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Your 4-Day Guide To Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Posted by Emily Cummings on 3/12/18 1:02 PM

ILP Central America

Headed to Costa Rica? If you’re ready for jungle adventures, SLOTHS and some of the prettiest beaches around, here’s what you need to know before you travel to Manuel Antonio. 

Costa Rica doesn’t make it easy when you are trying to plan things to do … there are so many incredible sites to see, rainforests to explore and waterfalls to dive into it's hard to choose how to spend your time. Luckily, you can cross off a ton on your “to do list” just outside of the tiny city of Quepos.

Do more than just visit Costa Rica 
Get more out of your trip with this Central America Destination Guide

As an ILP volunteer, you’ll get vacation time to really explore Costa Rica — and we think Manuel Antonio makes for a perfect 4-day trip. Here's your itinerary:  

  • Tell Me All About Manuel Antonio 
  • What To Do There (+Costs) 
  • How To Get There (+Costs)

Tell Me All About Manuel Antonio 

Manuel Antonio is a gorgeous national park in the south of Costa Rica, outside of the city of Quepos. This dense, adventure-packed rainforest hugs the Pacific Coast, so you’ve got green jungles plus turquoise beaches. Perfect. Come here for a few days filled with zip line tours, waterfall hikes, rappelling, sloths, monkeys, snorkeling, mangrove tours, snorkeling and more — there is so much to do here. 

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What To Do There (+Costs) 

Like we mentioned before, there are so many things to do in this part of Costa Rica. Once you get to Quepos, pretty much every single hotel and newsstand will have shelves and shelves of pamphlets advertising tours for you to book and activities to check out.

We’ve mentioned a few here to help you out. These are not recommendations, just ways to help you know what's available and how much it could costAgain, once you arrive, you’ll see tons of agencies so you can shop around and find the company that seems like a good fit. 

Explore The National Park Itself

You have got to spend at least one day in the Manuel Antonio rain forest; it’s a national park that is one of the most visited in the entire country. The park is full of hiking trails, tons of animals, and even has a few waterfalls and beaches hidden inside.

The park is open daily from 7:00 AM to 4:00 so plan accordingly. 

The entrance fee is $16 USD — you can hire a guide for $20 USD which is recommended if you would like to see animals other than the white-faced monkeys while you hike! The monkeys are easy to spot, but other animals (like lizards, geckos and the elusive 2-or 3-toed sloth are very hard to see if you’re not an expert). Your guide will bring a scope along to make it easier to spot these animals. 

Plan on the tour lasting around 2 hours, and ending with a walk along the beach. 

There also a $40 fee option if you'd like a private guide with just you or your ILP group. 

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Zip lining and Rappelling

There are tons and tons of tours, but just to give you an idea of what a tour is like (and the prices) here are a few: 

El Santuario Zip lining Tours has the longest zip line in Central America; plus there are zip lines that run parallel to each other, so you can race with someone in your ILP group.

For an idea on price, this tour is $75 USD per person, 5.5 hours long, and includes 13 zip lines to ride. Tours begin at 7:30, 10:30 and 1:30. Head’s up: it’s a lot cooler in the morning so the earlier tour might be good (the jungle really  heats up). Lunch and transportation is included. 

ADR Adventure Park takes you through to the San Antonio de Damas park  (30 minutes from Manual Antonio) so you can swing on their Tarzan swing, take a zip line through the waterfall, and complete some canyoning. This tour is $130  USD for 7 hours, lunch and transportation is included. They have tours that start in 6:45 in the morning, one at 8:30 and another at 10:30. 

Xtreme Tours offers waterfall rappelling, a free fall into the swimming pool off a waterfall, upside down rappels and a challenge bridge. Lunch and transportation will be included. It’s $85 USD but you can get $5 off if you have a group of six. It’s 5.5 hours long, with tours starting at 7:30 and 12:30. 

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Manual Antonio Beach 

The most famous beach in the area is the Manual Antonio Beach, found inside the national park. If you're going for the day, you can block out some time to visit the beach while you're still inside the park so you don't have to pay the entrance fee ($16) on two different days just to access the beach.  The National Park closes at 4:00 PM, so you may want to get in your park exploring in early, then head to the beach before the park closes. 

It's a 25-30 minute hike from the park entrance to get to the beach, but it's well worth it. You'll find glittering waves and a gorgeous stretch of sand. Just a couple of tips: Visitors mention not wanting to visit the beach with a guide since they will limit your time on the beach. Also, there are loads of monkeys and raccoons that will try to take you snacks, so make sure they are heavily guarded! Oh, and keep your eyes peeled on your trek to the beach; you can often find a few favorite animals like monkeys, parrots, and the occasional sloth. 

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Others In Quepos

However, if you're too busy having jungle adventures inside Manual Antonio, there are a couple beaches in Quepos you can explore: 

One that’s worth checking out is Biesanz Beach. It’s on the road to Punta Quepos near the Parador Resort. To get to the beach, you’ll walk through the forest for about five minutes (just look for the little gate on the side of the road, at the bottom of the hill). 

From Quepos, there’s a bus that runs to Biesanz Beach (for about $0.50). Look for the bus with “Biesanz Beach” in the front windshield. 

On most of the beaches you’ll find tours —  deep sea fishing excursions, snorkeling gear to rent, etc. These gals lucked out and found vendors selling floats for around $1.50. Score. 

We told you there was a lot to do! 

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How To Get There (+Costs)

You’ve got a few options, especially if you’re starting from San Jose.

By Bus

It’s a 3.5 hour bus ride and costs around $8. (Pro tip: Taking a “directo” bus means fewer stops, so you’ll get there faster than if you took a “collectivo” bus). The bus goes from the San Jose Tracopa Terminal to the main station in Quepos; — then you can easily get a connecting bus to the National Park. That Manuel Antonio-Quepos connecting bus costs about $0.60 and runs all day long. 

San José Tracopa Terminal: Buses leave for Manuel Antonio (Quepos) from San Jose at 6:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:15 PM  Monday - Sunday. 
{You can click that blue Terminal heading to get more info.} 

We have more information on buses and bus schedules in Costa Rica, here. You'll get pretty familiar with traveling by bus in Costa Rica if you spend a few weeks here and don't want to spend money on airfare. 

By Plane

You can also take a short flight from San Jose to Quepos: a 25 minute plane ride gets you there for around $122 on natureair. 

Once you’re in Quepos, you can easily get a city bus to the National Park or to the beaches; There are also loads of taxis to take you around. Just know that the official taxi are bright red and always have a yellow placard on the side — there are lots of pirate taxis around that try to scam tourists. Expect to pay around $6-$7 to get between the Quepos and the national park, or the beach.

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Ready for more Costa Rica?

We thought so — International Language Programs has years of experience sending college-aged volunteers abroad to teach English and make a difference ... and a semester in Costa Rica is quite the adventure. 

Discover Costa Rica


Topics: Central America


We are ILP, a Utah based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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