Most of the travelers we send to Manuel Antonio only have two nights available to enjoy the area. Which is really all you need, since the numero uno (#1) highlight, by far, is the national park. But what if you want to explore a little more or add a night or two? Here are a number of fun things that I enjoyed on my last trip to Manuel Antonio.
For trips that include Manuel Antonio, see
#1) Hiking & Beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park
We arrange a morning guided walk to focus on the park’s amazing and approachable wildlife, which includes sloths, monkeys, iguanas, scarlet macaws, and more. Your guide will help you get oriented to the beaches since we recommend you make a full day of it. Bring a picnic lunch, a towel, a swimsuit, insect repellent, sunscreen, bottled water, some snacks, an umbrella for shade if you have one, and you’ll be set! The walk lasts only 3 hours, then the rest of the day is yours to enjoy the beautiful playa (beach).
#2) Sunset at El Avion
Perched on the ridge above the playas (beaches), this C-123 cargo plane, a relic of the 80’s Nicaraguan civil war, was transformed into an open-air restaurant.
It has amazing views of sunset, decent seafood, delicious cocktails and unforgettable atmosphere.
#3) Catamaran Sailing Tour
You can do this by day, when the sun is strongest and a BBQ lunch is served on board, or in the evening, as the sun winds down and dinner is served on deck instead. The real highlight though is getting out on the ocean and seeing the beautiful rugged coast in the fresh, breezy sea air. The catamaran we prefer also includes a fun water slide and an opportunity for snorkeling, especially fun for families with younger kids. A bonus is dolphins. You never know if you’ll encounter them but they play in these seas year-round. Humpback whales are found in the area August-September and again in December-March. This is a half day tour, so if you are not a “beach person” the afternoon cruise makes a nice complement to the morning wildlife walk.
#4) Nighttime Wildlife Hike
It’s arguably not the “best” night walk in Costa Rica, but the small Fincas Naturales Wildlife Refuge is very accessible and interesting, especially if you don’t have a chance to do a night walk elsewhere, try it here, it’s something you’ll definitely remember! Highlights are night frogs and fascinating night insects like spiders. During the day, it’s open for kids to see crocodiles and colorful butterflies. If you go on the night walk, bring a flash light!
#5) Sport Fishing
Manuel Antonio is an excellent place to plan an extra day to get out on the water. Inshore trips are generally half-day and off-shore more like full days.
The charter prices made my eyes go half-dollar size but you have to pay to play! Fish here include marlin, sailfish, roosterfish, and snapper.
#6) Waterfalls and Horseback Riding
While this is definitely further afield, just outside Dominical, the Nauyaca Waterfall, the largest in the central Pacific region, makes an intriguing choice for a day trip from Manuel Antonio.
It’s a huge 215 foot waterfall with a great swimming pool below it. Best of all, you get there via a horseback ride.
#7) Whitewater Rafting
A full day adventure and an activity that we usually schedule elsewhere (like on the Sarapiqui or the Pacuare), but if you love whitewater, you can often find groups to join on rafting trips to nearby Rio Savegre or the Rio Naranjo, the more exciting of the two.
#8) Adventures at MidWorld
A fun private reserve just south of Quepos, not far from Manuel Antonio, this converted ranch features fun ATV rides (suitable for beginners) along rugged dirt tracks to gorgeous waterfalls and host’s possibly the world’s longest superman zipline. The staff are fun and helpful bunch, and the lunches are yummy.