City Guide: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, National Park in Costa Rica

Hi everyone! As many of you are aware, my family recently spent time in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for spring break. We love Costa Rica as a whole, but decided to spend the entire time in the Manuel Antonio area to enjoy the tropical weather and some much-needed sunshine.

Manuel Antonio is a small ocean side village that’s tucked into nature. Famous for its national park, this tiny town is located off Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast just a stone’s throw away from Quepos which is famous for sportfishing. The region is known for biodiversity, wildlife, white sand and perfect water, attracting nature buffs, eco-travelers and adventure-seekers alike.

Peak months for Manuel Antonio are December to April during dry season. The transitional months between Summer and “Green Season” are also good times to visit (May, June, July, and later November).

Here’s where to stay, eat and explore in this stunning coastal region…

Where to Stay

Parador Resort & Spa in Costa Rica

There’s a considerable amount of development in this area, so visitors have a lot of options to choose from. For family friendly hotels, we’ve stayed at the Parador Resort & Spa and Hotel Si Como No and both are excellent options.

Parador Resort & Spa (pictured above) is one of Costa Rica’s most prestigious eco-hotels. The resort is surrounded by 12 acres of wildlife-rich tropical rainforest with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Manuel Antonio. The accommodations are gorgeous, but it’s the unique visitors that often steal the show, including several species of monkeys, sloths and a variety of birds. There are several dining options and pools on-site, trails, mini golf, a tennis court, gym, spa and game room. Plus, you’re within walking distance of Playa Biesanz beach.

Hotel Si Como No, which translates to “yes, why not,” sits on top of one of the most idyllic hillsides in Manuel Antonio. The resort’s lush jungle terraces and vivid gardens overlook the sparkling ocean just above world-renown Manuel Antonio National Park. While this hotel would be great for anyone, it’s the perfect refuge for families, with a great pool area equipped with a slide, Butterfly Botanical Gardens at Fincas Naturales Wildlife Refuge across the street, a 46-seat air-conditioned private theater to show films every night, and dining options on-site and within walking distance.

Other highly rated luxury hotels include the Gaia Hotel, which was featured on CNN as a top worldwide destination for eco-tourism, as the luxury resort utilizes 100 percent solar heating of the water and 5-star amenities, and the exclusive Tulemar Resort.

Where to Eat

Local food in Costa Rica

Family Friendly Food in Costa Rica

When on a vacation, I’m generally a stickler for eating local cuisine. In Manuel Antonio there are so many great restaurants to choose from, making this an easy task.

The Rico Tico Jungle Grill at Hotel Si Como No is a family favorite, being moderately priced, with amazing scenery and a casual menu and overall vibe. Tip: Their signature dessert, Banana Flambe, is a must-try.

Emilio’s Cafe is another highly recommended restaurant in Manuel Antonio. The coffee here is amazing, along with the homemade pastries. The red snapper is one of their most popular dishes. Tip: Make a reservation during high season on a weekend night.

Manuel Antonio Falafel Bar is another favorite and is a great stop for a quick bite to eat. The food is great and economical, the smoothies are outstanding and the place has a laid back and relaxing environment.

If you are travelling as a family or just looking for a break from the local cuisine, there are two excellent choices for pizza: El Wagon (pictured above) and La Lambretta. Both offer wonderful, wood-fired pizza in gorgeous open-air settings.

Relaxation during Spring Break Costa Rica

What to Do

Manuel Antonio has something for everyone. Below are some recommendations on must-do activities.

Manuel Antonio National Park is a must. This place is spectacular! Spend the morning exploring the trails, and viewing the many monkeys, sloths, frogs, and bird species that call the park home, then spend the afternoon on one of the top 10 beaches in Latin America, Playa Manuel Antonio. Tip: You’ll get so much more out of the National Park by hiring a guide, and mornings are best for spotting birds and wildlife.

A boat tour of the Damas Island Mangroves is a great way to see one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. Located just 10 minutes from Manuel Antonio, Damas Island covers thousands of acres of protected forest and is home to a large number of birds, reptiles, mammals and insects, including white-faced monkeys, anteaters, boas, iguanas, birds and thousands of colorful crabs.

Catamaran and/or Snorkeling Tour is a great way to get a different view of Manuel Antonio. Marvel at the unspoiled beaches and lush coastline while enjoying the view of dolphins, sea turtles and humpback whales. Many of the Catamaran tours also include time for snorkeling in pristine coves off the coastline.

Kids will love a Night Jungle Tour of one of the local parks or wildlife refuges. In fact, nighttime is often one of the best times to see some of Costa Rica’s most interesting residents, including bats, lizards, spiders, owls, frogs, snakes and insects.

Zip Line through the rainforest for an adrenaline rush and greater appreciation of a beautiful country that while small, hosts over 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Relax on local beaches for a stunning view of Costa Rica’s beautiful landscape and waters.

The pictures below are all taken while doing these activities, all of which I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Manuel Antonio.

Family Trip Costa Rica Spring Break

I hope you enjoyed my guide to Manuel Antonio! For this and more wanderlust worthy destinations, check out my travel page, or you can follow my adventures on Instagram.

Are you planning an upcoming trip?

Let me know where you’re going in the comments!

xx Julie



6 thoughts on “City Guide: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

  1. Looks amazing. I would be interested on your thoughts of how to pack lightly for a vacation. I always end up with way to much stuff and not enough room.


    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m actually working on a post about packing so great timing. For Costa Rica, I finding packing a bit easier since it’s so casual. I find lightweight pieces that can work as a cover-up during the day and a dress for dinner, for example. I also generally re-wear items during a trip, cutting down on how much I need to pack.


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