Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
50 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
North America
Costa Rica
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 100
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
296th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Bottom 20% SUMMARY RATING: Ok if passing through


The location is beautiful and there is an abundance of wildlife, but be prepared for hoards of other tourists, prices far far in excess of other areas nearby, and the kind of tacky industries that naturally spring up around such venues, which, in my opinion, is not really what the rainforests of Costa Rica are about

If you have kids / are elderly / don’t mind theme-park style crowds, then Manuel Antonio is a must – as I say, it is a beautiful location with idyllic white sand beaches easily accessible by the trails and with a practically guaranteed chance of seeing Capuchin monkeys, Pelicans and a whole host of tropical birds .  But if not, then there are other spots in Costa Rica you should put firmly in front of Manuel Antonio.  My recommendation in particular would be Corcovado National Park (Costa Rica’s premier wildlife experience, and see more details in this entry – Camping in Corcovado National Park)

If you are set on visiting the park, my 2 top  tips would be:

  1. Not to stay near the park itself.  The hotels and restaurants there are extremely expensive for what you get and, again, you feel like you’re in a theme park.  Instead, consider staying about an hour further down the coast around the Uvita area that avoids these problems and still gives you the jungle / beach / wildlife vibe.  In particular, I would recommend the El Castillo Hotel, which, in a 6 month trip travelling around Latin America, was the favourite place we stayed
  2. Make sure you also visit the Rainmaker canopy walk – it’s around a 30min drive to the north of Manuel Antonio.  It’s far quieter (we arrived at 8am and had the place largely to ourselves); gives you a different view of the animals (ie from high up in the canopy); and has a series of spots to swim in the river


#1 The park's wonderful abundance of tropical birds that allow you to see a different set just about everytime you look up

#2 The nearby Rainmaker canopy walk, which is far quieter and gives a super view from high up in the jungle canopy

#3 The gorgeous Manuel Antonio beach, hidden in a small cove and bursting with animals

#3 The Capuchin Monkeys up to mischief all around you. Just watch out for you bags

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone