Visiting the village of Manuel Antonio with kids is fun! This destination in Costa Rica has a beautiful tropical environment with lots of animals and also beautiful beaches. There are also several activities to do with kids such as ziplining. We visited Manuel Antonio for three days with our daughter and list all our findings in this blog.
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#1 Manuel Antonio national park
We found visiting Manuel Antonio National Park to be one of our highlights of Costa Rica. Yes we know it is a crowded park, but you will find so many animals in a small area and the beaches of the park are beautiful. What you do need to do is book tickets online in advance. You can do this on the Manuel Antonio National Park website. Especially during the peak season, tickets can sell out just a few days in advance.
You can park your car around the park and on the route to the park there are all kinds of people pretending to belong to the park to get you to park in their parking lot. It is best to ignore these people and drive all the way to the entrance of the park, There you can park the car for a few euros.
We hesitated to hire a guide to the national park, but it is so crowded that you can actually walk from group to group who have spotted animals. That way you still see enough and can save the cost of a guide. The park is ideal with kids because the distances in the park are not super long and you can spot a reasonable amount of animals. In addition, the trail ends at the beach, where you can spend a few hours cooling off in the sea.
What animals we all saw: different monkeys, sloths, different birds, monitor lizards, lizards and land crabs. In short, a whole lot of animals. Just keep in mind that you are not allowed to bring food and drinks are not allowed in plastic bottles. This is also checked at the entrance! In the park you can drink water in several places and near the beach there is a small restaurant, where you can buy some drinks and some snacks such as a pizza point or ice cream, for example.
#2 The beaches of Manuel Antonio
You have several beaches to visit in Manuel Antonio. First you have the beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park. You have two beaches here and they are both beautiful. You have Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur here. Aside from the fact that these beaches are beautiful, you can of course spot plenty of animals at the beach such as iguanas, crabs and monkeys.
The disadvantage of these beaches, of course, is that you have to pay entrance fees to the national park, so they are not free to visit. By the way, Playa Espadilla Sur beach is partly inside the national park and partly outside it (this beach is not called Playa Espadilla Sur, but Playa Espadilla), so this beach is partly free to visit.
We visited this beach the day after we visited the national park and we enjoyed taking a tour here. You can park the car around the beach for a few euros paid. Here, too, you can spot animals. We saw monkeys and a sloth in the tree here. You can also rent beds here and you have several catering establishments sitting around the beach.
Another beautiful beach regularly mentioned online is Playa Biesanz. We hesitated to visit this beach, but the reviews about it were mixed. You can park the car paid (with a male) on the shoulder of the road and then you have to walk a bit over rocks to the beach. Here, too, you can rent beds and order some food, but there were several reviews that had bad experiences with these vendors who, at the end, still wanted more money than previously agreed upon.
Other children’s activities Manuel Antonio
You have several other children’s activities besides these two major attractions in Manuel Antonio. We list them briefly below.
#3 Whale and dolphin tour: you can also look for different marine animals such as dolphins and whales in Manuel Antonio with kids. Dolphins can be admired all year round, and for whale watching the best season is from August to March. We found the tours too expensive and therefore did not do this tour.
#4 Zipcoaster Manuel Antonio: You cannot avoid the large signs of the zipcoaster when you visit Manuel Antonio. We were not actually planning to do this, yet our daughter did this zipcoaster on her own. We paid $12 for her and the ride took a minute or two.
It’s a short ride, but great fun for kids. You can also ride a kind of bicycle on a track there and it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. Again, you can spot monkeys and sloths in the area.
#5 Ziplining: just like in almost every (tourist) destination in Costa Rica, you can also go ziplining with the family in Manuel Antonio. You have several ziplines here as well as several other sections. We ourselves had already done this activity in Monteverde, so we did not do this again in Manuel Antonio. In Manuel Antonio, this zipline was also a lot more expensive than in Monteverde. For your trip if you want to do this, find out in advance exactly where you would like to do this.
#6 Crocodile spotting on the bridge: the last two tips are not in Manuel Antonio itself, but for most tourists on the way to Manuel Antonio. Along the way, you come to a bridge where there is quite a bit of activity and you see many tourists looking down on the bridge. You can’t really miss the place on the way to Manuel Antonio.
Under the bridge by the river are several crocodiles. Those are always there, despite not being allowed to be fed from the government ;). To park your car at the bridge, you pay a small fee to a male who babysits your car.
#7 Carara National Park: a few hundred meters from this crocodile bridge is also another national park that you can visit. The Carara National Park is not super well marked, but you can spot parrots in the park here. It’s not like there are hundreds of parrots in the park, but we were lucky enough to spot two parrots.
Other than that, it’s a fun route to walk for an hour or two. We didn’t see super many animals here. You can reserve entrance tickets in advance on this website.
Family-friendly hotel Manuel Antonio
We spend the night in Manuel Antonio at The Falls at Manuel Antonio. We loved this hotel. The hotel has nice rooms with all amenities (slightly noisy though) and has a very nice environment. It has a nice pool and you can also have great food. We also found the breakfast at the hotel to be very good.
We enjoyed swimming at the end of the day at The Falls hotel. The garden is beautiful and we saw iguanas, monkeys and parrots in the garden here. Also in front of the hotel we spot another toucan (look up the sound on Youtube and you will recognize the sound right away during your trip through Costa Rica).