Sometimes it’s as helpful when planning to know what’s not readily available in an area as it is to know what’s there. Of course none of the things listed below are absolutely impossible but the area is not particularly known for them or you may have to travel farther to find them.
The Pacific is mostly for looking at from the resorts and hotels in Manuel Antonio. There are public swimming beaches both inside and outside the national park, but most of the nicer boutique hotels and small resorts are up on the hillside with ocean views.
This has been changing somewhat since about 2012. The relatively new Arenas del Mar is sort of an exception because it does have a small semi-private beachfront, but the water is rough enough that swimming is strongly discouraged. The area right around the park entrance has seen some attempts at upscale like the San Bada but nothing like up the hill.
Natural hot springs are missing from Manuel Antonio’s repertoire and the volcanic mud has to be imported, but that hasn’t stopped the resorts from building lavish spas where you can enjoy every treatment imaginable including an open air massage complete with the sea breeze and waves crashing on the rocks below.
Hiking & Trekking
There are a few short hiking/walking trails in Manuel Antonio national park and several small reserves with walking trails, but nothing in the way of longer all day hikes or trekking.
Mondays & Guaranteed Access
Manuel Antonio national park is closed on Mondays to, “give the wildlife a rest” and the park has become so popular that visitor capacity caps (variable with season and day of the week) have been imposed. When the park is full you will have to wait for someone to leave before you are allowed to enter and guided tours get preferential treatment.
Manuel Antonio is not a great place to travel on a budget. There are hostels in Quepos (5 km from the park) and a few cheaper hotels, but mostly Manuel Antonio is fairly pricy. If you’re trying to keep spending down there are many better choices.
Surfing Manuel Antonio
There are small waves and actually a couple of pretty good surf schools that cater to beginners in Manuel Antonio but this is not a great destination for your surfing safari. Besides the waves that are best suited to beginners the relatively high prices and scarcity of walk onto the beach accommodations mean surfers will generally be happier a few kilometers up or down the Pacific coast.
Several times in the past ten years the beaches have been closed because of high levels of bacteria from human fecal matter. Although the park brings in almost ten million dollars a year and despite many proposals for improvements the restrooms continue to drain raw sewage into the park and the Pacific in 2019.