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Last updated on April 9, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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 the Eastern Pacific can be spotted. You will come across schools of yellowfin surgeonfish, Cortez rainbow wrasse spurting over the rocks and several pufferfish species hiding away at every sudden move.
Two butterflyfish species (the blacknosed butterflyfish and threebanded butterflyfish) and two angelfish species (Cortez angelfish and king angelfish) also dwell here.
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 snorkeling. These murky waters are caused by sediments spilled out by rivers into the ocean after heavy rains.
Improve your chances by planning your visit during dry season (December to March). And remember that whatever you get, you won’t regret your visit to the splendid, wildlife-packed Park.
Sleeping is prohibited inside the National Park, but there are numerous options fitting all budgets along the coastal road between the park and the city of Quepos. Bring your own food and lots of water; you will need them for the walk to/from the
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
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