Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, yet one of the most famous. During your visit to the park, you'll encounter many tourists. Established in 1972, the park's purpose is to preserve and protect biodiversity and unique ecosystems. It offers a bit of everything, including tropical rainforest, a beach with crystal blue water, and a variety of wildlife like monkeys, sloths, and raccoons. So, Manuel Antonio is definitely worth a visit. Here are the top 7 tips!
You can easily reach Manuel Antonio National Park by car. Even before you enter the park, you may encounter people who appear to be rangers. They wear badges with information about themselves, offering guided tours, parking, and entrance tickets. It's important to know that they are not affiliated with the park.
If you come across these individuals, it's important to proceed to the park's official entrance. You can park your car there and purchase a parking ticket, which costs approximately 7 dollars.
If you're traveling from Uvita or Dominical to Manuel Antonio, it takes about an hour. From San José, it's approximately a three-hour drive to reach Manuel Antonio.
From Uvita or Dominical, you can take a local bus to Quepos. Be sure to inquire with your accommodation for the correct bus stop and departure times, as these may change regularly. From Quepos, you can either take another local bus or a taxi to get to the national park.
If you're traveling from San José, buses operated by Tracopa depart directly to Manuel Antonio, which is about a 5-hour ride. It's approximately an 8-minute walk from the Manuel Antonio bus station to the national park. You can easily purchase tickets online through the Passer app.
Taking a bus can consume a significant amount of time. This is suitable if you plan to spend a night in Manuel Antonio or Quepos. For a day trip from Uvita or Dominical, it's recommended to drive or take a shuttle as it's much faster, allowing you more time in the park. From San José, we advise against a day trip as you'd have limited time in the park.
Through Bookaway, you can take a shuttle from Uvita or Dominical to Manuel Antonio. Prices start from 37 dollars, depending on the provider. The shuttle ride takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Manuel Antonio.
You can also book a shuttle from San José. It takes about 4 hours from there, and prices start from 39 dollars.
Manuel Antonio is closed on Tuesdays. Otherwise, the park is open throughout the year from 7 am to 4 pm. It's important to purchase your tickets online in advance, as well as guided tours, as you typically can't buy tickets at the entrance. The park does this to distribute and limit the number of visitors. Entrance tickets cost around 18 dollars for adults and around 6 dollars for children aged 2 to 11 years. Children under 2 years old can enter for free. In addition to the entrance ticket, there are additional costs for any guided tours.
We recommend going to the park as early as possible. The temperature is most pleasant in the morning, and you have the best chance of spotting animals that are most active during the early hours. Also, the park closes at 4 pm, so if you want to maximize your time in the park, it's advisable to go early.
You can visit Manuel Antonio National Park with or without a guide. We took a guide during our visit, and we highly recommend it. A guide knows all the hidden spots where animals are, whereas you might walk past them on your own. Many animals are high up in the trees hidden among the leaves. Moreover, a guide knows a lot about the animals and can provide extensive information about the specific animal you see, how many different species there are, or what they like to eat.
Our guide also had a telescope, which allowed us to see the animals hidden in the trees up close. Most guides in the park carry a telescope for visitors to look through. Thanks to our guide, we spotted howler monkeys, sloths, raccoons, iguanas, capuchin monkeys, frogs, and birds, among others. Another advantage was that our guide took photos of all the animals through the telescope and sent them to us afterward, so we had a nice memento of the animals we had seen.
A guided tour of the park is quite expensive; you can find the current prices on the park's website. This is in addition to the entrance fee. You can also book a guided tour through GetYourGuide, which costs around 45 dollars per person (excluding the entrance fee) and includes hotel pick-up and drop-off from accommodations in Manuel Antonio and Quepos.
In the national park, there are various rules in place to protect the rainforest and the wildlife that resides within it. For example, there is a daily visitor limit, so you must book tickets in advance. This helps reduce the impact of tourism on the animals.
Bringing food into the park is not allowed. You can bring drinks in refillable bottles, such as a Dopper. This rule is also in place to minimize the environmental impact, as visitors have sometimes fed animals, which is not good for the wildlife. Your bags will be checked at the park entrance. If you have food and drinks with you, you can store them in lockers at the park entrance. Remember to bring a padlock so you can lock the locker. There are options to purchase food and drinks within the park.
Pets and drones are also not allowed in the park.
There are various hiking trails in the park, with well-maintained and clearly marked paths. The downside is that it no longer feels like you're right in the middle of a tropical rainforest. In the park, you can find signs for the different hiking trails along with their respective distances in kilometers.
After our guided tour, we continued to explore the park and hiked a trail to Punta Catedral. This is a peninsula with a trail that's a little over a kilometer long. The trail has some elevation changes, but it provides beautiful views of the sea. Afterward, it's wonderful to cool off at the beach.
The great thing about Manuel Antonio National Park is that it also has a beach. Here, you can cool off after a hike in the rainforest. It's a white sand beach with crystal clear blue water. Don't forget to bring your towel, bikini, swim trunks, sunglasses, sunscreen, snorkel, and your book or e-reader!
Note: Because the monkeys and raccoons in the park have become accustomed to people, they are bold. They may go on an adventure and take a look at what's in your bag. Therefore, it's essential to secure your belongings and close your bag tightly when you go into the water.
In Manuel Antonio National Park, you can see many animals. This may tempt you to take a lot of photos and videos. The advantage of a guided tour is that the guide takes photos, so you don't have to worry about it.
We want to remind you to occasionally put away your phone and camera and be in the moment, observing with your own eyes how the animals live and what they do. Enjoy it!
To make your visit to the national park as enjoyable as possible, we'd like to offer you some tips.
In the rainforest, the weather can vary significantly. It can be sunny one moment and then start raining a few minutes later. We recommend bringing a rain poncho with you to stay dry when it rains. A benefit of a rain poncho is that it's easy to carry in your bag.
In the rainforest, many insects, such as mosquitoes, are present. We recommend bringing DEET and applying it when you notice a lot of insects bothering you.
If you want to spot animals high up in the trees yourself, it's useful to bring binoculars. This way, you can see the animals more clearly.