffee. But the best part about this tour is, of course, the samples.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 85 reviews Length: ⏳ 2-3 hours
While you won’t find any mechanical roller coasters in Manuel Antonio, you will find something even better- a zip coaster.
The Avatar Zip Coaster is the only one of its kind in Costa Rica and unlike a traditional zip line, that only goes straight, The Avatar is similar to a roller coaster with twists, turns, and drops.
A roller-coast Costa Rica style.
On top of the coolest zipline in Costa Rica that you will find, you will also find a motorized bike canopy tour at the Manuel Antonino Adventure Park.
The canopy tour runs at a much slower pace than the Avatar or the zipline, but it is the perfect attraction for those who want to enjoy a leisurely ride amongst the treetops of the rainforest.
It’s up to you to peddle and move the bike, so not only does it provide a little bit of exercise, but because it moves at a slower speed, you’ll be able to look out for animals while enjoying the scenery.
A great way to get some exercise on holiday while doing something cool.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 355 reviews Length: ⏳ 4.5 hours
What says vacation better than a sunset catamaran tour. Set sail on the waters of the Pacific Ocean aboard a luxurious catamaran.
A catamaran tour makes for the ideal excursion as you can sit back and relax while cruising past stunning coastline views while enjoying an open bar.
There are many catamaran tour companies to choose from in the Manuel Antonio area, all of which will include lunch and an open bar.
The catamarans also provide snorkeling equipment as they know the best spots in the area for guests to take a dip and potentially swim alongside marine life.
Speaking of marine life, Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales.
The whales can be spotted almost year-round thanks to the migration schedules of humpbacks coming from both the north and south.
However, the best time of year to spot them is between August and October. Various species of Dolphins are also commonly seen around Manuel Antonio and are known for putting on shows for boaters.
Rating: ⭐️ 4.5 Star Review with 181 reviews Length: ⏳ 3-4 hours
If you enjoy hiking and being in nature but want to avoid the crowds of Manuel Antonio National Park, you will want to make the trip to Rainmaker Conservation Park.
This is a great thing to do in Manuel Antonio at night.
Located just 30-minutes north of Manuel Antonio, Rainmaker Conservation Park offers a less commercialized and quieter setting than Manuel Antonio National Park.
It is pretty tucked away on a dirt road, and to reach it you have to pass through quaint towns that are free of tourists.
The reserve feels similar to the cloud forests that are in the northern part of the country, as it has hanging bridges and consists solely of rain forest.
While you won’t find many monkeys at the Rainmaker Conservation Park, it is home to wildlife like poison dart frogs, an array of birds, and glass-winged butterflies.
The park places a huge emphasis on conservation and protects endemic species like the Harlequin Toad, which were thought to have gone extinct in Costa Rica.
It also makes for a great night tour, when the jungle really comes to life.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 280 reviews Length: ⏳ 3 hours
Located only 15-minutes from Manual Antonio is the Damas Island estuary. Here you will find a mangrove forest that can be explored via a kayak tour.
These spectacular inland waters are heavily protected and home to animals like crocodiles, anteaters, and white-faced monkeys.
Your tour guide will provide a wealth of knowledge to help you better understand how the ecosystem functions on Damas Island.
The tour includes transportation to and from the island, lunch or dinner, and a kayak and safety equipment. The Damas Island Mangrove Kayak Tour is ideal if you seek tranquility with a hint of adventure.
It is the perfect activity to not only get some exercise but also enjoy the slightly different scenery of Costa Rica.
Rating: ⭐️ 4.5 Star Review with 80 reviews Length: ⏳ 4 hours
Another fun activity for my adrenaline junkies. Why not take in the Manuel Antonio coastline from a birds-eye view, and go for a parasail ride?
There are multiple companies in the area that offer safe parasailing and will soar you up to 600 feet in the air.
Be sure to keep an eye out for ocean life down below as you glide over the blue waters, as you could see whales and dolphins.
If heights make you nervous, rest assured that it’s not as scary as it looks and is actually quite relaxing once you get up in the air.
It is a great way to see Costa Rica from a bird’s eye view and feel like you are flying.
Rating: ⭐️ 5 Star Review with 300 reviews Length: ⏳ 45 minutes
What Is The Best Way To Get To Manuel Antonio From SJO?
The best way to get to Manuel Antonio from SJO airport is to rent a car. After renting a car it is about a 3.5-hour drive from the airport.
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can also take a public or private shuttle or small airplane.
The only problem with these as there are only limited times per day that they operate, so you might have to stay the night in San Jose and if you only have a limited amount of time, I don’t recommend it.
Best Shuttle Companies to Manuel Antonio
As you can see there are plenty of tours to keep you entertained while you are on vacation in Costa Rica.
I hope you guys enjoyed this article on the best things to do in Manuel Antonio.
Do you have something you love to do here that is not on the list? Say so in the comments below