Make the most of a short stay in Costa Rica with this action-packed four-day adventure in Manuel Antonio National Park. On guided nature hikes through the park's lush rainforest and beautiful beaches, you'll spot colorful frogs, playful monkeys, and an incredible variety of birds. Kayak through a quiet estuary and learn to surf in crystalline blue waters before heading back to San José, where the trip comes to an end.


  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park on a guided nature hike
  • Spot frogs, lizards, spiders, snakes, birds, and monkeys in the wild
  • Learn how to surf on one of Pacific Costa Rica's most popular beaches
  • Kayak through a mangrove in the Damas Island Estuary

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San José & Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park Manuel Antonio
Day 2 Explore Manuel Antonio National Park  Manuel Antonio
Day 3 Kayak Through the Mangrove & Learn to Surf at Playa Scull Manuel Antonio
Day 4 Transfer to San José, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San José & Transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach
Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach

Welcome to Costa Rica! After arriving in San José, you'll transfer to Manuel Antonio National Park in a private, air-conditioned minivan. You'll stop along the way in the town of Tárcoles and make your way to a bridge over the Tárcoles River. The river is famous for having the largest American crocodile population in Central America, and this is your chance to see these toothy reptiles in the wild. You can usually see at least a dozen sunbathing on the riverbanks or floating in the water from the bridge.

Continue to Manuel Antonio National Park, check in to your hotel, and get some rest before the next day's excursion. If you have the energy or inclination, both the beach and the edge of the national park are close to town, so you can easily spend time here with water sports on Espadilla Beach or a hike on the trails through the forest. You can also explore the adjacent town of Quepos for sunset views. Or you may prefer to take it easy, wandering at your own pace and stopping for dinner in a local restaurant. Here are some dining recommendations for the area.

Day 2: Explore Manuel Antonio National Park 

A capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

Today you'll go on a guided tour to explore the pristine natural beauty of the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with exotic wildlife such as monkeys, sloths, birds, reptiles, and butterflies. Your picturesque hike will take you to one of the country's best beaches, known for its white sand and clear blue waters. Have your camera ready as your knowledgeable guide points out diverse flora and fauna along the way.

After nightfall, you'll go on another guided hike to spot nocturnal wildlife, including frogs, lizards, mammals, insects, spiders, snakes, birds, and much more. Then get some rest before tomorrow's kayaking and surfing adventures.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Manuel Antonio National Park for more information.

Day 3: Kayak Through the Mangrove & Learn to Surf at Playa Scull

kayaking in the mangrove of Isla Damas
Kayak through the mangrove
Plan your trip to Costa Rica
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today you'll explore the Damas Island Estuary and mangrove ecosystem on a kayak, gliding along the water while birdwatching and admiring the verdant flora of the area. You'll weave your way through the natural tunnels and passageways created by the ebb and flow of the river as you discover this fascinating tidal world. The unique conditions created by the shifting sediment and saltwater in the mangroves attract various sea animals. Your experienced guide will spot flora and fauna along the way, pointing out species such as reptiles, anteaters, and monkeys. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of avian life.

In the afternoon, you'll have the chance to take a surfing lesson at Playa Scull. Alternatively, relax on the beach and enjoy the scenery on the last day of the trip! Find out more here about learning to surf at Playa Scull.

Day 4: Transfer to San José, Depart

Catch a glimpse of San José's National Theater

The trip ends today. You'll transfer from the national park to San José and head to the airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

More Great Costa Rica Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these other Costa Rica itineraries, explore different ways to spend four days in Costa Rica, or discover the best time to visit Costa Rica.


Map of Discover Manuel Antonio National Park - 4 Days
Map of Discover Manuel Antonio National Park - 4 Days
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Oct 17, 2022