Pura Vida. Pure Life. You’ll hear this everywhere. It’s the Costa Rica lifestyle. Costa Rica is a place where everything seems to slow down. The biodiversity in Costa Rica is insane and the country is simply the perfect mix of waterfall hikes and beach hangs.
Manuel Antonio is a tiny beach town located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s just three hours south of San Jose and there’s so much to do. You can search for sloths in the nearby park or get your feet sandy on the beach.
Here are the best things to do near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in 2023.
7 Things To Do Near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in 2023
1. Manuel Antonio National Park
If you want to see Costa Rica animals, visit Manuel Antonio National Park. Within moments of walking into the park, we saw white-tailed deer.
This is also the place to look for sloths. Sloths are actually really hard to find because they only come down from their trees once a week to poop! We were fortunate enough to see a sloth right before we left they park.
The only reason we saw a sloth was because a guide pointed it out as we were nearby. There is an option to hire a guide at the park entrance. I would recommend getting a guide if you want to make sure you see as many animals as possible. The guides have telescopes which makes it easier to see animals that are far away.
During our time in the park, we saw Agouti, Land Crabs, Raccoon, Jesus Christ lizard, butteries, and lots of birds.
There are also really nice beaches in the park. Pack a towel if you want to spend the day there.
Manuel Antonio National Park is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The cost to get into the park is $16 USD for foreigners and you can only pay with cash. You can also pay in colones, the national currency of Costa Rica.
It’s better to arrive earlier in the day because there is a daily limit on how many people can enter the park. Arriving early also increases your chance of seeing wildlife.
2. Nauyaca Falls
Nauyaca Falls is made up of two falls. The upper falls is 45 meters (130 feet) high and the lower falls is 20 meters (60 feet) high. The falls form a natural pool that is perfect for a refreshing swim. After hiking to the falls on a hot day, you will definitely want to jump in.
There are three ways to get to the falls. You can either get to the falls by hiking, horseback riding, or by sitting in the back of a 4×4. It costs $8 USD per person to enter the park. There is a ticket office next to the large Nauyaca sign at the top of the road on Route 243. If you have your own vehicle you can park 2 km closer for $3 USD.
The trail to the waterfall is 4 km and will take you less than an hour to reach the falls. It’s uphill and rocky. You will want to bring lots of water, sunscreen, a towel, and snacks.
I recommend visiting the falls earlier in the day to beat the heat and avoid the crowds.
You can find the entrance to the falls on Route 243 between Dominical and San Isidro. The drive from Manuel Antonio takes less than one hour, which makes it a perfect day trip.
3. Marino Balleno National Park Whale Tail
Marino Balleno National Park Whale Tail is located in Uvita, Costa Rica. Uvita is an hour south of Manuel Antonio. It’s a popular place to see Humpback whales and it actually looks like a whale tail from above! The whale tail is created where two beaches meet — Playa Hermosa and Uvita Beach.
During low tide, you can walk all the way out to the tail. It’s important to check the tides to see when low tide is. Unfortunately, we arrived too late. The tide was already coming in so we barely walked out.
The coolest thing to see when you visit Whale Tail is watching the tide come back in. Since the tide comes in from both sides you can watch the water cross over from each side. It was kinda crazy.
It usually costs money to visit the park but you can also get there if you park in the free parking lot further down Uvita Beach and walk all the way to Whale Tail.
If you have more time in Uvita, I highly recommend eating at Osa Thyme. This restaurant and bar serve Latin-fusion cuisine and the food is fresh daily!
4. Los Campesinos Ecolodge
Getting out to Los Campesinos Ecolodge is quite the adventure. This off-the-beaten-path destination requires your own vehicle—4×4 preferred—and a good sense of direction. The roads twists and turns through the mountains. The scenery is beautiful and it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Los Campesinos is a great place for hiking. There are a few thrilling suspension bridges to cross over. One of the bridges is 328 feet long and 246 feet above the river and waterfall below. Eek.
The area offers a few waterfalls and many natural swimming pools to enjoy. The lodge offers lunch and accommodations. It costs $8 USD per person to visit.
How to get to Los Campesinos
Los Campesinos is one hour east of Manuel Antonio. Take route 235 to route 616 towards Londres. Take a right to stay on route 616 and pass La Amistad supermarket. Turn left at Restaurante Y Bar La Galera. Continue for 3.8 km and turn right when you arrive at a division of the road just after a slope. Follow for 6 km until you reach the entrance of Los Campesinos Ecolodge.
5. Catarata Uvita
Uvita Falls is another place to check out in Uvita. You might see people sliding down the waterfall while you are there because the waterfall is a natural water slide. Yes, a natural slide! Just climb up to the top from the left side and plunge straight into the pool.
Besides the main natural pool, there are a few other swimming holes to enjoy. If you head the other way, you will find the other swimming holes and a platform that’s perfect for jumping in. There’s some good height to it, so be careful on those good ole belly flops..
If you continue down the walking trail you will stumble upon a butterfly garden. The garden is a private project, but you may be able to check it out for a small price. It really is beautiful!
The cost to enjoy Uvita Falls is $2 USD. This is a cheap date.
6. Isla Damas Mangrove Kayaking
Get out on a kayak and paddle your way through the Isla Damas Mangroves near Manuel Antonio. Mangroves are found where saltwater from the sea meets fresh water from the rivers. Mangroves are a complex area and the abundance of plants and wildlife within is incredible.
Kayaking in the mangroves was another chance for us to see some monkeys. Shortly after paddling around a bend, we saw a troop of white-faced monkeys! And not too long after, we saw a second troop. The monkeys were climbing and jumping to other trees all around us.
During our trip we also saw green and black lizards, crabs, humming birds, and great blue herons.
If you want to kayak the mangroves, I highly recommend using Milenlly and Milentours. Milenlly was an amazing guide. She was very knowledgeable about the area and the animals that we saw. Check out Milenlly and Milentours on Facebook for more information.
The sun rises early in the day in Costa Rica so be prepared to start early. Make sure to wear sunscreen since only part of your paddle will be shaded.
7. Buena Vista
There’s always time for a beach day. Buena Vista is a little quieter than the surrounding beaches in Manuel Antonio. You can go for a run or play in the ocean. I was surprised to find out that the water was warm!
There’s also a restaurant and bar nearby for food and drinks.
Una cerveza, por favor.
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Have any questions about the best things to do near Manuel Antonio? Leave them in the comments below!