We love Manuel Antonio – it was the first place we visited in Costa Rica, and it’s still our favorite. With the combination of lush jungle and tropical beaches, it’s just magical and it has become our second home. After getting to know this place for a year, we have put together a guide of when to visit, how to get around, where to stay, eat, drink and even hang your hammock for a sunset sesh.
WHEN TO VISIT
Dry Season (December – April)
Dry Season, or otherwise called “high season” or “summer”here, is December-April. It’s sunny almost everyday so this is when the area receives the most tourism. We recommend visiting during these months to get the most out of your experience and to be able to enjoy the outdoors everyday. The downsize of visiting during these months is that prices will be increased (flights, hotels, car rentals, etc.) and of course there will be more tourists.
Wet Season (May–November)
Wet Season, also known as “rainy season” or “winter,” runs May-November. Flight and hotel prices are definitely lower during these months, but it is not ideal to visit during these months because of the rain, especially September-November as these are the wettest months. There are still beautiful and sunny days during wet season, but there are also very bad storms in the afternoon and sometimes rain for days straight.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Rent a car
We recommend renting a 4x4 car because you will be able to see so much more of what Costa Rica off the main roads has to offer.
There are busses that can get you almost anywhere in Costa Rica, but they require a lot more travel time (and patience) than driving your own car. The bus runs from Manuel Antonio beach to Quepos from 5:45am-9:30pm everyday. The fare one way is 335 colones which converts to about .55 cents USD.
Taxis are another option for getting around Manuel Antonio, though they are a bit more expensive than the bus. The taxis are red cars with a yellow logo on each side. The fare for taxis can be anywhere around 500-3,00o colones depending on how far you are going.
There are also collectivos, a shared taxi, kind of like Uber or Lyft. The driver charges a flat fee (usually about $1 or 500-1000 colones per person) to take passengers from one end of town to the other.
WHERE TO STAY
AirBnb & Boutique Hotels
$55-75 per night
Casa Linda is an affordable, comfortable place to stay with panoramic views of the water and the jungle. Casa Linda is in the perfect location in the heart of MA, just a 3 minute drive or 5 minute bus ride down to the beach. They have a beautiful tropical garden in the shared patio where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or watch the epic sunsets in the evening.
$60-100 per night
La Colina is set on the hill of Manuel Antonio surrounded by the jungle and views of the Pacific coast. It is about 3km from the main beach and Manuel Antonio National Park. There is many room options such a basic one bed or rooms with a private ocean view balcony with a full kitchenette. The hotel has a beautiful two level lighted pool area with an excellent steakhouse restaurant attached. A traditional Costa Rican breakfast is included in your stay. Micheal, the owner, will be sure to make your stay the best and most comfortable possible.
$200-400 per night
Hotel La Mariposa is an upscale hotel with a beautiful view of the national park. La Mariposa has a Spanish-Mediterranean design with amazing jungle and gardens not only around it but through out it. The infinity pool overlooking the ocean is one of our favorite views in Manuel Antonio.
$200-500 per night
If you are coming to Costa Rica with a roomy budget, Tulemar is the right spot for you. They have plenty of luxury vacation bungalows and villas to choose from that are all nestled on the jungle hillside of Manuel Antonio with breathtaking views of the ocean. It is very private and secluded, and they even have their own beach, four private pools, and an exclusive sloth walk to guests.
Selina Manuel Antonio
$12-$50 per night
Selina has tons of different options depending on the type of room you are looking for. They have large dorm style rooms if you are traveling on a budget, and they also have more luxury private rooms. Selina is a great place to meet fellow travelers, go on group tours, or just relax by the pool. There is always something going on at Selina whether it be yoga classes, wine and painting night, a pool party, dance lessons, live music, or a DJ. There is a bus stop and lots of taxis parked out front for easy transportation. It is just a 2 minute bus ride to the main beach. *Note: this is definitely the party hostel in town. During high season, Friday and Saturday are very rowdy, crowded, and loud. It is full of travelers as well as many locals.
Hostel Plinio looks like a sort of tree house from the road. They have a beautiful tropical pool and the 800 club which is a booze and taco bar where everything is 800 colones (about $1.30 USD) – the cheapest food and beer you can find in town. There is a bus stop just a few meters from the entrance of Plinio right in front of Bambu Jam restaurant. It is about a 2-3 minute ride into Quepos and about 6-8 minute ride to the main beach.
WHERE TO EAT
$6-$12 lunch or dinner
Sanchos is one of our favorite spots in Manuel Antonio to grab a drink, meet up with friends, or celebrate Taco Tuesday. You’ll for sure meet the local crew here. The blackberry margaritas are totally refreshing and they are known for their fish tacos, but our favorite is the Taco Mea – literally like a cheesy gordito crunch from Taco Bell but WAY better.
$3 coffee and smoothies, $8-$15 breakfast, lunch, dinner
Café Milagro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but breakfast is our favorite. Their coffee is the best in town, you can buy it in bulk at their gift shop or just pop in for a brew to-go. The staff is always super friendly, and the open courtyard has a lovely ambiance. Try the El Tico with a fresh fruit smoothie for breakfast or the Caribbean Jerk Chicken for dinner.
$2-$5 baked goods, $8-15 breakfast, lunch, dinner
You can’t beat the view at Emilio’s Café, sitting on a cliff overlooking the jungle and ocean, plus the food is always delicious. You must get dessert here – just try browsing their pastry counter without grabbing a couple of goodies.
Bar Jolly Roger
Hit up Jolly Roger for some the best hot wings in Costa Rica and fun live music. You can never go wrong with the juicy Hot Honey Garlic Wings. Our favorite local reggae/ hip hop band called The Classy Pirates play every Friday night 7-10pm – they’re always a good time!
$15 whole pizza, $8-15 entrees
La Colina Steak House is a bar/ restaurant centered around a poolside patio. You can find us here almost every Wednesday night for live music, free chiliguaro shots and good company. Their wood fired pizza is our favorite in town and probably top 5 favorite pizza ever.
$6 breakfast, salads, casado, tacos, bowls
Love Shack is a cozy but bright spot in Quepos. They have healthy, hearty options on their menu like quinoa bowls, poke bowls, rice bowls, ahi tuna salad, tacos, etc. Their ingredients are fresh and full of nutrients, so it has quickly become one of our favorite spots for a quick healthy bite.
$8-10 appetizers, $12-20 entrees
Runaways is located on Marina Pez Vela where you can catch the sunset while watching the yachts coming in and leaving the marina. The best time to visit Runaways is for happy hour for 2x1 drinks. Get the poke bowl or the seared tuna salad, both are equally delicious!
Sol Frozen Yogurt
$3-6 gelato, smoothies, frozen yogurt and drinks
This is the perfect treat to cool off after a hot day at the beach! All of their flavors and drinks are delicious.
WHERE TO DRINK
If you are unfamiliar with chiliguaro, you need to get familiar. The base of the chiliguaro shot is Cacique which is known as the Costa Rican liqueur made from sugar cane. Cacique tastes similar to a clear rum. To make chiliguaro, Cacique is mixed with tomato juice, limes, chili, and salt. They are served pretty much anywhere you visit in Costa Rica – try one!
Selina Hostel is the party in Manuel Antonio. There is something going on every night of the week at Selina. On the weekends there is usually a DJ and you will find a mix of locals and travelers dancing to Reggaeton and hip hop music.
Bar Jolly Roger
We refer to Jolly Roger as the pre-game to Selina. Enjoy live music almost every night of the week. There are pool tables, giant Jenga, and even a casino, so there’ss something for everyone to get into.
Karma, a popular gay club (straight friendly), usually has a DJ playing, video screens, outdoor patio, and good vibes.
MoGamBo Bar at Raphael's Terrazas is another popular LGBT and straight friendly bar and restaurant. It is especially well-known for it's amazing view and being a fun spot at night with weekly karaoke, games, and open mic nights, live music, dancing, etc.).
WHAT TO DO
The local Farmers Market takes place Friday night and Saturday morning in Quepos. Cool off with pipa fria (fresh coconut water) as you wander through the stands of tropical Costa Rican produce, many of which you’ve probably never seen before, like mangosteen, maracuya, guanabana, cas, water apple, carambola (star fruit).
Manuel Antonio is the perfect beach to learn how to surf because the waves aren’t too big and they’re consistent. For surf lessons in MA, we recommend Manuel Antonio Surf School to learn from experienced locals.
You can find paddle boards to rent along the main stretch from Playa Espadilla Sur to Playitas. We recommend Playa Biesanz for paddle boarding because the water in this cove is calm and clear.
Get your jet skis from the Jet Ski Boys at Playa Biesanz. The staff is awesome and provide you with the funnest and safest experience. You will have a blast zooming around the ocean and taking in the epic views of the beach and jungle from the water.
We recommend Parque Nahomi (at the marina in Quepos) or Playa Biesanz. Either way, the views are incredible.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is open Tuesday-Sunday 7am-4pm. We always recommend taking a guided tour for the opportunity to see way more wildlife and the tour guides are super knowledgeable. Plan to go early to see beat the crowds and heat/rain. You will also be more likely to see more wildlife in the earlier hours. Please DO NOT feed the animals!
If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure through the jungle jumping off waterfalls and swimming in natural pools, talk to the guys at Paddle 9 and tell them the Sisters That Stray sent you!
Take a catamaran tour with Sunset Sails Tours and have a magical time on a the water with a fun, welcoming crew! You will be able to see dolphins swim along side the boat with you, snorkel with fish, and watch the most epic sunset of your life from the water.
WHERE TO BEACH IT
Playa Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio Beach can only be accessed through the Manuel Antonio National Park which costs about $16 to enter. If you would like to just get to the beach, skip paying for a tour guide inside the park and head straight to the beach which is just a short walk from the entrance.
Playa Espadilla Sur
Playa Espadillla Sur is the main beach in Manuel Antonio where you will find all kind of rentals and activities from surf boards, paddle boards, jet skis, parasailing, massages on the beach, chairs and umbrellas. This is definitely the most crowded of the beaches.
This is the surfer’s favorite beach in Manuel Antonio. The biggest waves can be found here, but be careful if you’re not an experienced surfer because there are many rocks and rip currents. We love to walk down to Playitas, hang our hammock in the shady jungle and watch the surfers, play soccer, or just relax with friends.
Playa Biesanz is down the road that La Mariposa is located on, the street that’s across from Cafe Milagro. You will drive all the way down this road until you see the parking for Biesanz (street parking). It can get full quickly on a nice day, so go early and bring a few colones to pay for parking. It is an easy hike through the jungle to arrive at Biesanz, a beautiful cove perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, or jet skiing.
Playa La Macha
The trail to Macha can be found off the “Old Road to Quepos”– if you don’t know where this road is, ask just a local and they will point you in the right direction. It is a hike down to find Macha, but well worth it. It a beautiful, quiet beach with tide pools and great for swimming and getting away from the crowds at the other beaches.