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Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest (six square miles) and most popular national parks of Costa Rica. It was established in 1972, to preserve one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and bio-diverse areas for future generations. The Pacific coast around Manuel Antonio is particularly beautiful, with white-sand beaches fringed with tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife. Here, the verdant hills roll into the ocean, and the warm waters are great for year-round swimming. Temperatures reach 30ºC all year. It can rain throughout the year, especially from May to November, although mornings are usually sunny.

Manuel Antonio Location

Situated on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is renowned for its setting – gorgeous white-sand beaches wedged between the warm ocean and the jungle foliage. The park is approximately 165 kilometres from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. To get to Manuel Antonio on our Costa Rica holidays, it is a four-hour journey from the Villa Blanca cloud forest.

Manuel Antonio Beaches

The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are the best in the area, and one of the main reasons why this area is so popular on a trip to Costa Rica. There are also a number of good beaches outside of the national park. Most of the beaches are safe for swimming, but some have strong currents, so ask if you are unsure as there are no lifeguards on duty.  Within Manuel Antonio National Park, there are two main beaches - Espadilla Sur Beach and Manuel Antonio Beach – the latter of which has an offshore coral reef, making it popular for snorkelling. Both are located a 30-minute walk from the main entrance. There is also the Escondido and the Playita.

Manuel Antonio Hotels

A 10-minute drive from Manuel Antonio National Park and a 5-minute walk from beautiful tropical beaches, the Hotel Parador is a great place to relax at the end of your holiday. This Mediterranean-style hotel is set in five hectares of gardens and private rainforest, located on the densely-forested Punta Quepos peninsula, with stunning views across the Pacific Ocean. The hotel has three swimming pools, tennis courts, a spa, several restaurants and a bar. The hotel runs free shuttle buses in the morning and the afternoon, and taxis are readily available.

Manuel Antonio Flora & Fauna

Manuel Antonio National Park is home to a variety of animals, including three-toed sloths, coatis and four species of monkey (capuchin, howler, spider and endangered red-backed squirrel). The best wildlife-spotting opportunities are in the morning, before the park gets too busy. The park is home to abundant birdlife, with over 350 species including toucans, macaws, pelicans, kingfishers and woodpeckers. Near the shore, reptiles and amphibians such as frogs, iguanas, geckos and lizards can be spotted. In terms of fauns, there is a combination of primary and secondary forest, mangrove swamps, lagoons and beach vegetation. To find out more about the Costa Rica wildlife, read our blog. 

Manuel Antonio Activities

In Manuel Antonio National Park, the forest trails are well maintained, and guided tours are available locally, or you can wander on your own. The main trail within the park is a 1.3-mile flat, sandy trail that links the park’s beaches, where you can relax and swim in the clear waters. Another slightly more challenging trail for the adventurous is Punta Catedrala 0.9-mile loop with some steep inclines. The trail is accessible from both Manuel Antonio Beach and Espadilla Sur Beach. The nearby town of Quepos has some good restaurants and bars and you can arrange sports fishing tours. Snorkelling excursions, ocean kayaking, mangrove tours and canopy tours are also available.

If you are undecided about visiting Manuel Antonio or Corcovado during your holiday to Costa Rica, read our blog to help you decide.