Manuel Antonio National Park – What You Need to Know!

As Florida natives and beach lovers, we are always in search of beautiful beaches. So, when we heard that some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica are in Manuel Antonio National Park, we knew it had to be on our Costa Rican itinerary! Here are some things you need to know before you go!

Manuel Antonio Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

What You Can and Cannot Take In With You

They are very strict about what they allow in the park and will check your bags for food when you enter. Be sure to check the latest rules on the official website. The basic idea is that they don’t allow anything with disposable packing (including disposable water bottles). If the wrapper is something you will throw away, it can’t enter the park. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice concessions area. They sell lunch stuff, drinks, and gelato! It’s located near the beaches which made it a convenient spot for a snack and lunch.

Absolutely no drones are allowed in the park, even if you don’t plan to use them. We saw one poor guy have to leave and go back to his hotel with his. Leave it back at your hotel or rental house.

Tickets for Manuel Antonio National Park

At least for now, you have to buy a ticket in advance online and pick an entry time. We definitely recommend going earlier in the day in order to avoid potential crowds. Although, we never found it to feel crowded. Tickets are $18.08 for ages 12 and up and $5.65 for ages 2-11.

How to Get There and Parking

If you are driving to the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park, you will start to see “parking attendants” urging you to park kilometers away from the actual park entrance. They may even look very official. Just keep driving until you get to the actual entrance to the park. The gates are the clue that you have arrived, and there are parking areas nearby. Parking right by the entrance is between $6 and $7.

If you are fortunate enough to stay on or near Espadilla Beach, it’s a short walk from there to the park entrance. We stayed at the Buena Vista Beach Villas, and we definitely recommend them. Being able to walk to the park will keep you from having to deal with the parking hagglers. You will however still pass a number of people trying to sell you their services as a guide.

Expect to be approached all the way up until the entrance asking if you need a guide. We did not hire a guide as we had already seen a lot of animals, and we didn’t want to be tied to the guide’s time. We didn’t see as many animals in the park as a result though. If you want a guide, we would recommend booking one in advance as there seems to be a wide range of professionalism there.

Tips for Enjoying Your Day at Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. Remember that it can not be a disposable one.
  • Bring a dry change of clothes to avoid making the hike out in your wet clothes. There is a nice changing area right next to Manuel Antonio Beach. We recommend bringing a dry bag to keep your dry clothes dry! There is a high likelihood of getting caught in some rain at some point in the day.
  • If you want to enjoy the main beach with no crowd, plan to arrive right as the gates open and go straight there. It will fill up as the day goes.
  • Make sure to take the trail around the point (just past Manuel Antonio Beach) for the best chance of seeing a family of monkeys up close. Be aware that the monkeys are highly likely to attempt to rummage through bags left on the beaches. Be sure to secure your items or take them in the water with you.
  • Keep your eyes open for all of the wildlife! From cool crabs to sloths to toucans to monkeys, you are likely to see a wide variety here!
  • The beaches (and animals) are definitely worth the effort to visit. Manuel Antonio Beach is the best combination of scenic and calm for swimming, but there are several beaches in the park if you want to avoid the crowds.

Other Places You Might Enjoy

If this beach and park look appealing, you should also check out our posts on visiting St. John, USVI.

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