Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most popular beach towns. This is the place where everyone takes vacations and, in the main town, you’ll find very few cheap options. The pristine beaches, soaring temperatures, and famous national park all draw in hundreds of thousands of tourists per year. Even though it may have more tourists than other places and development has gotten a little out of control in the last few years, Manuel Antonio still has fabulous diving, nightlife, a beautiful national park with plenty of wildlife, awesome beaches, and sport-fishing, it’s clear why this area remains so popular.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Manuel Antonio
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
2. Sit on the beach
3. Go fishing
4. Zip across the canopy
5. Damas Island
Other Things to See and Do
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Manuel Antonio isn’t as well known for its surfing in comparison to Jaco Beach or Hermosa, but the breaks here are ideal for beginners. More experienced surfers can find better waves by traveling just a short distance outside of the city and Quepos. Beginner and intermediate lessons usually last around 3 hours and cost around 36,000 CRC.
2. Go diving
Local diving companies frequent over 20 dive sites around the coast. You’ll dive amongst volcanic formations, a beautiful reef, and see all kinds of tropical fish. Dives start around 80,000 CRC for a two tank dive. Getting certified in the area will cost around 77,000 CRC.
3. Sunset sailing
One of the most popular excursions from the area is a sunset sailing trip. The sky usually turns an amazing pink and orange at night and you might get to hear humpback whales and see dolphins along the side of the boat. I highly recommend taking one of these boat cruises, especially if you are with a group.
4. White water rafting
The class III and IV rapids of the Savegre River make for an adrenaline-packed day. You’ll pass through the jungle and see toucans, osprey, parrots, and kingfishers as you make your way down the river. Experienced rafters should go on the Naranjo River trip as the rapids are a lot faster. Expect to pay around 55,000 for the day per person.
5. Watch whales and dolphins
This tour will bring you to some of the most beautiful spots along the Pacific Coast. If you come at the right time of year (November-March and July-September), you’ll have the chance to see Humpback and Pilot whales, one of the best experiences that nature has to offer. If conditions permit, you’ll also be able to stop for a swim in a spot near some dolphins. Expect to pay around 48,000 CRC per person.
Budget hotel prices – You can expect to pay around 39,000 CRC per night for a budget hotel. A few budget hotels also have pools so be sure to check around! Use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates. Airbnb is available in the area, though there are not many options for shared accommodation. For a private room, expect to pay around 21,000 CRC per night and 33,000 CRC per night for an entire apartment.
Average cost of food – There are plenty of good restaurants in the area, but to stay within a budget you’ll want to avoid the nicer places. You can find budget meals for about 4,275 CRC on average, though you may want to cook for yourself to keep costs down. Since most hotels and hostels offer self-catering facilities, buying your own groceries is a good option to stay on budget. Expect to pay around 15,000-20,000 CRC per week for groceries.
Transportation costs – Taxis to nearby Quepos will cost around 3,300 CRC, while the bus costs 265 CRC. On your return to Quepos, hop in a taxi with other people and you’ll only be charged around 530 CRC per person. The bus from San José takes 3.5 hours and costs around 26,000 CRC each way. Round-trip flights from San Jose to Quepos start around 45,000 CRC per person. Bike rentals are available in the area for around 8,000 CRC per day.
Suggested daily budget
22,150-24,900 CRC / 40-45 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat off the beach – The food in this town is ridiculously overpriced. Don’t go near any place close to the beach if you hope to save money. Instead, head up the main back street and eat there, or take the short bus ride into Quepos where you will find quite a bit of inexpensive, local food.
- Eat at Musmanni – If you do eat in Manuel Antonio itself, eat here. Musmanni is a bakery found all over the country. The offer a great lunch special – for 1,065 CRC, you can get a sandwich and a soda.
- Bargain with your tour guide – Outside of the park, you’ll find lots of knowledgeable guides (pretty much any Costa Rican person can guide you on an incredible nature walk). Be sure to bargain with your tour guide to a price that you find fair. The more people, the less you’ll pay per person, so try to go with a group.
- Avoid the high season – Prices will be much higher during the summer months (and also during holidays) so travel during the off-season to avoid the highest prices.
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