BeachDestinationGeneral InfoManuel Antonio

Top 5 Best Beaches in Manuel Antonio, Quepos

  • May 3, 2024
  • Villa Punto de Vista

Costa Rica is adored for many things, from ziplining through lush rainforests to incredible wildlife. Above all, visitors flock to its golden, pristine beaches. Costa Rica’s coastlines have increasingly gained worldwide notice and have been ranked in the Top 25 Beaches in the World.

Quepos is a Costa Rican oceanside region located off the Pacific Coast, and it perfectly balances commercial development and a lush, vibrant rainforest landscape. It’s no surprise that Manuel Antonio—located in the Quepos region—is host to many beautiful beaches. Explore the must-visit locales in this Manuel Antonio beach guide and discover the perfect scenery for your ideal beach day.

1. PLAYA ESPADILLA

Playa Espadilla Manuel Antonio Beach

With sands that wind along Manuel Antonio’s coastline for more than a mile, Playa Espadilla is a popular tourist destination and is the closest beach to Manuel Antonio’s downtown. This long, curving stretch of sand sits just outside of Manuel Antonio National Park and may also be referred to as Playa Primera or Playa Numero Uno. Taking a dip in the waters off this large public beach offers relaxation after a day of rainforest exploration.

Reasons to Visit

Playa Espadilla is well-regarded for family-friendly fun. Dig your toes into the sand with a game of soccer, dive into the waves or bask in the sun with your favorite book. It’s also ideal for long, leisurely sunset walks, where you can admire the multicolored sky against the water.

A lifeguard stands watch during the day, so this beach is an excellent option if you have young children. Still, the waters off Playa Espadilla can produce strong currents, so watch for rip currents while swimming.

With its golden sand and emerald surf, Playa Espadilla is a gorgeous beach—and it is no secret to locals and tourists alike. This beach can get busy, particularly during the dry season when tourism peaks in Manuel Antonio. If you are looking for a more secluded or private beach experience, Playa Espadilla might not be the perfect beach for you. But being popular has its perks. Easy public parking is available close by, and for a small fee, nearby attendants will watch your car for added security.

Playa Espadilla also has a variety of small shops and restaurants, and local vendors wander up and down the strip. Sip on coconut water (pipa), snag a refreshing snow cone (granizado) as an afternoon treat, or pick up a souvenir to remember your stay in Manuel Antonio.

For vacationers who love the social experience of a public beach, Playa Espadilla is a perfect setting. From delicious local food to public bathrooms, everything you could need is within walking distance, making Playa Espadilla particularly lovely for a day-long beach visit.

Recommended Activities

Playa Espadilla is an ideal locale for adventurous types. Experience many different activities like:

  • Surfing: Playa Espadilla’s incredible waves lend themselves to good surfing. Find board rentals along the beach to take to the waves, and sharpen your skills with private instruction from surf shops in the area.
  • Horseback Riding: Canter down the coast at sunset for a truly unforgettable beach experience. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned rider, horseback tours of Playa Espadilla offer something for everyone.
  • Parasailing: Feel weightless as you soar above glimmering waves off Playa Espadilla. Parasailing is perfect for those who want a little adrenaline in their vacation, and it provides an unparalleled view of the Costa Rican landscape.
  • Banana Boat Rides: Experience the thrill of the waves first-hand with a banana boat ride. Grab your friends, claim a seat on the long inflatable, and get pulled through the Pacific’s surging waters.
  • Jet Skis: Enjoy a rush of adrenaline and an unforgettable ride in Manuel Antonio’s bay as you zip along the emerald waters with the verdant forest as your backdrop.

With warm, golden sand and a vibrant rainforest backdrop, Playa Espadilla lets you bask in the beauty of Manuel Antonio, Quepos.

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2. PLAYA ESPADILLA SUR

Playa Espadilla Sur Beach in Manuel Antonio, Less Crowded and More Secluded

The name Playa Espadilla Sur translates to “Playa Espadilla South,” and it’s located within Manuel Antonio National Park. You may also hear this beach referred to as Playa Segunda or Playa Dos. On the north side of Punta Catedral—a former island topped with forested cliffs—Playa Espadilla Sur is connected to the mainland by a thin, natural land bridge aka a tombolo.

Reasons to Visit

Playa Espadilla Sur is the beach on the north side of the lovely Punta Catedral, one of the most spectacular sites in the park. Punta Catedral is an isthmus, featuring high cliffs and teeming, lush forest. With this beach nestled in the park, it often sees less tourism than Playa Espadilla. This spot is ideal for vacationers who want a slightly more secluded beach experience.

Located within a half-hour hike from the park entrance, Playa Espadilla Sur is an excellent choice for those searching for a more active beach day. When the weather is calm, Playa Espadilla Sur is beautiful, warm and relaxing. Stay clear of the water on rough weather days, as strong currents can form offshore. For non-swimming days, you can enjoy the hike for a scenic look at the emerald water tucked away in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Walk along the beach and admire various rock formations and green iguanas soaking up the sun. The beach has no vendors or shops along the seaside, which creates a more natural beach atmosphere and appeals to vacationers who want more peace and seclusion during their visit.

Recommended Activities

The appeal of Playa Espadilla Sur is all in its location. While you won’t find exciting parasails or banana boats on this beach, Playa Espadilla Sur abounds with opportunities for more natural activities:

  • Hiking: You can access Playa Espadilla Sur through beautiful hikes in Manuel Antonio National Park, which makes it perfect for vacationers who want both a calm beach day and a trek through the rainforest. Once you reach the beach, you can climb boulders for a gorgeous view of the sunset. Keep an eye out for spectacular wildlife and vegetation as you  as you explore the park.
  • Swimming: While you should be mindful of currents, the waters off Playa Espadilla Sur are clear and enchanting and perfectly suited for a quick dip in the waves.

Lovely and less-accessed than the more popular Playa Espadilla, Playa Espadilla Sur offers a quieter and more natural beach experience.

3. PLAYA MANUEL ANTONIO BEACH

Playa Manuel Antonio Best Beach in Costa Rica, Second Best Beach in Central America

Cross the land bridge leading to Punto Catedral and step onto the white sands of Playa Manuel Antonio. This beach is the crowning jewel of Manuel Antonio National Park and is a beloved tourist destination.

Reasons to Visit the Beaches of Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers. One of the most fascinating features of this beach is the tidal pools. These small pockets of seawater are home to many types of sea life, like armored crabs, pin-cushion sea urchins and small fish. Just offshore, Playa Manuel Antonio offers the opportunity to go snorkeling in the warm, clear waters. A half-mile long expanse of ivory sand is bordered by deep green mangroves and palms, so you’ll find an abundance of natural beauty to admire.

This beach is easy to access and delivers unmatched views of the ocean and Punta Catedral—a prominent hill on a peninsula that contrasts beautifully against the sea and sky. Playa Manuel Antonio also boasts one of the best views of the sunset, making a full day on the shore well worth it.

Playa Manuel Antonio is just a 30-minute hike from the park entrance, so it is popular among tourists. The distance from downtown offers the natural appeal of Playa Espadilla Sur. On the trek to the beach, look closely for Costa Rican wildlife, like sloths hanging from tree branches and tropical frogs lounging along your route.

As a popular spot for tourism, Playa Manuel Antonio is often busiest from November to May—Costa Rica’s high season. If you plan to visit during the high season, it’s best to arrive before 10 a.m. to find a spot before the shore fills up. Watch out for the monkeys! They’re known for being mischievous and rifling through beachgoers’ belongings if left unattended.

Bathrooms and changing rooms are provided, but be prepared to pack a simple picnic of sandwiches, fruit and drinks for the day. Since this beach is in a national park, rangers will check your lunch to make sure it fits park policy.

Explore our Private Manuel Antonio Villas

Recommended Activities

Playa Manuel Antonio has all of the beauty of a tropical paradise. When you visit, take advantage of the spectacular water through:

  • Snorkeling: If you hit Playa Manuel Antonio in the right season, it has spectacular snorkeling opportunities and a vibrant coral landscape. Pull on your flippers and dive beneath the waves, weaving around rocks and coral. Beneath the emerald waters, you might see a spotted eagle ray or sea turtle catching the currents.
  • Swimming: Known as one of the best swimming beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Manuel Antonio offers refreshing and clear water. Take a moment to gauge the tide and currents and then plunge into the gorgeous tropical sea.
  • Surfing: The waves off the coast of Playa Manuel Antonio are a surfer’s heaven. For a fun and active day, try renting a board and riding the waves.

4. PLAYA BIESANZ

Playa Biesanz Beach in Manuel Antonio Hidden at End of Steep 10-Minute Hike

If you’re searching for something more private and peaceful, head to nearby Punta Quepos, a small peninsula that shelters the lovely Playa Biesanz. A little more hidden than Playa Espadilla but equally as beautiful, Playa Biesanz waits at the end of a roughly 10-minute hike that’s mostly uphill. While it might take a little effort to access, this hidden gem is worth it.

Reasons to Visit

Once you reach Playa Biesanz, you’ll be instantly captivated by the intensely green foliage and lovely cream-colored sands. Be sure to arrive early in the day — in the afternoon, the sun doesn’t sit directly overhead and the high cliffs act as a natural shelter, so the beach can get dark. While it may not be ideal for all-day sunbathing, this secluded beach is a perfect escape from the bustle of coastal life.

Playa Biesanz offers a certain tranquility and teems with exotic wildlife. On the trek down to the coast, scan the emerald canopy for swinging monkeys, two and three-toed sloths and colorful, darting birds.

Striking dark rocks spot the coastline and continue into the water, so consider bringing good water shoes along with snorkeling gear. The diverse rock formations attract an abundance of aquatic life. While swimming or snorkeling, look for bright tropical fish and gliding turtles around the reef.

During the high season, mobile vendors set up shop along the beach, so you can rent kayaks, paddleboards or lounge chairs. Once you reach the beach, you can grab scrumptious food from one of the many stalls and sip on a blackberry margarita as you watch the surf wash up on the sand.

Alternatively, bring homemade sandwiches and drinks for a tropical picnic. There are no shelters or stores at Biesanz Beach, so if it rains, you and your belongings will most likely get wet. Come prepared for afternoon showers if you’re traveling during green season months.

For visitors interested in local history, Playa Biesanz has ties with the local Quepoa tribe. In the 16th-18th centuries, the Quepoa indigenous group used this small bay as a fishing ground for fish and turtles; there are still remnants of the hundreds of rocks that create the half-circle outcropping during low tide. Experience this 200-year-old structure as part of your beach day.

Recommended Activities:

Whether you want a high-energy adventure or a relaxing day on the sand, Playa Biesanz has something to offer everyone:

  • Snorkeling: Playa Biesanz is known for its snorkeling. Pack your gear and slip into the clear and calm water for an up-close encounter with marine life.
  • Kayaking or Paddle Boarding: Experience the ocean surf and breeze first-hand by renting sea kayaks or paddleboards and exploring the sheltered cove around Playa Biesanz.

With gorgeous sands and a vibrant undersea landscape, a visit to Playa Biesanz promises to be an unforgettable experience.

5. PLAYA LA MACHA

Playa La Macha One of Manuel Antonio Costa Rica's Most Hidden Beaches

Playa La Macha is secluded and calm, making it another excellent option for a crowd-free beach day. Regarded as one of Manual Antonio’s more hidden shorelines, Playa La Macha is ideal when you want to enjoy solitude on the golden sands.

Reasons to Visit

Enjoy some solitude while you sunbathe. At Playa La Macha, you’ll find nothing but a cozy cove and beautiful foliage. One factor to note is that the trek to this beach is better suited for intermediate hikers. The trail can be challenging to find, and the path itself is narrow and winding. Expect about a 40-minute hike through the rainforest before you step foot onto the smooth, warm sands of Playa La Macha. For some, this hiking adventure is part of the experience!

Also called Doctor’s Beach, Playa La Macha allows you the rare opportunity to lie on a beach and hear nothing but the surf. If you plan to spend a day at Playa La Macha, make sure you pack food, water and appropriate hiking footwear. Part of the beauty of this beach is in the journey to it—look for lumbering anteaters, timid pacas or graceful deer wandering through the forest. Poison dart frogs leap from leaf to leaf, jewel-tone butterflies drift in a breeze while colorful toucans and macaws fly through the canopy.

For a remote and gorgeous getaway, you can’t do much better than this quiet beach. Sunbathe in total peace and soak up the natural setting surrounding you. Don’t be surprised if you see more nature on the beach than you expect in this secluded spot. Keep your eyes peeled for forest acrobats like the loud howler monkey, the agile spider monkey or the more reclusive, endangered squirrel monkey. As you swim in the clear, gentle water, you might encounter sea turtles meandering through the shallows or find dolphins leaping on the horizon.

Recommended Activities

For the adventurous traveler, Playa Macha offers more than just a peaceful getaway. Venture to the beach for gorgeous natural activities such as:

  • Hiking: Although other beaches on our list require hikes to access, Playa La Macha is the most secluded of the bunch. If you enjoy long adventures through the rainforest, this beach is the perfect destination.
  • Swimming: The waters off Playa La Macha are blue, clear and lovely. Wear your swimsuit and enjoy the most peaceful swimming in Manuel Antonio. Just make sure you check the strength of the currents before you leave for the beach!

If you’re looking for a Costa Rican beach that’s as peaceful as it is lovely, Playa La Macha is the perfect sanctuary.

Experience Luxurious Privacy at Villa Punto de Vista

There are a beautiful variety of Manuel Antonio beaches, from the heart of downtown to deep in the rainforest. While these public beaches are stunning, you may be looking for a beach experience that’s more removed from the hustle and bustle of tourism. To enjoy the luxury of complete privacy where the jungle meets the sea, stay at Villa Punto de Vista.

At our luxury estate, you gain access to our private beach on the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park. Experience completely private beach days with your guests, immersed in Costa Rican nature. Breathe in the salty air from lounge chairs on the beach. As your day on the sand and in the surf draws to a close, retire to your own private, fully staffed villa—and relax knowing you can do it all again tomorrow.

Learn more about Villa Punto de Vista—inquire online today!

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