7 Incredible Manuel Antonio Tours to Explore the National Park

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Costa Rica is known for its abundant biodiversity and there’s perhaps no other place in the country with more incredible wildlife than Manuel Antonio National Park. For example, the park is home to over 100 species of mammals alone!

While you can certainly stroll its trails by yourself, you’ll have a MUCH better chance of actually spotting animals in the incredibly dense rainforest—and learning all about them—if you have a trained guide to help you. Here are 7 incredible Manuel Antonio tours so that you can make the most of your time in Costa Rica’s most magical national park.

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Spider monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
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Manuel Antonio is located along Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, just south of the small fishing village of Quepos. While the beaches in Manuel Antonio are absolutely stunning, the real draw to the town is the national park, which spans 16 square kilometers across gorgeous coastline and lush rainforest.

Aerial view of beaches and rainforests in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

As mentioned above, you don’t need to go with a guide to the park—my husband, Justin, and I have previously visited without one and were able to find our way around the well–marked trails just fine. 

But it’s unquestionably hard to see animals amongst all of the thick branches and greenery. During that visit, we found ourselves keeping an eye out for tour guides, pointing into the treetops or even busting out their spotting scope, to help their guests easily see the monkeys, lizards, birds, and other wildlife that live amongst the treetops. 

Going with a guide will not only ensure you’ll see more animals but you will, inarguably, learn a LOT more about this slice of heaven. From the plants, animals, and soil to the history of Manuel Antonio and the surrounding towns, guides are rich with natural, cultural, and historical knowledge to share with you. In my opinion, going on a guided tour of the park is one of the most incredible things to do in Manuel Antonio!

Trail in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
Imagine trying to spot wildlife or bird through that foliage… yeah, not the easiest task!

So which are the best Manuel Antonio tours? Let’s get to it!

Best Manuel Antonio Tours

Pssst…. when booking a tour, double check to see whether the tour includes entrance to the national park. Many of the tours do not include an entry ticket and it’s not unusual for the tickets to sell out, especially during particularly busy holidays or weekdays. So, if you have an eye on a particular tour that does not include a ticket, be sure to purchase your ticket first here and then book the tour!

1. Manuel Antonio Park Nature Guided Tour

  • Length of tour: 4 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Roundtrip transportation available from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

A naturalist tour guide will show you around the dense primary and secondary forests of Manuel Antonio National Park. Along the way, they’ll help you spot animals in the luscious canopy above and provide fascinating information about them, as well as the park as a whole. 

Besides being incredibly knowledgeable about the rainforest and its wildlife, the guides are pros at helping you get photos of the wildlife with your own camera, through their spotting scope!

Capuchin monkey hanging from a branch in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

A couple of things make this tour a standout—for one, it’s limited to just ten guests (and there’s usually less than eight!), so you’ll never be fighting over the spotting scope with a crowd.  

Another cool aspect? The tour is almost DOUBLE the length of most other tours, with about half an hour or so just dedicated to chilling on the beach. And the fresh tropical fruit and refreshingly cold towel at the end certainly doesn’t hurt!

2. Manuel Antonio National Park Tour

  • Length of tour: Two and a half hours
  • Transportation to the park? Does not include transportation to and from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

If you’re short on time, check out this group tour, where your guide will help you spot animals, like howler monkeys, iguanas, and everyone’s favorite (and the hardest to see!), sloths! The guides with this tour are especially great at pointing out smaller things you certainly would have missed by yourself, like insects, fungi, and plant life. 

This group tour ends on the beach (although the guides will happily walk you back to the entrance if you want!), so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and some reef-safe sunscreen!

Woman running on a beach in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

3. Manuel Antonio Night Tour

  • Length of tour: 2 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Roundtrip transportation available from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

Want to include something a bit different—and perhaps, more adventurous—than a Manuel Antonio day tour in your Costa Rica itinerary? Visit during the night instead!

Full disclaimer—this tour isn’t in the national park itself (which closes at 4 PM) and, instead, is at a private ecological reserve right next to the park, with the same kinds of plants and wildlife. 

When you enter the park, your guide will give you a flashlight and off you’ll go into the night! The guide will help you spot (and take photos of!) the creatures of the night with their high definition spotting scope. Night is an AWESOME time to see harder-to-spot animals that you’d have a hard time seeing by yourself during the day and an IMPOSSIBLE time spotting at night, like the iconic tree frog, snakes, and lots of creepy crawlies. 

Frogs at night in the rainforest of Costa Rica

Definitely a bit more adrenaline-inducing than your normal daytime tour in the park!

4. Manuel Antonio All-Inclusive Tour

  • Length of tour: 2 to 3 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Roundtrip transportation available from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

Want something even more private?

This company provides private tours of the park, so if there’s a special trail or beach you want to see or even a particular animal you’d like to try to find, the guide can tailor the tour to suit your interests.

If you’re more on a budget, there’s also lots of other options—a semi-private tour, with just four to six guests, or a group tour, with a max of 10 people. On all of these tours, you can save a bit of money if you don’t need transportation to and from the park.

Tropical bird in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

And beyond just having a ton of tour options to choose from, unlike most of the tours, the company includes your admission tickets to the national park, which can be a bit of a pain to purchase—and can actually sell out days ahead of time in peak season (November through April). 

Beyond that, though, the guides are everything you would hope for—great at spotting animals, knowledgeable about Manuel Antonio’s biodiversity and the park itself, and adept at navigating away from the crowds of the park.

5. Manuel Antonio National Park Wildlife Tour

  • Length of tour: 4 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Roundtrip transportation available from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

We’ve seen tours in Manuel Antonio that are as big as 40 guests at a time—not only is it hard to hear your guide with these big groups, but you’ll spend a good portion of your tour waiting for everyone to have a chance to look through the spotting scopes for some of the animals. 

Luckily, this intimate tour limits its guests to just 12 per group (and, usually, has way less!). Because of the small group size, the guides are super attuned to tailoring the tour to your needs—for example, tweaking the tour to accommodate guests in wheelchairs or travelers with kiddos.

Howler monkey and her baby, sitting in a tree in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Another unique thing about this tour is that the ticket to the national park is included—on many of the tours, you will be required to purchase admission to the national park on your own, which, as mentioned above, can be hard to find during the busy season. This way, the company will take care of all that for you, and all you’ll need to worry about is meeting them in front of your hotel that morning! Not bad, eh?

You’ll visit Manuel Antonio bright and early to catch the animals as they’re finding their breakfast and then have almost an hour break on one of the best beaches in Costa Rica by mid-morning to soak up the sun and the beautiful views.

6. Manuel Antonio Park Tour and its Amazing Wildlife and Beaches

  • Length of tour: 2 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Does not include transportation to and from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

This tour is led by a naturalist guide, certified by the Costa Rica Tourism Board, who will show you around at least four different trails inside the national park. 

Along the way, you can spot all kinds of Costa Rica’s incredible wildlife—snakes, birds, sloths, and capuchins—either through the tree branches or with the help of your guide’s spotting scope. The guides are especially great at taking photos—and helping you capture memories as well!

Sloth sleeping in a tree in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

One of the unique things about this tour is that you can choose-your-own-adventure. You can either go on a morning tour, which includes some time to relax at the beach, or an afternoon tour, which is usually less crowded but skip beach time. If you have to go in the afternoon, though, and want to sneak in your beach time, your tour guide can help you make it happen!

7. Manuel Antonio National Park Group Guided Tour

  • Length of tour: 2 hours
  • Transportation to the park? Does not include transportation to and from Quepos and Manuel Antonio accommodations

On this small group tour (limited to just ten guests!), you’ll be shown around the park by a guide, certified by the Costa Rica Tourism Board. The tour guides on this company are INCREDIBLE at finding wildlife waaaay in the tippy top of the trees and have top-of-the-line spotting scopes so that you can see them too. Plus, they’re quite engaging—and funny, too!

After exploring the park with your guide, you’ll end the tour being left on Manuel Antonio’s beach, where you can enjoy the gorgeous beach and the warm turquoise waters.

Woman walking on the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Frequently Asked Questions About Manuel Antonio Tours

How do you get to Manuel Antonio National Park?

Many of the Manuel Antonio tours above will pick you up from your hotel or hostel and drop you back off once you’re done in the park. 

However, if you don’t go with one of the options that includes transport and you’re staying in or near Quepos, you have a couple of options of getting to the park. 

First of all, you can opt to stay in one of the hotels right outside the park, so you can easily walk to it. For example, the San Bada Resort not only offers a swim-up bar and both a family-friendly AND adults-only pool, but it’s only a five minute walk from the park. Alternatively, La Vela Boutique Hotel has an incredible complimentary breakfast served poolside each morning and is just a seven minute walk from the park. 

Rooftop pool in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

These hotels not only have the benefit of being conveniently close to where your tour will start, but they also usually share wildlife with the park—it’s not unusual to have monkeys playing overhead as you enjoy the pool (hitting up a swim-up bar, with a monkey nearby, is DEFINITELY on my bucket list!).

Otherwise, if you’re not within walking distance to the park, you can ask your accommodations to book a taxi for you (it will usually cost about $7-12 for a ride) or you can possibly grab an Uber, although they’re a little hit or miss in Quepos. 

View from the coastline in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Finally, if you’re a budget traveler, there’s a bus that runs from the Quepos bus terminal and winds its way along the hills of the 618 road, where the majority of the accommodations in the area are located.  The bus first departs at 5:45 AM, 6:45 AM, and then on every hour and half hour until around 7 pm. 

If your accommodations are not close to the bus terminal, you can get picked up at a bus stop (look for signs that say “parada” on it) on the 618 road along the way. Tickets cost around $1 USD.

Can you just book a tour when you get to Manuel Antonio Park?

Trust me, when you show up at Manuel Antonio National Park, there will be plenty of dudes that will come up and AGGRESSIVELY offer you tours, but no, I wouldn’t recommend booking with them. 

Most of these folks are not certified tour guides and likely do not have the same level of knowledge about Costa Rica’s wildlife, or skill (or tools, like scopes) to find animals through the impossibly dense forest.

Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Plus, if you wait until the entrance to get a tour, you’re kind of at their mercy and may not get the best deal—or even what you agree upon when you sign up to take a tour with them.

To get your money’s worth, I’d suggest booking through an established tour guide, so you know exactly what you’re paying and what you’ll get for it.

Is there a particular time of day I should go on a Manuel Antonio tour?

Yes, I’d recommend going first thing in the morning (as in, as early as the park opens). The animals are most active at this time AND you’ll beat the heat and most of the crowds, which can swell in the park during the afternoons.

Toucan in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Do you have any tips for visiting Manuel Antonio National Park?

Of course, we do!

  • Bring along a reusable water bottle, like these comically giant Nalgene bottles that Justin and I use, filled with water. Disposable bottles aren’t allowed in the park and no other food or drink is allowed in either. 
  • I mentioned it above, but one of the best parts about the park is its beautiful beach. Be sure to bring along everything you’d need to enjoy some fun in the sun, like this reef-safe sunscreen, a swimsuit, towels, and your snorkeling gear—there aren’t any rentals within the park itself.
Capuchin trying to steal a woman's bag at the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica
  • Don’t leave your stuff on the beach unattended. This tip has less to do with human thieves stealing your stuff (access to the beaches here are limited to those with national park tickets), but rather, monkeys!

    Unfortunately, many visitors have fed the capuchins in the park to the point where they now associate humans—and all of their things—with food. I never thought I’d have to chase off a monkey from trying to steal our backpack—but, thanks to Manuel Antonio, I can now say that I have!

    And on that note, please follow the Leave No Trace principles when visiting the park, including not feeding the wildlife (especially those little mischievous monkeys!).

I hope you have a better idea of which Manuel Antonio tour is right for you during your time in the park. Do you have any questions—either about the park or the tours? Let me know in the comments below!

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