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Manuel Antonio is the perfect place to experience the best activities and nature that Costa Rica has to offer. From epic wildlife sightings in the jungle to catamaran cruises and water sports on the ocean, Manuel Antonio packs it all in. Here are seven of the best Manuel Antonio tours to go on!
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Best Manuel Antonio Tours
1. Guided Tour through Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is the main attraction that draws people in. Inside Manuel Antonio park, you can see much of the wildlife that Costa Rica has including mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. It’s one of the best places in Costa Rica to see sloths!
Manuel Antonio National Park has well-maintained hiking trails and an absolutely stunning beach. While you are free to walk around the park on your own, I highly recommend taking a guided national park tour if you want to maximize your chances of seeing wildlife.
The first time I went to Costa Rica I was stubborn about paying for a guide and tried to walk around the national parks on my own. The truth is, I didn’t see much. When I paid for a guided tour the next time, I had a much better experience. I saw deer, sloths, monkeys, frogs, snakes, lizards, and more!
The guides have amazing eyes for spotting wildlife, plus they carry a telescope with them so you can see the animals up close. And they will help you take awesome pictures like this with your phone using the telescope!
Moreover, guides can provide you with lots of interesting information about the wildlife and Costa Rica in general. Guided tours through Manuel Antonio take about three hours and end at Playa Espadilla, where you are free to soak in paradise for as long as you like. It’s one of the best beaches in Manuel Antonio, so I recommend spending a few hours here!
The park costs $16 USD to enter on your own. It’s open every day of the week from 8 am -4 pm EXCEPT Monday! Many people don’t realize this and show up with only one day in Manuel Antonio that happens to be a Monday, only to be disappointed that they can’t visit the park. I may be speaking from personal experience…
While I do love Manuel Antonio National Park, the downfall is that the park is very busy, and only seems to be increasing in popularity each year. If you’re looking for a more authentic experience with fewer crowds, then check out the Rainmaker Park. Another great alternative is Corcovado National Park, which is further down the Pacific Coast.
Disclaimer: My participation in the Chocolate Tour and Jungle Night Tour Manuel Antonio was kindly sponsored. As always, all opinions are my own.
2. Chocolate Tour Manuel Antonio
If you love chocolate (and come on, who doesn’t) then the Chocolate Tour is a really fun way to spend a morning or afternoon in Manuel Antonio! The tour takes place in a lush private reserve just a 10-minute drive away from Manuel Antonio. At the property, they are growing cacao plants and other local fruits like coconuts and banana.
Once you arrive, the guide will give you a brief introduction to the cultural and biological background of cacao in the world and Costa Rica. Fo the rest of the tour, the guide walks you through the process of how chocolate is made. Each step is explained, from the very start with the Cacao plant to the delicious finished product.
What I loved about this tour was how engaging it was. Instead of just talking to you about the process, the guide showed us every step of the way from the collecting, fermenting, grinding and finally the making of chocolate. He got us participating in each step including some very delicious taste samples.
My favorite part of the tour had to be the final tasting after we had created the liquid chocolate. The guide had so many different toppings to let us try on each sample, which brought out the flavor of the chocolate even more. He has some suggestions on what to mix together, but it was also fun to create your own. I highly recommend the Greg special!
After the chocolate tasting, the guide gave us some information about coffee and its importance for Costa Rica’s economic and cultural development. He showed us how to make Café-Chorreado, the real Costarican practice of preparing coffee. Of course, delicious samples are included. With all the cacao and coffee, I was incredibly alert that day!
The guide also showed us the trapich in action, which is a sugar cane mill run by two cute oxen, Fast & Furious. We ground up some sugar cane to extract the juice and got to sample it. So sweet and delicious!
As a bonus, while we were walking through the gardens, we saw some amazing wildlife including the Jesus Christ Lizard and adorable squirrel monkeys.
The cost of the tour is $50 USD per person. It’s two and a half hours long including pick-up and drop off from your accommodation. You can book the tour online or by contacting them directly on What’s App at +506 8825 4148. You can also combine the chocolate tour with the jungle night tour which is what I did. It’s a great way to spend a day in Manuel Antonio!
3. Jungle Night Tour Manuel Antonio
Much of the wildlife in Costa Rica is nocturnal, which means you’ll have to go out at night if you want to see it all. On my most recent visit to Manuel Antonio, I did a guided night hike with Jungle Night Tour Manuel Antonio. It was a great experience and we saw a ton of wildlife! What I loved about the Manuel Antonio night tour is that unlike the national park, it took place inside a private reserve where there were only two small groups. It felt like we had the entire jungle to ourselves!
We had been on the chocolate tour run by the same company earlier that afternoon, so the driver kindly brought us to Quepos between tours so we could get something to eat while he picked up the rest of the guests. We arrived back at the reserve just after sunset and started the walk through the jungle. The tour started off great, as we immediately came across the red-eyed tree frog which was high on my list of things to see.
Although it was dry season when I went on this tour (January), it started to rain on our walk. At first I was annoyed about this, but the guide explained that it’s actually a positive thing because it draws a lot of the reptiles out. This is definitely true because we saw FOUR viper snakes that night!
Don’t worry, the guide will ensure you are a safe distance from them. Even in the rain, he was so quick to whip out the telescope and show us the snakes up close. Honestly, walking through the jungle at night in the rain was such a memorable and unique experience. It’s something I’ll never forget!
Throughout the rest of the tour, we saw many more snakes, reptiles, butterflies, and frogs. The guides are so knowledgeable and will teach you so much about Costa Rica’s amazing wildlife and ecosystems. It’s clear how passionate they are about what they do!
The cost of the tour is $50 USD per person. It’s 2 1/2 hours including pick-up and drop off from your accommodation. You can book the tour online or by contacting them directly on What’s App at +506 8825 4148.
4. Catamaran Cruise
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a sunny day in Manuel Antonio join a catamaran cruise. There are several catamaran companies catering to different wants, but for a fun party atmosphere book on a booze cruise.
I did this during my first visit to Costa Rica in 2015 and it was a blast. There are larger cruises catering up to 250 people, but I personally enjoyed the smaller boat we were which had less than a dozen people. I booked the cruise through Hostel Vista Serena which meant it was mainly people from my hostel. We had a blast and I’m still in touch with some of those people today!
Aside from drinking, the cruise takes you along the beautiful Pacific waters with views of the beaches of Manuel Antonio. We saw dolphins from outside the boat! They also make a stop for snorkeling where you can see colorful tropical fish, and if you’re lucky sea turtles.
5. White Water Rafting
Costa Rica is a world-class rafting destination and Manuel Antonio is no exception. There are two rivers nearby where you can go rafting. If it’s your first time, I recommend a day tour down the Savegre River which has class III and IV rapids. If you’re an experienced rafter, check out the Naranjo River which has the same class but faster rapids. More adrenaline!
6. Water Sports at Playa Biesanz
If you want to hit a beach that’s not inside the national park, check out Playa Biesanz. This gorgeous beach is tucked away between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. It’s the perfect place to relax and catch one of Costa Rica’s amazing sunsets.
Playa Biesanz is also a great place for water sports. At the beach you can rent paddleboards and kayaks, or a snorkel to explore the underwater world. Playa Biesanz is one of the best beaches in Manuel Antonio outside of the national park.
7. Mangrove Tour at Damas Islands
If you want to see wildlife in a more unique, tranquil setting then the national park then head over to Damas Island, also known as the Damas Mangrove. This area is abundant with Costa Rican wildlife including birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.
If you visit the Damas Mangrove you will need to travel through the area by boat or kayak. There are guided kayak tours that will take you through the winding streams and rivers through the mangroves, providing you with information about the wildlife in the area. The kayak tours last a few hours so they do require a strong fitness level. As an alternative, there are also mangrove boat tours that go through the Damas Mangroves.
Other Manuel Antonio Day Tours
Manuel Antonio has most of the other common Costa Rica activities including zip-lining, surfing, horseback riding, sport fishing, whale watching, and diving. If you are planning to travel around the country, I may save those activities for other parts depending on where you are going.
The best place to go zip-lining in Costa Rica is through the cloud forests of Monteverde. It’s also a great place for horseback riding with the gorgeous hills of Costa Rica as the backdrop. For the best surf, check out the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast. For whale watching, check out Uvita. And last but not least, for the best diving in Costa Rica, don’t miss Cano Island near Uvita. That said, if you are only staying in the Manuel Antonio area and want to try these activities, I’m sure they won’t disappoint.
Hostels & Hotels in Manuel Antonio
The majority of Manuel Antonio accommodations are on the same road, which goes up a big hill and then back down again towards the park. For the best views, you’ll want to stay around the middle at the highest point where you can see the ocean on one side and the lush jungle on the other.
Budget: Selina Manuel Antonio. Selina is my favorite chain of hostels throughout Costa Rica, and the location in Manuel Antonio is one of the best. With three outdoor pools, FREE yoga classes, and a rooftop terrace with views of the jungle, this place has it all.
For a more local, smaller hostel experience, check out Hostel Vista Serena. I stayed here during my first visit to Costa Rica in 2015 and fell in love with the view from the hammocks that overlook the jungle and ocean.
Mid-range: Teva Jungle Hostel & Hotel. Although this place does have dorm rooms, it’s really more of a hotel. I spent a night here and the entire facility is sparkling clean. They also have a nice pool and restaurant.
Luxury: Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge. With monkeys and iguanas roaming right around the property, you won’t even need to visit the national park. This beautiful resort has jungle sunset views and is 5-minutes away from the beach.
Although Manuel Antonio is one of the most popular places to visit in Costa Rica, there’s a reason for it. I’ve been here three times, which speaks volumes. It’s hard not to fall in love with the beauty of Manuel Antonio.
Traveling around Costa Rica? Don’t miss these posts!
- Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Costa Rica
- 10 Adventurous Things to do in La Fortuna
- The Best Things to do in Monteverde
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