Best Beaches In Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica is known for ziplines, rainforests and friendly culture. But 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.
Manuel Antonio is a Costa Rican oceanside village located off the Pacific Coast, and it perfectly balances commercial development and a lush, vibrant rainforest landscape. It’s no surprise that Manuel Antonio is host to many beautiful beaches, some more well-known than others. Below is our list of the five most beautiful and relaxing beaches in Manuel Antonio.
1. PLAYA ESPADILLA
With sands that wind along Manuel Antonio’s coastline for more than a mile, Playa Espadilla is particularly popular with tourists and is the closest beach to the downtown area of Manuel Antonio. Also known as Playa Numero Uno or Playa Primera, this long, curving stretch of sand sits just outside of Manuel Antonio National Park. Taking a dip in the waters off this large public beach is a perfect way to end a day adventuring through the rainforest.
Reasons to Visit
Playa Espadilla is family-friendly and suited to almost any activity. Kick a soccer ball across the warm sand, dive into the gentle, refreshing waves or pull out a book and relax in the sun. It’s also ideal for long, leisurely walks, especially at sunset when the sky bursts into a myriad of vibrant colors.
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 aqua-to-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.
In addition to shops, Playa Espadilla brims with exciting experiences for you and your family or friends. Here are just a few of the ways you can enjoy a day on Playa Espadilla’s warm sands:
- Surfing: The waves of Playa Espadilla lend themselves to good surfing. You can find affordable board rentals along the beach, and for first-time surfers, some of the shops offer private instruction.
- Horseback Riding: Canter down the coast at sunset for a truly unforgettable beach experience. Whether you are a novice or 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.
2. PLAYA ESPADILLA SUR
Located within Manuel Antonio National Park, Playa Espadilla Sur is the last beach you come to inside the park. The name Playa Espadilla Sur translates to “Playa Espadilla South,” and the beach is also called Playa Dos or Playa Segunda. 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. Because it takes a little more work to access, Playa Espadilla Sur is less crowded than Playa Espadilla. This makes it perfect for vacationers who want a slightly more secluded beach experience.
Located within a half-hour hike from the park entrance, Playa Espadilla Sur is ideal for those who want a little adventure in their beach day. When the weather is calm, Playa Espadilla Sur is beautiful, warm and relaxing. However, on rough days, be wary of the strong currents that often form offshore. But even if the water is too rough for good swimming, it’s worth the hike to admire the beauty of the beach. Turquoise waters catch the sun, and pelicans and white gulls soar through the sky.
Walk along the beach and admire various rock formations and lazy green iguanas. 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.
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 walk!
- 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
Cross the land bridge leading to Punto Catedral and step onto the white sands of Playa Manuel Antonio. Ranked as the second best beach in Central America, Playa Manuel Antonio is the crowning jewel of Manuel Antonio National Park and is a beloved tourist destination.
Reasons to Visit
Playa Manuel Antonio is a haven for wildlife lovers. This beach is home to tidal pools brimming with a wide variety of sea life, including small fish, armored crabs and pin-cushion sea urchins. 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 that will surprise and delight on every visit.
More easily accessed than Playa Espadilla Sur, Playa Manuel Antonio features breathtaking views of the sea and Punto Catedral. If you love watching the sunset, be sure to stick around — the view from this beach is unparalleled.
Playa Manuel Antonio is just a 30-minute hike from the park entrance, so it is popular among tourists, but it lacks the noise and crowd of other public beaches. On the trek to the beach, you’ll likely see tropical wildlife such as gentle sloths, bright frogs and curious monkeys.
Because it is a popular tourist destination, Playa Manuel Antonio can be busy during the high season, between November and May. If you’re visiting during these months, plan to arrive before 10 a.m. to secure your spot for the day. Keep an eye out for mischievous monkeys — they’ve been known to rifle through unattended belongings. 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.
Playa Manuel Antonio has all of the beauty of a tropical paradise. When you visit, take advantage of the spectacular water through snorkeling, swimming or surfing:
- Snorkeling: Snorkeling isn’t ideal year-round due to currents and visibility, but 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. You might see a magnificent spotted eagle ray or even a sea turtle!
- 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.
Playa Manuel Antonio is a stunning beach with some of the best sand in Costa Rica, and it has something for everyone. Sometimes the beach even hosts parties and festivals!
4. PLAYA BIESANZ
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, 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 steep 10-minute hike. While it might take a little effort to access, this hidden gem is well worth the effort.
Reasons to Visit
Once you reach Playa Biesanz, you’ll be greeted by 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. Because it’s a quiet beach, Playa Biesanz 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 to enjoy an out-of-this-world 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!
Historical Note: Playa Biesanz’s lesser-known history has ties with the local tribe of the 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. Being able to witness the with 200-year-old construction is an experience in itself!
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 experience you won’t soon (or ever) forget.
5. PLAYA LA MACHA
Another excellent beach option if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, Playa La Macha is secluded, quiet and serene. Famous for being one of Manuel Antonio’s most hidden beaches, Playa La Macha is perfect for the days when you want a beach to yourself.
Reasons to Visit
Enjoy some solitude while you sunbathe. At Playa La Macha, you’ll find nothing but a cozy cove and beautiful foliage. Be prepared for a tricky trek to get to the beach – the trail can be difficult to locate initially and the path can be windy and narrow. It takes around 40 minutes of rainforest trekking until you part through the dense undergrowth and step onto smooth, undisturbed sand. But the hike is well worth it when you realize you have your own private beach to enjoy.
Also known as 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 — because this is such a secluded spot, more wildlife ventures close to the coast. 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 in the horizon.
For the adventurous traveler, Playa Macha offers more than just a peaceful getaway. Venture to the beach for gorgeous natural activities such as exciting hiking and incredible swimming:
- 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.
Your Own Private Beach
Sand and surf will likely be the focal point of your visit to Costa Rica, and exploring this exciting list of beaches will help you enjoy your experience to the fullest. But sometimes you want an easily accessible beach to yourself. For a private and exclusive beach experience, look no further than Villa Punto de Vista. When you stay at our luxury villa, you get instant access to our private beach on the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park. Our attentive staff will set out lounge chairs and umbrellas, as well as transport your gear or picnic meals. At Villa Punto de Vista, experience all of the beauty of a Costa Rican beach without worrying about the crowds.
For more detailed information about finding the best beach in Costa Rica, contact us online or call us at 855-213-7407.