Manuel Antonio is whatever you make of it. Wanna spend some time lounging on the beach doing absolutely nothing? There’s miles of beaches. Rather hike through a national park? They got you covered. Maybe you’re more of a snorkeler/diver/surfer type. There’s plenty of that here too.
I’m going to try to include as many options as I can, but feel free to add some ideas in the comments below. Ok, three days in Manuel Antonio, let’s go!
How to Spend 3 Days in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Introduction to Manuel Antonio
Official Language(s): Spanish
Currency: Costa Rican colón
Emergency phone number: 911
When to Go to Manuel Antonio
January – April
Try your best to avoid visiting during the holidays, like New Year’s Eve, as it tends to get quite crowded. The dry season will get you great weather, and the non-holiday visits will ensure smaller crowds.
Where to Stay in Manuel Antonio
Millenium Hostels Manuel Antonio
How these hostel managers figured out how to get a very nice hostel just a minute’s walk from the beach and Manuel Antonio National Park for a reasonable price is beyond me. It’s science, I guess. Either way, you’re in for a clean, comfortable stay just a stone’s throw away from all the activities. Dreamy.
How to Get Around in Manuel Antonio
Take the bus
The Quepos area has a bus system that’s cheap and efficient. Just bring some loose change with you, and you’re off!
Where to Eat in Manuel Antonio
The best seafood I had was at Marlin. I visited on the recommendation of a tour guide and am so glad that I did! Side note: the desserts are bomb as well. Richest, most chocolatey brownie sundae a gal could’ve asked for.
Get the plantain tower. Thank me later.
El Chante del Parque
This place is right outside of Manuel Antonio National Park. I know, I know. Here’s the thing. After your visit, you may just be dead tired and in need of sustenance. Who knows how far you’ll feel like walking? If all you want is reasonably priced, good Costa Rican cuisine within arm’s reach, here’s your answer.
Not the restaurant that houses an entire airplane but… the bakery next to it. No offense to El Avion, I dig the style. But I see so many visitors flock to the restaurant (it’s eye-catching, I get it) and miss out on the bakery’s sweet, sweet goodness. I had the best guava pie of my life. Give it a whirl.
Day 1 of 3 Days in Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio National Park
Why come to Manuel Antonio National Park if you’re not going to visit its namesake? Manuel Antonio National Park is such a delight. You’re guaranteed to spot animals during your time there, and can end your trail hike with a relaxing time on the beach. It’s easy to navigate and wheelchair accessible!
I’ve written a guide covering the ins and outs of visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. Check it out before you go!
Sunset Sailing/Snorkeling Tour
I’ll recommend one company in particular, because it basically combines three activities in one; sunset sailing, whale and dolphin watching and snorkeling. Coasting along the water as the sun sets is a must-do in my opinion. It’s such a beautiful scene to take in.
And despite how goddam fast dolphins move, I actually got a nice picture of one!
The snorkeling near the coast is very enjoyable too. It’s a small area, so if other boats are out it can get a bit crowded. But you’ll see some very beautiful fish, coral and anemones.
Day 2 of 3 Days in Manuel Antonio
Day 2 is for exploring places outside of Manuel Antonio. One option is less involved, one is… a lot. But worth it.
The Damas Island Estuary is about a 20-30 minute drive from Manuel Antonio, making it an ideal day trip or even half-day trip. Typical tours take you through the area on a riverboat so you can see the wildlife up close and personal. Expect to see animals like monkeys, sloths, anteaters, birds and crocodiles.
Corcovado National Park
Getting to Corcovado from Manuel Antonio is a task. It’s a whole day’s journey, and a lot of your time will be spent getting there and back.
So why bother? What makes Corcovado National Park so special?
Friends, it’s one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Animals are abound. It’s amazing. Because you can only access the park by land or boat, few visitors attempt to reach it. Which is good, because the park is heavily protected. Only a certain number of visitor passes are issued every day to keep the place pristine.
Compared to Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado has a much more untouched vibe. While Manuel Antonio has walkways built through the park, at best, Corcovado has planks covering streams. We had to cross through shallow parts of a river (twice) to get through the trail. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it is magical.
I booked my tour through Bahia Adventuras, and highly recommend them! The drive to Uvita takes about an hour (they will arrange transportation if you don’t have a car). Then it’s 1.5 hours by boat to the park, where you may spot whales or dolphins. From there, it’s a day of nature-filled bliss that I’ll never forget. 10/10 would get soaked climbing through a river again.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Manuel Antonio
Spend a day on the beach
Here’s some time for you to recover from your adventures and just take in your environment. Feel free to do whatever beach activities suit you; parasailing, surfing, taking a dip or just sitting back and relaxing
Know Before You Go
Be sure to tip your guides! They undergo an immense amount of training to stay up-to-date and it’s no small feat.
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