Spread across an area of 1,688 acres (683 hectares), Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest national park. Small though it may be, its natural beauty and diverse wildlife are truly impressive, with four pristine Pacific beaches and swaths of rain forest inhabited by sloths, frogs, monkeys, and toucans.
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich stretches of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Most tours of the park include guided hikes and nature walks, during which participants learn about native wildlife, from iguanas and coatis (a raccoon-like creature) to capuchin monkeys. Some tours include stops at one of the park’s beaches, where visitors can swim in turquoise waters. The park can also be seen on sightseeing cruises, which often making snorkeling stops en route.
Things to Know Before You Go
Manuel Antonio National Park is a must for nature lovers.
Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a swimsuit, hat, bug spray, sunscreen, and ample water.
The park features one wheelchair-friendly trail, El Manglar (the Mangrove), which leads from the main entrance to Espadilla Sur beach.
How to Get There
Manuel Antonio National Park is situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of San Jose. Bus companies, including Tracopa, Gray Line, and Interbus, run services between San Jose and Manuel Antonio. Direct buses usually take about three hours, while nondirect buses take about five hours.
When to Get There
The park is a very popular destination for tourists and can attract large numbers of sightseers, particularly during the dry season (December–April). Get here soon after opening (7am) to experience it at its quietest and for the best chance to spot wildlife. Note that the park is not open on Mondays.
The Beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park
The park is home to four beaches: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita. Two of these run along the Punta Catedral, an island-like landform connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. On the southern side is Playa Manuel Antonio, and the northern side hosts Espadilla Sur. Playa Manuel Antonio is ideal for snorkeling with sheltered, swim-friendly waters, while the waters at Espadilla Sur can be rough at times.