Family Friendly (& Adventurous) Itinerary to Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica is a place where I instantly feel at home. It’s a country that truly has it all. While some people gravitate to the jungles and others head to the beaches, I love Manuel Antonio because it is a combination of both. The area also has an abundance of wildlife, delicious cuisine, and locals that welcome you with open arms. It’s a place that we keep going back to because there is always a new adventure to go on!
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Where to stay
Plush resort surrounded by rainforest with cozy rooms and villas offering ocean views.
Los Altos Resort
Luxurious all-suite resort surrounded by the beach and mountains in Manuel Antonio.
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Si Como No Resort, Spa & Wildlife Refuge
An enchanting eco-resort nestled in the lush Costa Rican rainforest, offering luxurious accommodations, rejuvenating spa treatments, and immersive wildlife experiences for an unforgettable tropical getaway.
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Day 1: Arrive in San Jose
Whether you want to rent a car or hire a driver the ride from the airport to Manuel Antonio is about 3 hours. Make a stop at the halfway point to check out Crocodile Bridge. While there enjoy a local meal from the Soda Shop or a fresh fruit smoothie.
After arriving at the hotel relax while taking in the amazing views and watching for wildlife. There is an abundance of monkeys and Scarlet Macaws.
Once you’re ready to venture out for dinner I recommend Emilio’s Cafe. They have great fresh caught fish dishes!
Day 2: Catamaran tour
Before getting out of the water start your day at Cafe Milagro. This restaurant is one that you’ll want to go to more than once! They roast their own coffee, be sure to get a bag of beans to bring home! If you want to immerse yourself in the Costa Rican culture you can get the Tico breakfast. I also recommend the Mango Crepes!
Get out on the water by taking a Catamaran Tour. You’ll spot dolphins and have the opportunity to snorkel. The lunch that Planet Dolphin provides while on board is one that you won’t forget!
Day 3: Beach day
Spend the day relaxing at one of the many beaches in Manuel Antonio - Playa Biesanz. It’s a small hike to the beach, be sure to wear good shoes but you’ll likely encounter some up close wildlife. Bring cash to rent beach chairs and an umbrella. There is also a spot to buy drinks and fresh ceviche.
After the beach lounge by the hotel pool before happy hour and dinner. I recommend Happy Hour at Samui Thai and dinner at Agual Azul, their tuna salad is one that you can’t turn down!
Day 4: Waterfall and hanging bridges
Take a private tour to Los Campesinos Ecolodge. On this tour you’ll drive about an hour outside of Manuel Antonio to the jungle.
After a short hike you’ll arrive to an area that has multiple waterfalls. Relax and cool down in the waterfalls before hiking to the hanging bridge. After walking 140m across the bridge you’ll take a short walk to the home of a family who lives at the Ecolodge, here you’ll enjoy a traditional meal before heading back to town.
Once you arrive back at the hotel, enjoy some time at the pool.
Day 5: Manuel Antonio National Park
Start your day with coffee and breakfast to give yourself plenty of energy before exploring the National Park. This is the perfect opportunity to head back to Cafe Milagro. Food is not allowed in the national parks, be sure to fuel up before.
Hire a guide to help you spot the wildlife in the park. This is the best way to see a sloth if you haven’t seen one already. There are a few hiking trails in the park and stunning beaches to take a break in between hikes.
As you head back into town make a pit stop at El Avion. This restaurant has great views, cocktails, and is the perfect spot to have a midday snack.
Day 6: Surfing
Hire private teacher for surf lessons! Alejandro’s Surf School is the best - they even got our three year old riding waves in. After the surf lessons relax on the beach for as little or as long as you like before heading out to do some shopping. The area around the surf school is the best spot to find any souvenirs you want to bring home.
Day 7: Ziplining
Zip lining is an activity that everyone loves to do in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio offers a non-traditional zip line that is the perfect quick activity to do on your last day. The zip coaster has two options. They have a slow ride through the rainforest that lasts about ten minutes. This option allows smaller kids to ride with their parents. If you’re looking for more of a thrill there is a faster zip line that will have you flying up and down hills through the jungle.
After zip lining this is the perfect day to head back to the beach. You can venture back to Playa Biesanz or explore another beach in Manuel Antonio before heading back to San Jose tomorrow.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Costa Rica.