My visit to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica was rejuvenating. There are so many incredible things to do in Manuel Antonio, and it’s the kind of place that immediately feels like home. Macaws fly over head in the morning, you’re mere moments from the beach, and life moves at a slower pace. The things to do in Manuel Antonio range from the adventurous to the relaxing, making it the perfect destination for a break.
My visit to Manuel Antonio was only a few days, but it was enough time to feel completely relaxed. There’s a “tico time” culture present in Costa Rica, were time seems to move slowly and being “on time” isn’t as important as it elsewhere. Enjoy the adventures and activities in this post, but make sure that you also take some time to just lie on the beach. Take it all in. Watch for birds, listen for monkeys.
Costa Rica will recharge you, and with many incredible things to do in Manuel Antonio you can do everything from relax to have epic adventures. Here’s the best of this beautiful destination!
Things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Meet Wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park
One of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio is visit the area’s National Park. While it may be the smallest National Park in Costa Rica, it’s also one of the most beautiful. Manuel Antonio National Park is a paradise of tropical forests and white sand beaches. The park is home to over 100 species of mammals, 180 species of birds, and many more creatures.
Yes, that does includes sloths! On my visit to Manuel Antonio National Park I was fortunate enough to spot 2 sloths, numerous monkeys, a large iguana, and a few other animals as I made my way through the trees. Go slow and keep your eyes peeled, sloths are particularly tricky to spot.
The Manuel Antonio National park hike is more of a walk, and you’re fine with sandals as footwear here. Tickets are purchased at the park entrance, and there are long lines. Worth it! There’s also a bag check, to make sure you’re not bringing any plastic or garbage in to the park with you.
Entry is $16 USD/ person. FYI, it’s closed on Monday! Manuel Antonio National Park Website.
Go Surfing at Espadilla Beach
What’s a sunshine escape without water sports? Espadilla Beach is the main beach near Manuel Antonio, and there are many places to rent surf boards, kayaks, and paddle boards along the beach.
New to surfing? Many of the rental places offer surf lessons. Surfing is fun but extremely difficult. Better with friends, so you can laugh at each other when you fall off repeatedly. Did I say laugh? Provide words of encouragement, I mean.
Rate: Varies by company, ~ $60 USD for lesson + rental.
Shop at the Market in Quepos
Quepos is the nearest town to Manuel Antonio. Take the bus down to Quepos, and have a walk around. Shopping tip: you will save money if you have the local currency, Costa Rica colón. It’s not that things are marked up if you’re using the US dollar, per say, but the conversion doesn’t always line up quite as you expect it to. Buy an ice cream, and make your way in and out of the local shops to have a look around.
Visit the ferias (farmer’s market) if you can make it to Quepos on a Friday or Saturday. There you will find everything from fresh fruit to homemade bread. The people who sell good at the market are mostly locals, so it’s a great chance to meet them and learn more about the areas culture.
Parasail over Manuel Antonio
Parasailing is an epic experience. While this is one of the more expensive things to do in Manuel Antonio, you may find it well worth it (if you’re ok with heights, that is!) Glide through the sky above the ocean, and catch an incredible view of Manuel Antonio National park from above.
This activity is also available at Espadilla Beach, for 15 or 30 minutes. The more people you can split it with, the better the deal, with prices starting at $85 for one person, $140 for 2, and $185 for 3 for a 15 minute sail. Book ahead of time, or find Aguas Azules right on the beach. Aguas Azules website.
Take a Day Trip to Waterfall
Waterfall chasing is a must in Costa Rica. Of all the things to do in Manuel Antonio, this is my favourite. It’s probably just the best thing to do in Costa Rica, period. The waterfalls in Manuel Antonio are actually slightly inland. One of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls, Nauyaca waterfall, is a perfect day trip.
Nauyaca waterfall is a stunning, picture-perfect waterfall on a private property about an hour from Manuel Antonio. There’s an option to get there by horseback, if you reserve in advance. Otherwise, you can hike the 4km trail or hitch a ride in a pick up truck. Have a picnic, take photos, and go for a swim. Rates: entrance to waterfall $8, horseback ride $75, pick up truck $25.
Wake Up with Yoga Overlooking the Ocean
Costa Rica is well-known as a yoga retreat destination. Of all the things to do in Manuel Antonio, this is by far the most relaxing and rejuvenating. Manuel Antonio has many beautiful, outdoor decks used for yoga. The warm air makes it feel a little bit like hot yoga every time, too. Wake up with a relaxing flow, and a view of the jungle and ocean below.
Morning yoga was my favourite part of my time in Manuel Antonio. The Holis Wellness Centre offers yoga classes daily. Check the schedule for classes at Hotel Costa Verde. This is where the beautiful yoga deck is. There are other classes offered at their own lovely studio, and on the beach. Rate: $15 USD Holis Wellness Centre Website
Go Dancing and Enjoy Manuel Antonio Nightlife
Manuel Antonio nightlife really refers to the nearby town of Quepos, the best place to go for a night out. There you’ll find everything from traditional latin dancing to techno-music playing at night clubs. There’s a club on every block in Quepos, so you can move from one to the other easily.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t keep track of the names of the places that I visited. The area is very safe, though, and every bar, restaurant, and club that I visited was a great time!
Zip-line above the Jungle Canopy
My last day in Costa Rica was spent high above the tree tops, suspended from a thin wire. The course was made up of 9 lines, and a final plummet in to a waterfall.
Once again not the cheapest, but definitely worthwhile and you do get a lot for money. $75 included being picked up right from the hotel, being driven up to the zip-lines, and lunch. The guides were energetic, fun, and it was an incredible. If you’re looking for some adventure to end your visit, this is for you. Titi Canopy Tours website.
Where to Eat in Manuel Antonio
El Patio de Café Milagro: this lovely little restaurant has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and great food. I went for lunch here and sat outside in the garden. Lunch is served 11-5, and dinner is served until 9PM.
Have a cocktail, you’re on vacation!
El Avión: this one of the must-visit places in Manuel Antonio. This pub is built around a grounded C-123 Fairchild cargo plane. There’s a pub inside the plane, and a restaurant built around it with an incredible view to watch the sunset.
Order drinks, food, and take in the glorious colours of a Costa Rica sunset. Honestly, do this as many times as possible. While there are really no bad places for a sunset in Manuel Antonio, this is one of the best.
Rafaeles Las Terrazas: just down the street from El Avion is another great restaurant with an ocean view (there’s no shortage of those, really).
Rafaeles is a casual restaurant with a laid back vibe and great seafood. Enjoy salads and sandwiches at lunch, and more elegant plates at dinner.
Marlin: if you’re in the mood for burritos or fish tacos by the beach, this is the place. Marlin is right across from Playa Espadilla, so it’s great place to stop for lunch after exploring Manuel Antonio National Park or to cool off if you’ve been at the beach.
The view from El Avión
Manuel Antonio Currency and Transportation
Now that you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, you just have to get around and pay for things! Manuel Antonio is very easy to get around, because it’s essentially all on one road going from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park. Currency is also fairly straight forward!
Taxis: taxis pass by frequently, so all we ever had to do was wait by the road to catch one. If you’re having trouble, just stand in front of a restaurant as the drivers will often be looking for people there. Only get in a taxi that has a yellow placard, these are the legally operated ones! It costs’s about $7.00 USD to go the entire length of the way from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park.
Buses: There is a bus that runs between Quepos and the National Park, along the main road. It comes every half hour or so from 5:45AM to 9PM. There’s some variety in the fare, it was 75 cents when I was there but I have since read that it’s 65 cents, so my advice is to just have a little more change than you think you need. That’s always a good practice in Costa Rica!
Currency: The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon. The money is adorable, with pictures of the wildlife on it! The majority of businesses also except the US dollar. The exchange rate in use in Costa Rica is a little inconsistent. Many businesses still operate on a par of 5,000 CR = 10 USD, even though that’s not actually the current exchange rate.
My suggestion is to have both. On both of my visits to Costa Rica, I took about 70% CR currency and 30% USD. That way if you suspect you’re not getting a fair price, you can ask what the price is in the other currency. Credit and debit cards from Canada or the USA may work at major restaurants and hotels, but often not at boutique and local businesses.
Hotels in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Villa Mymosas: This boutique villa has 10 rooms, a beautiful pool, and a restaurant on site for breakfast. The accommodations are standard (nothing fancy, but all you need) with today rooms. This is where I stayed!
Hotel Costa Verde: home to the aforementioned beautiful outdoor yoga studio, Hotel Costa Verde is a beautiful hotel with spacious rooms. It’s walking distance from great restaurants, like El Avion.
Hotel Byblos Resort and Casino: Manuel Antonio is a little sprawled out, but this is the closest to “right in town” that you can get with proximity to lots of restaurants. This hotel has a great pool and restaurant of it’s own that I visited, too.
Selina Hostel: This gorgeous hostel is a great option for budget travellers, recommended by a friend. Amazing views, great culture, and lots of activities to get involved and enhance your Costa Rica experience. Find it on Hostelworld.