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6 Most Breathtaking Beaches in Manuel Antonio You’ll Love

It’s beach time in Costa Rica! The beaches in Manuel Antonio are all beautiful but vastly different. This guide will walk you through the best beaches in the area for swimming, snorkeling and even some secluded spots.

best beaches in Manuel Antonio teal water bright tan beach crescent shape with green trees
Beautiful beaches in Manuel Antonio 😍

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

Manuel Antonio is a stunning beach destination. With swaying palm trees, beautiful coastlines and unique nature not seen anywhere else in the world, this is a gorgeous part of Costa Rica!

By the way, if this is your first trip to Costa Rica, just know that you’ll fall in love with this country!

From the stunning Arenal Volcano to the Cloud Forest in Monteverde, the laid-back beach towns of the Caribbean Coast and the ultra popular Tamarindo, there’s something for everyone in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio beaches in Costa Rica

Playa Espadilla pic of white beach trees and blue water
Playa Espadilla in Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is home to some of the best beaches in all of Costa Rica. Visitors flock here to experience the National Park and it’s two crescent-shaped gems.

The natural coasts and beaches rival that of world-class beaches like Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico, but the vibe here is much different! Wildlife is abundant and each beach has a unique mix of what makes it perfect for visiting.

Whether you’re in Manuel Antonio for nature, the party scene or just to simply relax on some of Central America’s most iconic beaches, these are all an adventure. Inside and out of the national park, each of the beaches on this list has its own appeal.

But before we dive into the list, let’s get a better idea on location and how to get there.

Where is Manuel Antonio?

pink sunset with trees pink sky and purple water
Beautiful sunset in Manuel Antonio

Located on Costa Rica’s southwest coast about 3.5 hours drive from San Jose, Manuel Antonio is known for its incredible wildlife, the Manuel Antonio National Park and of course, the beaches in Manuel Antonio.

Here’s a map of Manuel Antonio as well as all the beaches on this list. Zoom out to see the town in reference to other popular spots in Costa Rica.

How to get to Manuel Antonio

coastline with blue water green in foreground and hills in distance
Jaco coastline on the drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

To get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose, you can take the public bus system, hire a private transfer, or rent a car. 

I loved renting a car and seeing the beautiful country of Costa Rica at my own pace. If you’re from the US, driving is a bit more of an adventure, but so worth it. 

For the best price on rental cars, use Discover Cars. It’s free to use, and I typically save 10-30%. It  finds the best rates on the internet for the most popular providers.

Enough chatting already – let’s dive into the list!

Beaches in Manuel Antonio

Starting this list off with a bang! The first 3 beaches are within the national park, and the other 3 are outside of its boundaries.

Note: a beach packing list and nearby accommodations are at the end of this post, so be sure to check out what you’ll need to bring!

Check them out 👉

1. Playa Espadilla Sur

view from above beaches in Manuel Antonio teal water white beaches trees

Perfect for: relaxation, swimming, wildlife, snorkeling
Amenities: none 😊
Location: Manuel Antonio National Park
Parking: outside the national park, for $10 USD 

You’re going to love this beach! One of the best in the area for relaxation, the soft sand of Playa Espadilla Sur welcomes you! It’s the most serene setting of all the beaches in Manuel Antonio.

The crescent shaped beach with the palm trees and rainforest create a beautiful coastline. It’s a gorgeous place to spend the day, with plenty of space to spread out. In fact, it might just feel like you have the place to yourself!

Playa-Espadilla-Sur beautiful sand blue water tree line coast beaches in Manuel Antonio
Picturesque coastline of Playa Espadilla Sur

I found this beach to be the softest sand in the entire area. Water shoes are required for all the other beaches, at least for the best experience. 

There are waves at Playa Espadilla Sur, but they’re really gentle and not the kind that will knock you over. The gray sand is lighter in color than some of the other beaches on this list. 

To get to Playa Espadilla Sur you’ll need to get passes to the Manuel Antonio National Park. No guide is needed, but tickets must be purchased online in advance. 

Once you enter the park, take the main path, past Bahia 8. You can take a right towards Playa Espadilla Sur once you get past Bahia 8. Or if you prefer to walk through the shaded part of the park and towards the other end of the beach, take path 11 past Senedero Perezoso and hang back to the right to enter the beach.

There aren’t amenities here, this beach is for relaxation! Bring your beach towel and ocean-safe sunscreen and relax in the most picturesque setting. This is also a great beach for snorkeling Manuel Antonio.

You cannot bring food into the park, but can bring water so keep that in mind. 

Pro tip: there is a food and snack shop which can be purchased and brought to the beach. If you take the route past Sendero Perezoso you’ll reach the Cafeteria. From there, you can take your snacks to the beach.

2. Playa Manuel Antonio (AKA Manuel Antonio Beach – the most popular on this list!)

Manuel Antonio beach, white sand palm trees blue water
Playa Manuel Antonio 😍

Perfect for: young kids, swimming, snorkeling, wildlife
Amenities: none 😊
Location: Manuel Antonio National Park
Parking: outside the national park, for $10 USD 

The shining star of Manuel Antonio, this beach is the most popular in national park! 

With sand brighter and whiter than any other beach in the area and waves almost non existent, this beach is quite picturesque. It’s the most popular in the area for swimming. 

Manuel Antonio Beach Costa Rica is great for families with young kids because the entrance is shallow and the waves are so incredibly calm.

Once you enter the water it’s quite rocky, so water shoes are highly recommended. These are the water shoes I took to Playa Manuel Antonio and they work perfectly. I’ve also worn them traveling all over, like Aruba’s beaches,  hiking and swimming on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail in Kauai, chasing waterfalls in Glacier National Park, and so many more adventures.

Anyway, this beach is also great for snorkeling Manuel Antonio. The water isn’t super clear, but with the tiny waves you won’t be knocked around. See coral and plenty of small fish in the water here.

With zero amenities, you’ll want to rent snorkel gear in town or get your own and bring it to Costa Rica. This is the snorkel set I take with me everywhere and love. This snorkeling set was perfect for our adventures to Maui with kids – my children loved it!

Antonio Manuel beaches view from the green water looking at beach and treelike
Playa Manuel Antonio from the water

Playa Manuel Antonio is located right across the tiny strip of land from Playa Espadilla Sur. 

To get to the beach directly from the park entrance, follow the main path past Bahia 8, Sendero Perezoso and the Cafeteria. You’ll go down a steep hill and see the beach entrance.

One of the coolest parts of the beach is at the far southwest end of it. White-face Capuchin Monkeys frequent this area, and are really fun to see in action!

capuchin monkey hanging from tree
Just hanging around the beach at Manuel Antonio

Pro tip: enter the park early to enjoy the quiet of the beach before the crowds come. This beach gets busy!

There’s a fun observation tower right between Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio. You can climb about 3 stories tall. However, it seems to have been built when the trees are smaller so there’s not a whole lot to see from the top. 

3. Playa Gemelas 

playa gemelas beach sand with rocks, green trees and blue water
The rocky and beautiful Playa Gemelas

Perfect for: swimming, great views
Amenities: none 😊
Location: Manuel Antonio National Park
Parking: outside the national park, for $10 USD 

One of the smallest beaches in Manuel Antonio, this is located within the Manuel Antonio National Park. Nestled in a cove, it’s a fun place to just chill. It’s further away from the main action of the park, so it’s typically less crowded than some of the other spots on this list.

This beach is definitely rockier than the other two beaches, and with more waves, too. The water is a bit more murky and has more leaves and sticks floating in it. 

Water shoes are a must at Playa Gemelas!

After a long, hot hike in the jungle of Costa Rica, the water feels quite refreshing!

To get to Playa Gemelas, take the main path once you enter the national park and walk until you get to the cafeteria (about 15-20 minutes). From there, go left on the path towards Playa Gemelas. 

Caution: the rocks can be slippery. There’s 2 small coves to sit on the beach. If you want to get from one to the other, be careful with the crashing waves, or get there by swimming past the rocks.

4. Playa Espadilla 

beaches in Manuel Antonio aerial view palm trees, teal water, gray sand
The beautiful Playa Espadilla 😍

Perfect for: swimming, water activities
Amenities: bathrooms, restaurants, tours, rental gear
Location: downtown Manuel Antonio, near the national park entrance (just navigate to Playa Espadilla)
Parking: in Manuel Antonio, anywhere you can find it (usually $10 USD from the locals)

This is the main beach in the town of Manuel Antonio! You’ll sometimes also see it referred to as Espadilla Norte.

The palm trees will make you swoon and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore is absolutely delightful. You’ll find tons of amenities here and great views of the Pacific Ocean.

There’s plenty of chairs and umbrellas for rent, too. You’ll pay a few bucks, but well worth it to sit comfortably in the shade.

The water is great for swimming, with the waves larger than the other beaches on this list. Watch for rip currents and keep track closely for young swimmers! 

Playa Espadilla palm. trees looking up on beautiful blue sky with beach in lower
Palm trees on Playa Espadilla

The locals here create a unique experience on the beach. Artisans selling crafts, families offering horseback rides, and of course, cold drink carts where you’ll be happy to quench your thirst after swimming and sunning on the beach.

If you’re staying at a nearby hotel or vacation rental, walking is an option. Parking can be a bit challenging, and you’ll end up paying about $10 USD for the day. Taxis are also available from your hotel if you don’t have a rental car and it’s too far to walk.

Pro tip: there are a lot of people on this beach. To keep valuables like keys and cell phones safe, I recommend this beach towel with hidden pocket. I’ve used it in beaches from Placencia Belize to the best beaches on the Gulf Coast. Highly recommend!

5. Playa Biesanz 

chairs and umbrella on playa biesanz gray sand blue ocean green hills
Rocky coastline at Playa Biesanz

Perfect for: wildlife, swimming, kayaking, shelling
Amenities: bathrooms, drinks and snacks, rentals
Location: navigate to Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica (near Shana By the Beach Resort)
Parking: near the entrance to the beach trail, for $4 USD

One of the hidden gems, and the best beaches in Manuel Antonio is Playa Biesanz. The locals are super friendly and helpful here, providing anything you want for a few bucks!

The beach itself is quite large, but the ocean access is small due to a rocky shoreline. With plenty of natural shade, you can bring towels and enjoy from under a tree. 

There are chairs and umbrellas to rent too if you prefer to be a bit closer to the water. 

rocky beach grey sand blue water
Rocky area of Playa Biesanz

One of my favorite draws of this beach is the sloths! Sightings are common here. If you ask a local to help you find some, it will cost a few dollars but they typically know where there sloths hang out.

There are capuchin monkeys and howler monkeys that play in the treetops along the edge of the beach, too. This is a very exciting beach!

With very shallow water and extremely calm waves, this beach is perfect for swimming, and especially perfect for families. It’s also a bit rocky, which is perfect for seashell hunting!

Quick note: the 10 minute hike down to the beach is a bit steep. Water shoes or athletic shoes are recommended, especially if it’s recently rained. 

Pro tip: to get a bit away from the crowds, walk towards the right, past the entrance to the water. There is more soft sand and places to sit on the other side of the black rocks.

Parking here costs $4 USD. Technically it’s just a local saying they’ll ‘watch your vehicle’ but might as well pay so it doesn’t get vandalized.

6. Playa La Macha (the most secluded on this list of beaches in Manuel Antonio)

picture of tan sandy beach in Manuel Antonio with blue water and trees framing the top portion of photo
Gotta love these beautiful beaches in Costa Rica

Perfect for: swimming, sunbathing
Amenities: none 😊
Location: Unnamed Rd, Quepos,, Provincia de Puntarenas, Quepos, Costa Rica (near Hotel Bongo)
Parking: limited parking at trail entrance

This beach is made for the adventurer! And even more interesting, it’s clothing optional!

Playa La Macha is a small beautifully secluded beach on the northern end of Manuel Antonio. It’s more difficult to get to, which also means you’ll encounter far less crowds! There are no services at the beach, so grab some water and snacks so you can stay awhile!

To get to Playa La Macha, navigate to Hotel Bongo, where you’ll see a sign for the beach. If it’s not too muddy and you have 4×4 vehicle, you can drive down the dirt road towards the beach until you see a sign that says “no vehicles beyond this point” as it will save you 10 or so minutes of walking.

However, if it’s muddy or you don’t have a high clearance vehicle, leave your car at Hotel Bongo to ensure you don’t get stuck in this remote location.

Next comes the adventurous part – the hike down to the beach. It’s an intermediate level hike, about 15-20 minutes with slippery and rocky terrain. Shoes are a must – flip flops would be a disaster on this trail! At the very least bring a good pair of water shoes that can double as hiking shoes.

The beach itself is great for swimming! The waves aren’t as large as some of the others in the area, and it’s a great place to enjoy the water.

Note: during high tide the waves come all the way up to the tree line and there’s not a dry place to set down your stuff. You can check out the tide times for the beaches in Manuel Antonio for the best experience.

Packing for Manuel Antonio Beach Costa Rica

If you’re wondering what to pack for the best experience in Manuel Antonio, here are the items you need.

  • Swimming suit and swim cover. I like to travel with 2 that way one can be drying and I alternate days.
  • Beach hat. The sun is intense here, and it’s easy to get sunburnt. 
  • Reef-safe sunscreen. Protect our oceans from harmful chemicals! This is the reef-safe sunscreen I used in Costa Rica and beaches all over the world, and it smells fantastic.
  • Water shoes. Mentioned throughout this article, this is an essential item for Costa Rica beaches! I have these water shoes in gray and they work perfectly for walking and swimming.
  • Reusable water bottle. Costa Rica is very eco-friendly, and the tap water is clean and tasteless. This is the water bottle I travel with and it keeps water cold for a long time!

Of course you can also bring rash guards, a beach bag, snorkel gear, collapsable cooler and other items that will round out your trip!

For a full beach packing list, check out this guide: Exactly What to Pack for a Beach Vacation

Tips for the beach

man standing on rocks at Playa Biesanz
Rocky shoreline at Playa Biesanz

Visiting the beaches in Manuel Antonio is quite memorable! Here are a few helpful tips to make your time more enjoyable.

  • All the street vendors, restaurants and tours take US Dollars and Costa Rica Colon. Some take cards.
  • Bring a full, reusable water bottle with you. Some areas you’ll be able to buy drinks, but not all. Don’t get dehydrated!
  • The national park doesn’t allow outside food, but you can bring food to the other beaches on this list. You might find that more affordable than buying snacks right at the beach.
  • The water temperature varies depending on where you are on the coast. It’s refreshing and even in winter not too cold for swimming, but some areas are cooler than others.

Where to stay in Manuel Antonio

views of Manuel Antonio national park through trees at sunset with light pink sky
View of Manuel Antonio National Park from Hotel Costa Verde

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Manuel Antonio to take advantage of all the beautiful beaches, I got you!

The city of Manuel Antonio is pretty linear with many properties offering great views. You can choose to stay close to the national park, and the downtown action, or a little further away from the crowds, but still with plenty of accommodations and accessibility.

Places to stay in Manuel Antonio:

I personally loved staying at the Hotel Costa Verde, where they had an amazing platform built on the side of the hillside perfect for watching the sunset. Oh, and the pool was spectacular!

I typically like using Booking.com to find accommodations. With excellent rates, they have hotel and private vacation home options. Truly the best of both worlds!

Best beaches in Manuel Antonio

best beaches in Manuel Antonio picture from above with beach, white waves, teal water and trees
One last pic of the beaches in Manuel Antonio!

That’s a wrap! This is one of the most popular areas of Costa Rica, and for good reason! The beaches are picturesque and there’s plenty of sand and surf for everyone to enjoy. From secluded to bustling, these are the best beaches in Manuel Antonio.

Let’s recap that list again in a quicker fashion…

Manuel Antonio Beaches Costa Rica

  1. Playa Espadilla Sur
  2. Playa Manuel Antonio
  3. Playa Gemelas
  4. Playa Espadilla
  5. Playa Biesanz
  6. Playa La Macha

Related content to read next:
Epic Things to Do in Belize for an Amazing Vacation
Visiting Tikal in Guatemala – Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
26 Best Beaches in Aruba (and one to miss)

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text-manuel Antonio Costa Rica stunning beaches pictures-beach with blue water and trees from the air on top, bottom photo is white sand palm tree and blue sky

simplyjolayne

Saturday 30th of April 2022

So beautiful. My husband and I keep saying we need to go to Costa Rica and then we get drawn somewhere else. Someday we will get there.

Nikki

Sunday 1st of May 2022

YOU MUST GO! You'll absolutely love it!

ashley

Monday 18th of April 2022

You will find me at Playa Biesanz sighting sloths and being a sun sloth! Great, helpful post!

Nikki

Monday 18th of April 2022

Ha! I love your style!! 💛

Jenn | By Land and Sea

Sunday 17th of April 2022

When we visited Costa Rica, we missed the chance to go to Manuel Antonio and I so regret it. These beaches are wonderful! Would love to spend some time soaking up the sun!

Nikki

Monday 18th of April 2022

Ah Jenn! Sounds like a trip back to Costa Rica is in order...😊

Erin

Saturday 16th of April 2022

Playa Espadilla Sur looks gorgeous! I love that you thought of every detail including rental car suggestions.

Nikki

Monday 18th of April 2022

Oh thanks Erin! This is a beautiful part of the globe, and one worth visiting, for sure!

Brittany

Saturday 16th of April 2022

I've had my eye on visiting Costa Rica, and specifically Manuel Antonio, for so long! Now I really want to go and spend a whole week just hanging out on these beautiful beaches!

Nikki

Monday 18th of April 2022

Brittany DO IT! It's an amazing place, and you'll have the best time!!