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Full Guide To Visiting Manuel Antonio Park (Costa Rica). Tips And Recommendations

Along with Drake Bay and the Corcovado area, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Its flora and fauna are otherworldly, and here you’ll also find some of the country’s best beaches.

However, there are a few things you should know before you go. But don’t worry! Here you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions, along with other tips to seize your day at Manuel Antonio.

Best time to visit Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica trip planner

Get there early! Doors open at 7:00, and I highly recommend you arrive by then. Bear in mind that it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica, so it can get very crowded. The earlier you get there, the more you’ll get to enjoy the park before the crowds arrive. And you’ll even get the chance to have some beaches to your own (keep reading, I’ll tell you more about it further on!).

What to pack for Manuel Antonio

Regarding clothing, you can dress as you like. My suggestion is you wear comfy clothes and shoes. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, too! It’s also important to note that you’ll be exposing your skin to the sun for several hours, so make sure to bring some sunscreen and apply it regularly throughout the day.

Needless to say – you should definitely bring your camera to capture fantastic shots of the various animal species you’ll see along the way.

Finally, watch out for the Capuchin monkeys that live in the park! They’ll be on the lookout for the best moment to “steal” your sunglasses and other belongings. So don’t get distracted around them!

Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica
Capuchin monkey drinking a visitor’s orange juice

Can I bring my own food?

Yes! And you should definitely bring something from home, as there are no food facilities inside the park. But careful! You need to keep a few things in mind.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about Costa Rica is their active engagement in preserving nature and promoting responsible tourism. That’s why it’s strictly forbidden to access the park with any kind of plastic packaging. So remember to bring some water in a non-plastic bottle! You’ll have to go through a security check before entering Manuel Antonio, and you’ll be asked to throw away any items that don’t comply with the rules.

As for the food allowed inside the park, there are also some strict regulations about it. You can only bring sandwiches – which, of course, can’t be wrapped in plastic foil – and fruit.

Visiting Manuel Antonio on a guided or self-guided tour?

Guided tours are available at the vast majority of national parks in Costa Rica. I do recommend them in some cases, especially for night walks. But as far as Manuel Antonio is concerned, I’d say that a self-guided tour is more than enough, especially taking into account the fact that guided tours cost between $55-75 per person. Their selling point is that you won’t miss any species. But, in my experience, you can see tons of animals when walking around the park on your own. So up to you to decide!

Sloth in Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica
Sloth on top of a tree in Manuel Antonio Park

Recommended itinerary

Don’t follow any itinerary! Just lose your way in the paths. But here’s an insider tip – go straight to Playas Gemelas as you enter the park. Playa Espadilla is the largest and most popular beach in Manuel Antonio. But I recommend you walk past it and head to Playas Gemelas directly. While smaller, this beach will be yours to enjoy in the early morning with no crowds.

Playa Gemela Beach Manuel Antonio
We had Playas Gemelas to ourselves in the early morning

I hope I answered all your questions about visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. Now you can just sit back, relax and enjoy your day! And remember – I’m here if you need help figuring out your Costa Rica trip logistics.

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