Manuel Antonio National Park is a microcosm of Costa Rica's most iconic offerings: pristine beaches, rainforests with an abundance of wildlife, and active outdoor pursuits. It’s also fairly easy to reach from other major hubs in Costa Rica.
From San José, take a 25-minute flight to Quepos, book a shared shuttle, or hire a private driver (or rent a car) and enjoy the four-hour coastal drive. Similar options are available from the Arenal/La Fortuna area. From Monteverde, you'll want to hire a driver or take a shuttle—flights are impractical on this route, and the unpaved mountain roads aren't ideal for self-driving.
From San José
Duration: 3 - 3.5 hours
There are a few great options for getting from San José to Manuel Antonio, but the best way is to hire a private transfer or rent a car and drive the 99 miles (160 km). The roads are good and part of the drive is along the Pacific coast with dazzling scenery.
Shared shuttles are another good choice—there are many reputable shuttle companies, and they will pick you up in a timely manner at the airport or wherever you are staying, and take you directly to your hotel. The only inconvenience may be picking up and dropping off other travelers, which may add some time to your journey.
With regional airlines offering more than 5 flights per day, and at a price not much higher than a shared shuttle, a plane seems like a good way to get from San José to Manuel Antonio. But by the time you factor in getting to the airport two hours before the flight and paying for transfers to and from the airport, you are spending just as much time and significantly more money by flying.
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From Arenal/La Fortuna
Duration: 3.5 - 5.5 hours
The most convenient way to get from the scenic peaks of Arenal to the coastal paradise of Manuel Antonio is hiring a private transfer to make the circuitous 168-mile (271 km) drive. Another excellent alternative is to book a private transfer, so you're not too busy worrying about wrong turns to take in the gorgeous views. A shared shuttle is another good option, with door-to-door convenience, but you will have other passengers to pick up and drop off.
Flying from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio is the most expeditious option. It is more expensive, but does get you there about 2 hours quicker. Regional airlines offer daily flights between La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio with a stop in Liberia. It costs about double per person the amount for a shared shuttle, and you shave a couple of hours off of your trip (not counting time spent getting to and from the airport).
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Duration: 4 - 5 hours
The most cost-effective and uncomplicated way to traverse this route is to have someone else do the driving for you. Shared shuttles run twice daily, in the morning and afternoon, and operate door to door. The driver will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off at your next accommodation, stopping halfway for a break and to stretch your legs.
Private transfer is a comfortable and effortless way to travel. While this is the most expensive mode of transport, it can be surprisingly cost-effective with large groups. Ask your local specialist for details.
If you choose to drive, know that the roads leading out of Monteverde are bumpy with some sections unpaved, and it is recommended to rent a 4X4 vehicle. It is not advisable to drive after dark (around 6 pm), as the roads are very windy and dark
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