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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Julia

Top 10 Things to Do in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is a favorite for Costa Ricans and those traveling internationally to Costa Rica for good reason. Although Manuel Antonio may be small in size, it more than makes up for the its size with its giant sized nature, wildlife and adventures.

Whether you dream of rainforests, breathtaking beaches, adrenaline-filled adventures, there is plenty for you to do in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

For my first visit to Costa Rica in 2016, I visited Playa Del Cocos near Liberia for our transformational retreat. I knew I would be back to Costa Rica to explore more of the beautiful country.

I continue to be in awe that I am spending almost three months in Costa Rica in 2021! I spent my first month at Dragonfly Hideaway in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. I spent three weeks at Casa Balbi in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I just finished two weeks in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica so I thought I would put together a list of Top Things to Do in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

My Top 10 Things to Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, includes breathtaking beaches, wildlife wonder, limitless adventures, and foodie favorites!

Pura Vida!

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Stays & Transportation

I arrived in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica on February 15, 2021 originally at another Airbnb. Due to some misalignment and miscommunication, I spent my first night in town at Teva. I found a long term Airbnb in Mountain Paradise via Airbnb arriving on February 16, 2021. Within a few days, I knew this stay and Airbnb would be perfect. I ended up extending my stay to create and scale a life and business I love.

While most travelers and tourists spend 4 days in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, I am taking a slower pace as a digital nomad and global traveler. I decided when I left Atlanta, GA the end of 2020, I wanted a slower pace of travel for safety and sanity.

I chose the Airbnb Mountain Paradise both for a solo stay with peace, serenity and views that are incredible in every way. Mountain Paradise is a tiny house 900 feet above sea level and within 10 minutes driving from Playa Matapalo and about 30 minutes from Manuel Antonio. Whether, you are coming for a short or long term stay, you will love it.

Diann, the owner and Jorge the manager go above and beyond in every way. You may find their information for the Airbnb via

I spent hours on the porch alone whether for my morning routine, workouts, and/or working,

All shots are my own on Canon EOSM100, Sony A330, and/or my iPhone 12 Mini.

For transportation, I arrived here via taxi from Manuel Antonio for ~$30. During my two week stay, I spent approximately $92 in transportation including coming here. With the steep road to go up, a 4x4 is recommended especially in wet season. I came during dry season and twice came up with a regular car.

In addition, I typically love to stay grounded 2-3 days, and then go for an adventure. Depending on your lifestyle, this may/may not be the best place for you to stay, I would recommend you align your adventures to minimize transportation costs. For example, in one day I went to Nauyaca Waterfalls Hike and Horseback Riding at Sunset at Playa Matapalo.

If you are more than happy staying home many days or exploring nearby on the property, I don't think having a rental here makes sense if you stay a week to a month at all. If you compare what I invested in transportation for 2 weeks, a rental would definitely cost you more for the same time frame.

If you are coming to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for a short stay, I recommend you check out my One Day in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica guide too!

Top 10 in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

You will find beaches, wildlife, foodie favorites, and adventures including Manuel Antonio National Park, surfing, abundant wildlife, and much more!

I am sharing what I experienced, and what logistically makes sense for what is close by. This is something I keep in mind always to save time and money whether you are traveling with a car and paying for gas, or with taxi's/Uber's like I am.

In putting together the Top 10 in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, I considered how I would experience the place knowing what I know now, and to make it easy and efficient!

1 Playa Espadilla

I learned about Playa Espadilla exploring maps of Manuel Antonio, I planned on visiting the beautiful beach with its closeness to Manuel Antonio National Park. It ended up being a perfect morning stop.

I took a bus from Quepos for 345 colones (about 50 cents) arriving in about 15 minutes. You may love coming for sunrise or sunset, or adding in an adventure like I did while at Playa Espadilla.

2 Surfing in Manuel Antonio

I love athletics, adventure, and water, so it is no surprise surfing started speaking to me back in 2016. If you didn't know on my first adventure with surfing in California, I ended up breaking my foot. Originally, I planned to surf in Costa Rica in 2016. With my foot healing when I came for our retreat, that didn't happen.

I knew I wanted to transform my prior experience with surfing. I prayed and practically took steps to make the vision a reality. The reality blew my prior experience and any expectations away. I ended up getting up on five solid waves during my Costa Rica Adventure surfing.

IG Reel

3 Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a must while in Manuel Antonio. Although the park is small compared to other national parks in Costa Rica, it is huge in views, wildlife, and beaches!

I loved the park so much I ended up going twice. It is easy to spend a half to a full day here.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

4 Views in and Around Manuel Antonio

Make sure you include seeing the view of the coast from various spots in Manuel Antonio. Great spots for views include within Manuel Antonio National Park on Mirador Sendrero, Avion Restaurant, and Emilio's Cafe!

Manuel Antonio National Park

Emilio's Cafe

IG Reel Costa Rica

5 Manuel Antonio Beach

Hands down one of the most beautiful and breathtaking beaches in the world. It is located in Manuel Antonio National Park. The beach is incredible with soft and near-white sand, shimmering and sparking warm water, and abundant wildlife at every turn.

I ended up going to the beach twice for great reason as you can see. The first time I went for about two hours, and the second time for about 4 hours. It is my favorite beach in and near the Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica area. I love the small and intimate size and shape of the beach as well.

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

6 Espadilla Sur

Another beach that is amazing is Espadilla Sur. It is adjacent to Espadilla beach, and located within Manuel Antonio National Park adding to its privacy and appeal. It is larger than Manuel Antonio beach.

I visited Espadilla Sur on my first visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, and spent maybe an hour between the water and working out.

Espadilla Sur

Espadilla Sur

Espadilla Sur

7 Horseback Riding at Sunset

An incredible way to experience a Costa Rican beach is by Horseback Riding at sunset. I ended up experiencing this at Playa Matapalo.

Horseback Riding in Costa Rica

Horseback Riding at Sunset in Costa Rica

8 Playa Matapalo

With it's black sand, blue water, and privacy, Playa Matapalo is definitely a beach you want to visit. I went both for a half-day, and for the horseback riding experience at sunset.

Playa Matapalo

Playa Matapalo, Costa Rica

9 Nauyaca Waterfalls

Within about 30 minutes from my stay, or an hour from Manuel Antonio area are the Nauyaca Waterfalls. If you love chasing waterfalls, adding Nauyaca to your list is a must! I ended up doing the 12km hike roundtrip when I visited Nauyaca Waterfalls!

10 Foodie Favorites in and near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

I love Costa Rican food and trying new places. Some of my favorites included Baldi's Fresh near Espadilla Beach, Emilio's Cafe, and El Avion!

Baldi's Fresh near Espadilla Beach

Emilio's Cafe

Emilio's is located between Manuel Antonio and Quepos.

It is great for views, juices, and Caribbean Ceviche!

Top 10: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica has limitless options for beaches, nature, and foodies!

You will love the beach and nature that surrounds you!

What activity here interests you to do for Top 10 Things to Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica?

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