The Best Things to Do Around Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
If you’re thinking about what to do in Manuel Antonio National Park, then your mind is already in the right place.
This park offers countless activities to get you outdoors. Because the possibilities outnumber the time constraints, we’ve narrowed down our list to just ten of the best things to do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica:
- Beautiful beaches
- Hidden waterfalls
- Wildlife and ecotours
- Whitewater rafting and tubing
- Standup paddleboarding
- 4WD and off-road tours
- Horseback riding
- Manuel Antonio nightlife
- Kayaking in Damas Island Estuary
- Scuba diving and snorkeling
Because of the unique scale of Manuel Antonio — the entire world-renowned national park is fewer than three square miles — all its activities are practically at your doorstep. Our team is here to help you chase your every whim and make it a reality, whether you’d prefer to get your adrenaline pumping or lounge on the beach.
Villa Punto de Vista is a premier luxury villa estate in Manuel Antonio. We’re experts on luxury and relaxation and are always happy to direct you to a unique and fun activity. Let’s dive in!
1. Beautiful Secluded Beaches
The best beaches in Manuel Antonio are all readily accessible, though some require less walking than others. This means you can have your pick — do you want to spend the day sharing the beach with others, or do you want to find a hidden gem just for yourself?
By far the most popular beach is Playa Espadilla. This beach stretches over a mile from Villa Punto de Vista all the way to where the unbroken jungle begins. It is close to downtown, has loads of fun activities available and offers great waves for surfing and boarding.
Just south of this beach is Playa Espadilla Sur, which ends on the tiny land bridge that connects Punta Catedral to the mainland. This beach also offers a western view of the Pacific, as well as gorgeous views of small islands off the shore.
On the other side of the land bridge rests Playa Manuel Antonio, regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Its sand is finely-ground coral, and as a result, it reflects sunlight and stays cool under your feet. This beach is extraordinary for snorkeling, as its southwestern end hosts several tidal pools.
For a more secluded beach, it is worth the short hike to Playa Gemelas. This small beach feels more like a private lagoon — and with a full view of Punta Catedral in front of you.
2. Hidden Jungle Waterfalls
The beaches in Manuel Antonio have most visitors making a beeline for the waves, but hiking through the national park is one of the most rewarding ways to experience their riches and discover some gorgeous hidden waterfalls.
Hiking the park’s trails will give you intimate, undisturbed views of its wildlife. Hear the whirring thrum of hummingbirds. Watch monkeys playing in the canopy. Look for iguanas and lazy sloths resting on tree branches, or spot the bright colorings of the famous poison dart frog.
The park has several trails, each offering a different payoff. Two quick hikes are the Waterfall Trail and the Sloth Trail, which can each take several minutes. Waterfall Trail is an easy walk to a small waterfall, while the Sloth Trail is a raised wooden platform that offers a peek into the world of our sleepy friends in the trees.
Don’t miss the hour-long hike around Punta Catedral, the tiny green island that turned into a peninsula when sand and soil slowly piled into a land bridge. This is a mild walk and offers the best view of Manuel Antonio: from over the blue coastal waters.
The best part about hiking Manuel Antonio? You don’t need hiking boots. Wear comfortable sandals or tennis shoes, bring plenty of water and give yourself enough time for a dip in the ocean or a swimming hole.
3. Breathtaking Wildlife and Ecotours
So many of our guests comment on the wildlife in Manuel Antonio. When you leave the beach and head into the lush shade of the jungle, you’ll be in good company: monkeys, three-toed sloths, iguanas, remarkable insects, fluorescent frogs, toucans, parrots, macaws, anteaters, Quaramundis and more surround you.
But how can you find them?
Count on the experienced eyes of a nature guide to make the most of your jungle expedition. Learn about the plants in this amazing part of the world, as well as those in the animal kingdom who live among them. A guide will locate and point out the wildlife around you, showing you landmarks that you otherwise may never find.
One advantage of booking an ecotour is the wide range of activities they include. Whether you’d like to walk, take a boat, ride a jet ski, rappel or drive an ATV, you’ll find a fun way to take in the wildlife.
Another dimension comes with nighttime tours. One such tour is a journey into the mangroves at night, in which an experienced guide will bring your group into the jungle on a boat. You’ll see what bats, owls, crocodiles and other creatures are up to once the sun goes down.
It’s possibly the only time in your life you’ll be able to say the phrase, “Don’t worry, there’s a crocodile hunter on board.”
4. Thrilling Whitewater Rafting and Tubing
Despite what your experience may suggest, whitewater rafting doesn’t always have to occur in cold water.
Here in Manuel Antonio, the combination of a beautiful landscape and warm water makes for perfect rafting conditions. Add to that a ready selection of world-class rafting guides, and you’ve got a whitewater adventure on your hands.
The volcanic nature of Costa Rica’s landscape gives the country an upper hand when it comes to rafting. For a country only 170 miles wide at its widest point, there is a lot of high elevation that arose from the land’s dramatic history with volcanic activity. But where there are highlands, there is water that must find its way down to the sea — and that means rapids.
Near Manuel Antonio, the Savegre and Naranjo Rivers provide varying levels of whitewater thrills. The rapids range from Class III to Class V, meaning there is something for daring beginners and seasoned experts alike.
See what it feels like to splash through Manuel Antonio’s canyons, paddle down its thrilling chutes and observe the surroundings of waterfalls and primary rainforest. And you can enjoy the fact that the Savegre River is the cleanest river in Costa Rica and one of the cleanest in all of Central America.
For an adventure that is slightly less adrenaline-intensive, try tubing instead. This is a fun, guided family activity that takes you drifting through palm plantations and rainforest, where the river will go from glassy smooth to fun and fast. This is a fun alternative to whitewater rafting and still has plenty of exciting moments.
5. Relaxing Standup Paddleboarding
Paddleboarding is a sport that has become extremely mainstream in the last decades — so mainstream, in fact, that it might soon join the Summer Olympics.
Olympic sport or not, it is the perfect way to explore coastal regions like Manuel Antonio, where one can journey between different islets and beaches. With a bit of practice, one can even surf the waves along the shoreline.
Since paddleboarding affords the opportunity to combine beach fun, water sports and exploration in one package, it should come as no surprise that it is one of the most popular Manuel Antonio activities. Try your hand at catching a wave, or simply head off to see what lies around that next bend in the beach. With a paddleboard, your only limit is the horizon.
6. Adventurous 4WD and Off-Road Tours
Does the thought of zipping through the jungle on four wheels get you revved up? For those of you who crave a bit of horsepower, Manuel Antonio has plenty of toys and terrain to play around with.
Imagine sitting behind the wheel of a Can-Am Maverick, throttling up a mountainside and through the misty rainforest. Add in splashing through mud, floating through loamy soil, pinning the gas pedal to zip through a shallow river, then pulling up to a crystal-clear waterfall to have a swim — all before lunch.
Our friends in Manuel Antonio understand that many visitors are not looking for a tame ride in a buggy. That’s why guests can choose their level of adventure — whether you want more thrills or a calmer ride, there is an unforgettable adventure waiting for you.
7. Fun Horseback Riding
For many of us, the romance of riding horses is one that will never grow old. Combining a horseback ride with some of Earth’s most splendid natural beauty is the perfect way to experience Manuel Antonio and its many natural treasures.
Nearby on the Rancho Tipico Don Juan, a family-run ranch of over three hundred acres, riding horses is the main mode of transportation.
You’ll ride horseback through the farm’s grassy cow pastures, down its quaint trails and across clear rivers bisecting the swaths of forest. Your guide will point out the never-ending wildlife around you.
Stand at the foot of giant trees whose roots alone are twice your height! Some of the trees in Manuel Antonio rival the great Redwoods in thickness — you’ll have to see it to believe it.
Find waterfalls rolling off hillsides and take a dip underneath them to cool off. But most of all, enjoy the fact that you’re exploring such an enchanted landscape on the back of a horse.
8. Colorful Manuel Antonio Nightlife
As day turns to night, the singing of insects in the trees might suggest the trumpet-laden tones of Cumbia music.
If you’re looking for a nightlife scene, nearby Quepos and Marina Pez Vela have plenty of bars and restaurants where you can let loose and have some fun. The locals operate with a very carefree and fun-loving outlook on life, which visitors tend to find exciting.
There is a bar on every single block downtown, meaning you can easily make an evening of bar-hopping. Inside these establishments, you will find delicious cocktails, music and dancing.
Who knew there could be so many varied and delicious restaurants in Manuel Antonio? A short walk around will make you wish you had more days to sample all the cuisines. With Caribbean, Italian, Costa Rican, Mexican and other styles to choose from, you’ll feel like you’ve got a comprehensive international food tour in one charming Costa Rican town.
9. Serene Kayaking in Damas Island Estuary
Taking a guided kayak tour through the waterways of Damas Island Estuary is an experience like no other. With its floating mangroves and numerous species of flora and fauna, you’ll feel like you’re paddling through hallways in a giant cathedral. These hallways have formed naturally from the inland water making its way to the sea.
Colorful fish dart about beneath you, while sloths munch on mangrove leaves overhead and watch you lazily as you float past. This is truly one of Costa Rica’s unique places — a meeting place of the land and the sea that boasts features of both.
This activity is also well suited for adults, children and senior citizens alike.
10. Exciting Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Some of the best sightseeing in the central Pacific is through goggles.
The perfect 80-degree waters off Manuel Antonio and the central Pacific are second to none. Whether you are a novice or an expert diver, a PADI-certified professional is waiting to guide you through a hidden paradise beneath the waves. The central Pacific coastline offers many treasures, including 12 idyllic islands just off the coast of Manuel Antonio, coral reefs with bountiful sea life and underwater formations for the wide-eyed aquatic explorer to swim through.
If you’ve never been scuba diving before, let the central Pacific coast off of Manuel Antonio be the place where you learn the needed skills. A fun morning and afternoon of training will equip you to take your first plunge into the breathtaking world under the sea.
You’ll witness schools of beautiful fish, puffers, whitetip reef sharks, eels and octopi, sea turtles and even manta rays at the right time of year. Underwater volcanic activity has also created a playground of wondrous rock formations that these creatures inhabit.
If scuba diving isn’t your cup of tea, you can opt for a snorkel instead — there are plenty of shallow-water stretches to explore. Watch the sun dance over the coral reefs and marvel at the busy world of life at play below.
Let Villa Punto de Vista Be Your Launchpad for Fun
Though this has been an abbreviated list of Manuel Antonio’s many activities, we hope it has inspired you by providing a glimpse of all that is available here!
Contact us to book your stay at Costa Rica’s premier luxury villa. We are available by phone, live chat or our main contact form. We’re looking forward to seeing you!