Manuel Antonio is located on the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. This small strip of tropical terrain extends into the Pacific Ocean. It is in the province of Puntarenas and canton of Aguirre outside of the town Quepos.
Running on the outskirts of Quepos is Costa Rica’s coastal highway, known as Costanera. This highway stretches from Orotina, meets up with the Pan American Highway, and goes into Palmar Norte. Of the various highways in Costa Rica, Costanera is paved and extremely well-maintained. Because of that, the roughly 100-mile trip from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is easy.
About an hour to the north is Playa Jaco, a popular beach frequented by tourists. For people who enjoy nature and those who like to surf, Playa Dominical, located about 30 minutes to the south, is the place to go. There is even a domestic airport close to Quepos, which offers quick and affordable flights from San Jose on a daily basis.
Learning More about Manuel Antonio
Interestingly, if you try to find Manuel Antonio on the map, you will instead see the small town of Quepos. This is because Manuel Antonio is actually the name of a small but beautiful national park.
Approximately 20,000 people live in Quepos, a name that comes from indigenous people who lived in the area back in colonial times. Although this small town is more of a fishing village, it has experienced significant growth. Today, Quepos boasts a marina, options for nightlife, restaurants, and retail shops that accommodate the increasing number of tourists.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Without question, one of the biggest attractions to this area is the Manuel Antonio National Park. Created almost 45 years ago, this popular but small park covers about 4,000 acres of land. To gain a better understanding of the park’s size, it can be compared to the Corcovado National Park. That park stretches over 104,900 acres and is home to many jungle animals.
However, the Manuel Antonio National Park also has a lot to offer. This small park is home to 184 bird species and 109 mammal species. Several hiking trails provide panoramic views and close-up encounters with animals and birds. Because of this, combined with beautiful waterfalls, flora and fauna, and natural pools of water, Manuel Antonio National Park is considered by residents and tourists alike to be Costa Rica’s “Crown Jewel.”
Manuel Antonio National Park is also home to four magnificent beaches, including Manuel Antonio, Playita, Espadilla Sur, and Escondido. Situated between Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur is Cathedral Point. Standing at 236 feet high, visitors have breathtaking views of the surrounding area and Pacific Ocean. In 2011, a top magazine listed Manuel Antonio as one of the 12 most beautiful national parks in the entire world.
Additional Information about Manuel Antonio
Beyond the Manuel Antonio National Park are many other attractions. Due to people being drawn to this park, the area has expanded. This includes all types of accommodations, from cozy hostels to 5-star luxury resorts. There are also a number of excellent restaurants, dance venues, bars, quaint boutiques, and more.
Even with modern amenities, street vendors selling a variety of artisan arts and crafts are commonly seen. However, these vendors are also a great source of information when trying to find a specific location or learning more about Manuel Antonio. Even though Manuel Antonio has experienced tremendous growth, it still feels tropical.
There are many attractions in the area. This includes whitewater rafting on the Naranjo River for people who appreciate adventures that are more challenging and calming river cruises on the Rio Savegre or Damas Island Mangrove Estuary for those wanting something more laid-back.
To ensure tourists have a great time, different tours are offered. For instance, there are canopy tours, as well as tours for snorkeling, waterfall hikes, ATV riding, local culture, horseback riding, and more. Even the Manuel Antonio National Park can be experienced on a different level by taking a group or individual tour. What makes Manuel Antonio so special is that it offers the finer things in life while still being a natural playground.
Looking into the Future
Over the years, Manuel Antonio has experienced numerous changes. Even so, it still has a tropical allure. Developers have swooped in to buy land for people of wealth. With such a small amount of land that can be developed, any development must be somewhat dense, unlike Dominical and other areas to the south.
Manuel Antonio is considered more upscale than Dominical or Jaco. Due to its growing popularity, the only downfall is that prices for visiting the area have increased. As for development, with this being a small strip of land, there are few opportunities unless developers want to move upward and become denser.
Since there is a delicate balance in trying to accommodate tourists and property developers while keeping the area tropical, local opposition will probably arise as development pushes further into the area. To retain the natural wonder of Manuel Antonio, developers will likely need to move more toward the town of Quepos and other nearby locations.
Experts agree that Manuel Antonio will remain one of the top tourist attractions in Costa Rica for some time to come. For expats, as well as foreign investors, there is a good chance this area will become even more popular than it is today.