Heading to Costa Rica and wanting the best of the wildlife and beach worlds, all in one spot? Look no further than Manuel Antonio National Park. This gorgeous piece of the world is home to so much wildlife and some of the most beautiful turquoise water I’ve ever seen. I am obsessed with how wild you truly felt being there. But, like anything, there are definnitely ways to prepare for the trip and make it as best it can be. So, knowing that, here are my top 14 Manuel Antonio National Park tips.
And finally as a heads up, I may receive commission if you make a purchase from some of the links in this list. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love. So these items are all vetted through yours truly.
1 – Bring Twine or a Lock
I’m starting with the weirdest but best Manuel Antonio National Park tip I have. If you’re going to be spending any time in the water on the beach, you’re going to need to bring something to close your bag(s) with. The monkeys, raccoons, and coatis are smart and have figured out zippers, buttons, and more. Yes, these little adorable creatures are also exceptionally talented pickpockets. I watched one steal a sandwich from a woman’s bag literally right next to her while I was in the water.
So, bring something you can tie your straps/bag together with, or a lock. Our items were kept safe and sound from Manuel Antonio National Park’s most adorable thieves.
2 – Do a Walking Tour with a Guide
Another one of my best tips for Manuel Antonio National Park is to hire a guide. The best way to ensure you see as much wildlife as possible in Manuel Antonio National Park is to explore the park with a professional guide. These guys and gals know what to look for and the slightest thing in a tree – that you or I would never notice – could be a gold mine to them. Without a guide we wouldn’t have seen a sloth hanging out super high up in the trees, among many other animals!
You can book your guide online here before you go, and you should, especially if one of your goals is wildlife-spotting.
3 – You Have to Book Online
As of 2022 if you don’t book with a guide, you’ll have to reserve your space online regardless. Make your park reservations here.
4 – Don’t Miss Out On Amazing Hiking
There are so many really cool hiking trails in this park that you should definitely have hiking shoes or sandals in order to properly explore AND increase your chances to see wildlife. Even if you don’t necessarily go off on the trails, it’s a decent trek to get out to the beach from the parking area, so comfy shoes vs. flat flip flops will be a better choice.
These Chacos are my favorite hiking sandals and I’ve worn them on many a rainforest hike.
5 – Stay on the Trails
This is seemingly a no-brainer, but I’m going to say it regardless. Stay on trail, don’t venture off. Especially with the amount of wildlife in this park. You never know what’s going to be on the ground. You don’t want to get yourself hurt or harm an animal, so just stay on the trails. You’ll see plenty of wildlife from the trails, I promise you.
6 – Don’t Forget Bug Spray & Sunscreen
Whether you’re in the jungle or at the beach, you’ll definitely want to protect yourself from bugs and sun. See if you can find some natural bug repellant and reef-safe sunscreen, just to be as thoughtful as possible and to not harm the ecosystem.
7 – Bring Beach Gear
The beach at Manuel Antonio National Park was one of my favorite beaches from our entire Costa Rica trip, so you won’t want to miss out on its beauty. Bring a towel, wear your swimsuit, and have any other beach gear you may want to relax in this little slice of heaven.
8 – Bring Your Own Food and Water
Once you’re in the park there’s nowhere really to get food or fill up with water. So you’ll need to pack your own lunch, bring you own snacks, and fill up a couple of large water bottles (especially if you’ll be hiking).
Also make sure to pack up any trash you might make into your pack and take with you. Leave no trace.
9 – Be Prepared For Rain
Depending on what time of year you visit, you might be expecting rain. It is a rainforest after all! So even if you’re going in the dry season, it will almost always be a good idea to pack a raincoat and take with you. Worst case scenario you don’t use the raincoat that weighs next to nothing in your bag. Best case? You keep yourself and your bag dry from a torrential downpour. You can thank me later, friend.
10 – Get There Early
Not only is it just a better way to see popular destinations with fewer people, but this park closes at 4pm. A bit of an early bird special if you ask me! Knowing that, you’ll want to take as much advantage of your time there as possible and get there right as it opens at 7am.
11 – Bring Binoculars
Looking for wildlife? Consider bringing binoculars with you! You’ll be able to get a close up look at anything you or your guide may have spotted. You’ll be feeling like Janet the bird watcher of your neighborhood but you’ll be seeing way more animals this way, so it’s a win/win if you ask me. This is one of my better Manuel Antonio National Park tips if you’re an animal lover like me!
12 – Be Prepared to Get Sweaty
You’re in Central America, so you should expect some heat and some humidity. But depending on what time of year you go, you may either get ridiculously sweaty or just a little sweaty. This varies ESPECIALLY if you’re going to hike. So while you may be tempted to pack a super cute dress and do your hair for some amazing Insta photos, you may want to reevaluate your approach to accommodate for the heat potential. I’m a bit of a sweaty Betty, so some braids and breathable clothes were what I went with.
13 – Don’t Go On a Tuesday… They’re Closed
This may seem obvious but a lot of people will just assume it’s open every day. But it’s not, and you won’t be able to get in on Tuesdays, so make sure to plan around that!
14 – Be Prepared to See Animals of All Sorts
This was my absolute favorite part of my day at Manuel Antonio National Park. My husband and I are massive animal lovers (I mean, check out all these animal experiences we’ve done) and were so psyched to visit. And let’s just say, I was blown away! Manuel Antonio National Park is just busting at the seams with wildlife. We saw sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas, and so much more just walking around or sitting at the beach. It really is a paradise for wildlife seekers. They are thieves, so remember that and protect your sandwiches.
So there you go, my best tips for visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. As always, if there are any questions about any of these, shoot me a message. Feel free to follow me on Instagram and TikTok as well, where I post more travel photography, itineraries, guides, and general tomfoolery.
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