Playa Manuel Antonio

written in collaboration with eisenarik (1 spots)

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most wonderful places in terms of biodiversity. Even if it is the smallest National Park in the country, it is also the most famous (and visited) and Forbes magazine even graded it as one of the most beautiful in the World. Its beautiful beaches are turned towards the Pacific Ocean and rimmed by an intense jungle with a unique concentration of fauna and flora. A unique diversity of species can be seen here. Manuel Antonio beach sums all this up: huge trees home to sloths and howler monkeys tower over the sand, a calm water bay ideal for snorkeling. There is one flaw in this perfect picture: poor underwater visibility, especially after heavy rains.
How to get there?

Manuel Antonio National Park is located close to the city of Quepos, on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, about 170 km from its capital, San Jose. Driving from San Jose to the Park takes about 2.5 hours. There are several options for a visit: paying the single entrance fee (USD16/CRC1600) or having a guided tour (from USD50pp.). Be careful, as the number of visitors is limited to 600 per weekday and 800 during weekends. You will need to arrive early to ensure you can get in (opening hours: 7h-17h, closed on Mondays). Manuel Antonio beach is the most accessible and frequented in the Park. Walking there from the entrance will take you about 20 minutes.

Water entrance

We advise you to walk over to the end of the beach and settle close to the rocks emerging in the bay: this is the best area for snorkeling. Be careful if you leave your belongings on the beach, raccoons here are famous for stealing in bags left unattended.

Aerial view


You can basically explore the whole bay, but we advise you to focus on the area located at the southern end of the beach. It is rockier and underwater life especially abounds (see map above).

Sand strips and rocks alternate on the seabed. Even if there is not a lot of coral, numerous species typical from East Pacific regions can be spotted. You will come across schools of surgeonfish, Cortez rainbow wrasse spurting over the rocks and several blowfish species hiding away at every sudden move. Two butterflyfish species (blacknosed butterflyfish and threebanded butterflyfish) and two angelfish species (Cortez angelfish and Passer angelfish) also dwell here.

snorkeling playa manuel antonio
Threebanded butterflyfish at Manuel Antonio

The bay is generally sheltered from currents. However, as anywhere else in Costa Rica, visibility can sometimes be so poor you might be compelled to give up your excursion. This phenomenon is caused by sediments spilled out by rivers into the ocean after heavy rains. Improve your chances by planning your visit during dry season (December – March). And remember that whatever you get, you won’t regret your visit to the splendid, wildlife-packed Park.

Restaurants and accommodation

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Maximum depth
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
    National Park entrance fee ($16pp.)
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos