Top 10 Manuel Antonio Travel Tips
So… you’ve decided to visit Manuel Antonio! You’ve got your flights to Costa Rica. You’ve got the time off work. You’ve got your vacation rental home or condo reserved. Now its time to find out more about Manuel Antonio, so you can come prepared and make the most of your vacation. But who to turn to for information about the local area? Fodor’s? Frommers? Not recommended–their travel writers spend at best a couple of days in Manuel Antonio before moving on to document the next location.
The best way to get local insight is from a local.
That’s where I come in! I’ve lived in Manuel Antonio for over 10 years, visited every beach, experienced every tour, tasted every restaurant, been to every spa, hiked every hike, and discovered most of the hidden secrets of this beautiful town. I’ve done it in the rain and in the sunshine, with friends and family, by foot and by car, morning, noon and night. And I’d like to share a bit of that knowledge with you!
So here are the Top 10 Manuel Antonio Travel Tips, as opined by a (mostly humble) local:
#10 – When is the best time of year to visit Manuel Antonio?
February through April are the sunniest months–but also the hottest, busiest and most expensive. September through November are the rainiest months (though not as rainy as most people think)–and are also the coolest, least busy and least expensive months.
January is right after the rainy season–which means high season, but also relatively cool and green. May is right after the high season, and starts to cool off with light rains. June, July and August are nice, relatively cool, with a mini-peak of tourism in July.
In the end–it depends on your goals! You can get good deals on vacation rentals in Manuel Antonio in the off months of May, September, October and November. The weather is probably the ‘best’ in sit-me-down-on-the-beach terms in January. In general, the shoulder season months provide the best balance between value, weather and amount of tourism: May to mid June, and mid August to mid September.
#9 – What is the best way to get to Manuel Antonio?
There are two ways to get to Manuel Antonio: by land, and by air:
Land – The drive from Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose to Manuel Antonio is approximately 3 hours. This can be done either via renting a car (our clients get a 10% discount at Adobe here) or via private transportation, organized through your concierge. Along the way are a couple of nice stops: 1hr 15 min – Soda La Guacima (local food) & Tarcoles Bridge (crocodiles!), 1hr 30 min – Villas Caletas (beautiful sunsets from the amphitheater), 1 hr 45 min – Los Suenos Marina & Golf Resort (lunch at the Hook Up!), 2 hrs – Jaco (lively strip, good lunch options).
Air – There are 2 local airlines that have several daily flights from San Jose to Quepos: Sansa & Nature Air. Both fly out of a terminal right next to the Juan Santamaria international airport. The flight is approximately $85 one-way, and takes 25 minutes. From Quepos, a taxi ride to Manuel Antonio takes about 10 minutes, and costs about $4-5 per person.
#8 – Where to stay in Manuel Antonio?
Hotels – There are a number of great hotels in Manuel Antonio–the Parador, Si Como No, Mariposa, Makanda, Shana Hotel, Gaia, etc. For couples traveling, hotels can be a more economical and easier option
Vacation Rentals – Manuel Antonio is a boutique destination, and tends to cater more towards botique hotels and vacation rentals than large resorts. There is a great selection of ocean-view rental villas, homes and condos throughout town, and for groups of 4 or more, they not only provide more space and privacy–but are also more economical.
Yes–but WHERE in Manuel Antonio?
Manuel Antonio is spread out over 4.2 miles of rainforested hills. There’s not really much of a town center, per se; the area around the soccer field has the highest population density. Also–the enclave of hotels, restaurants and shops down by the beach tends to be less inviting than the options ‘on the hill’. In general, the closer you get to the main beach (Playa Espadilla), the more expensive the hotel / vacation rental.
#7 – When is the best day to visit Manuel Antonio national park?
Not Mondays–it’s closed. Saturday and Sunday tend to be the busiest days–especially in the high season. Any other day is about the same as another! Try to get there early (ie 7:30am) to see more wildlife, and beat the crowds…
#6 – What are the best tour operators in Manuel Antonio?
The best tour operators depend on the tours. We highly recommend you speak with your concierge, who knows the inside and out of the tour industry here, and can best match your goals to the right tour–and operator.
#5 – Is Manuel Antonio a good destination for families with kids?
No–Manuel Antonio is an IDEAL destination for families with kids! (I live here with my family!) It’s one of the most beautiful beach destinations in Costa Rica, is packed with wildlife, and has more tours and activities than you could possibly do in a single trip. It’s also a safer destination than some other beach areas to the north (no names!)–both in terms of theft, and ocean safety.
So bring the family!
#4 – What should we do on our last day in Manuel Antonio?
Hot tip: Don’t pack too much into your last day! Go to the beach, have lunch out, hang out and enjoy the pool at your rental home! Watch sunset from the Barba Roja or Ronny’s Place! Go out for a nice dinner at Kapi Kapi, or for sunset tapas at the Gaia (4-6pm)!
#3 – Should we do the morning or afternoon tours in Manuel Antonio?
Tour times depend on the tour–but for many of the major tours there are often 3 departure times: 7:30am, 10:00am, and 2:00pm. I always recommend the morning tours, if possible–the earlier the better. There are 3 reasons for this: 1) It tends to rain more in the afternoons than in the mornings, 2) It’s cooler, and 3) You get in some great activity and still have the afternoon to chill out at the beach or relax at the villa!
#2 – What is the best way to stay healthy and safe in Manuel Antonio?
Drink lots of water. Wear sunscreen & a hat. Don’t walk around in the rainforest barefoot.
#1 – What activities should we NOT miss while in Manuel Antonio?
The absolute must-sees are the national park and Playa Espadilla (main public beach). Try to also get at least one ocean tour (catamaran, parasailing, jet skis, whale watching, sport fishing, etc.) and one mountain/rainforest tour (canopy tour, ATV tours, horseback riding, Vacation Buggy, waterfall rappelling, etc.). Lastly–one great tour that doesn’t fall into either category, but is something peaceful, beautiful and different: Try the mangrove tour–either by tour boat, or by kayak!
Whether or not you’re staying at one of our rental properties in Manuel Antonio, please feel free to drop me a line with any questions at Kent@ManuelAntonioRentalProperties.com!