I just may go out on a limb and say that MANEUL ANTONIO is the BEST location in Costa Rica to take your family! Is it my FAVORITE place to visit in the entire country? One of them, for sure. But what makes Manuel Antonio so great is it’s a ONE STOP SHOP kind of destination. The Manuel Antonio National Park is here, and it is home to 4 species of monkey, 2 species of sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, toucans, and thousands of other amazing forms of wildlife. They have a beautiful preserved home in the national park, and a trip here will ENSURE you will see all the amazing rainforest creatures you travel to Costa Rica to experience (and more!). Not only does it have the national park, it has gorgeous beaches, thrilling waterfalls nearby, and no shortage of adventurous activities like ziplining! Manuel Antonio is the kind of place you could stay 3 nights and fall in love with, or settle in for a month! Now let’s break it down so you can get planning your great adventure!
When to go
Seeing as though this is a jungle beach area, you should expect to have some rain no matter when you decide to visit. The driest months are December through May, and the heaviest rains are September and October. Personally, I think May and/ or November are both incredible times to visit. You may experience rainforest thunderstorms at night, with low chance of ALL DAY rain, and it is a bit less expensive since it isn’t the height of the tourist months.
How to get there
Manuel Antonio is located about 2 hours from San Jose airport. Personally, we love driving in Costa Rica. It lends us the freedom to make the stops we find interesting, and the roads to and from Manuel Antonio are all paved and very well maintained. No matter what time of year, you shouldn’t run into any problems (and if you do, they have an established infrastructure and problems get remedied quickly). We typically fly in to San Jose, and since we come from Los Angeles, we take the red eye. After we land and pick up our car we hit up the Walmart in San Jose for some cafe breakfast and incidentals, like car snacks, drinks, and coffee. https://goo.gl/maps/gwfCoYVgSmUM1DGn6
CAR RENTAL: If you do rent a car, the insurances can get confusing. Just remember that 3rd party liability is not an OPTION- it’s a requirement. So, that will be an additional charge beyond what you may be quoted when you book your car (usually around $11/day). At check out, they always ask if you’d like to add on “collision protection” and that IS optional. Check with your car insurance and/or credit card you book the car with. Most times, there will be enough coverage protection with those that you will not need to purchase any additional. But, that is fully your preference. Additional collision protection and theft and damage will run you around an additional $29 a day (oftentimes also including liability, so make sure you aren’t paying for it twice!).
BUS: If driving is NOT your jam, there are many affordable and comfortable shuttle options! You can rent private transfers if you prefer to travel with just your party, or you can really cut costs and catch a shuttle to Manuel Antonio.
How to get around
Once you arrive to Manuel Antonio, you could very easily get around without a rented vehicle. There is a bus that makes frequent stops all up and down the “strip”, going from the National Park and the beach at sea level, traveling all the way up the hill and into Quepos. Even if you do rent a car, I recommend parking it somewhere safe (at your hotel or rental) and taking public transit and/ or walking while you are in Manuel Antonio!
Where to stay
I dedicated an entire post to my recommendations on WHERE TO STAY IN MANUEL ANTONIO.
What to do
Again, way too much to recommend! Check out my post below, and enjoy! PURA VIDA!