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5 BEST Manuel Antonio Tours from San Jose

5 BEST Manuel Antonio Tours from San Jose

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Looking for the best tours of Manuel Antonio National Park from San Jose? Well, we’ve compared the top-rated tours right here for you!

We’ve spent time living in Costa Rica (and even more time traveling all over the country), and Manuel Antonio National Park is one of those places we always come back to. With wildlife, adventure activities, and beautiful beaches, it encapsulates everything we love about Costa Rica.

But with so much to offer, it’s really important to choose the right tour, especially if you’ve only got a day to spend here. 

Manuel Antonio is about 3.5 hours away from San Jose, so there are plenty of tours to pick from. And having tried many of them, we know how to spot the good ones. So to make it easy, we’ve broken down the best tours for you – who knows, maybe we’ll see you there!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

If you’re ready to pick a tour and don’t want to read further, we’ve got you covered! Our TOP CHOICE was this small group tour. It covers transport to and from your hotel and park fees along with breakfast and lunch, so you can just sit back and enjoy the experience. You get about 5 hours at Manuel Antonio National Park, which is plenty of time to spot wildlife and chill on the beach (don’t forget that swimsuit and snorkel mask!).

We absolutely love that this tours caps off at 20 people, which is much smaller than most. This creates a much more personal vibe, and you’ll be able to hear your tour guide well. It’s great for families, couples, groups of friends, or those travelers who want a calmer, more intimate vibe. The $162 USD price includes everything we mentioned, and you even get free cancellation up to 48 hours in advance.

Why book a tour from San Jose to Manuel Antonio

A bird watching guide points to a bird while bird watching in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
You see so much more with a guide!
A green parrot sits in a tree on a bird watching tour in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Wildlife is easier to spot with an expert

If you’re visiting Manuel Antonio from San Jose, I think that taking a tour is by far the most convenient option. The roundtrip journey is a lot of driving for one day, so it’s so much nicer to have someone else do the driving! Plus, the roads in Costa Rica can be tricky to navigate, so having a local driver who knows the route well is a real bonus in my eyes. 

I’ve also found that guided tours are a great way to spot wildlife. One of the things you should know about Manuel Antonio is that it’s famous for being home to lots of sloths and monkeys. So, if you want to see as many of these guys as possible, I think a tour is definitely the way forward. Even after living in Costa Rica, I always spot more wildlife when I have a guide with me! 

A guided tour also simplifies everything and allows you to see the best of the park in a day. The itinerary is designed to show you all of the highlights and you don’t have to try to figure it all out for yourself – which, trust me, can be tricky in a short time frame when there’s so much to see and do. 

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of our favorite day trips from San Jose – and if you love wildlife and gorgeous scenery, we highly encourage you to visit. If that sounds like you, read on for the top 5 tours that’ll make your visit super easy!

Best Manuel Antonio Tours from San Jose

1. Economic and Relaxed Park Tour

Bailey sits on Manuel Antonio Beach in the national park
About to go for a swim!
A sloth in Costa Rica
A sloth!

We think that this tour of Manuel Antonio offers the best value for money! The price includes park entry, transport, breakfast, and lunch, so there’s really nothing else to worry about. We find that all-inclusive packages are so convenient and give us peace of mind when it comes to budgeting – after all, no one likes hidden costs. 

One thing that we really like about this tour is that you get to choose how to spend your day in the park. The guided nature walk through the park is fantastic because Roberto, the guide, is so friendly and enthusiastic about wildlife, but you can also choose to relax on the beach if that’s more your speed. 

You get to spend a total of about 5 hours in the park before grabbing lunch at a local restaurant and heading back to the city. Although you could easily spend multiple days exploring the park, this is enough time to get a taste of its beauty and biodiversity. 

This tour lasts nearly 13 hours and costs $155 USD per person, and we’ve found that this price is hard to beat, especially for a high-quality tour. It’s only available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and we would definitely recommend booking in advance if you’re planning to visit during peak season. 

Related Read: Want to see this park after hours? Check out the best night tours of Manuel Antonio National Park.

2. Manuel Antonio Tour with Crocodile Bridge Stop

A lady walks through Manuel Antonio National Park
The nature at Manuel Antonio National Park is incredible
crocodile in the Tarcoles River 
Checking out crocodiles at Tarcoles Bridge!

What really sets this full-day tour apart is the extra stops along the way. Of course, visiting Manuel Antonio National Park is fantastic, and the guide, Ricardo, is amazing at spotting wildlife. However, it was the extra touches that really made it for us. 

For example, after stopping for breakfast on the way there, you get to visit Tarcoles Bridge – aka the Crocodile Bridge! In our experience, there are almost always crocodiles to spot here, and it’s really amazing to see them. 

We also loved the choice of restaurant for lunch, because it offers views over the forest canopy and the ocean. It really doesn’t get much more beautiful than that! And there are also some great cocktails here if you need a little reprieve from the heat and don’t mind spending a few extra dollars – hey, when in Costa Rica, right?

The tour costs $250 USD if you’re booking for one person, or $175 USD for groups of two or more. The price includes national park fees, roundtrip transport from your San Jose hotel, a guide, and two meals. It starts at roughly 5:30 am and lasts 12 hours (like most all tours to Manuel Antonio from San Jose). This one is available every day of the week, except for Tuesday when the park is closed. 

3. Family-friendly Small Group Tour

Two people walk on a beach in Manuel Antonio
The beach at Manuel Antonio National Park is amazing!
Two-monkeys-drink-from-a-coconut-in-Manuel-Antonio-National-Park
Monkeys are so cute!

I think that this Manual Antonio tour is perfect for families, or anyone who wants a personal, small-group experience. There’s a maximum group size of 20 people, and the tour only requires two bookings to run, so it doesn’t feel too busy. 

We also think that the itinerary is really well-planned. There’s a guided nature walk and time to swim in the bright blue waters, so you get plenty of time to spot amazing wildlife in the rainforest and enjoy the gorgeous beaches. And trust us, a refreshing swim will be very welcome after walking through the rainforest! Our tip would be to bring a snorkel mask with you so that you can check out some of the fantastic marine life and coral, too. 

The tour costs $162 USD per person, including the entry fee to Manuel Antonio, breakfast and lunch, and hotel pickup and drop-off in San José. It runs every day except Tuesday since the park is closed. This is another tour that tends to sell out pretty fast, so we would recommend booking in advance, as you’ll get free cancellation until 24 hours beforehand anyway. 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Manuel Antonio National Park and Catamaran Combo Tour

An Iguana in Manuel Antonio NP
Is that Godzilla?
Bailey poses for a photo on a trail in Manuel Antonio NP
On a walk through the jungle!

Manuel Antonio is a coastal national park, so cruising around on a catamaran is one of the best ways to see it! I find the beaches here to be some of the most beautiful in the whole of Costa Rica, and they look even more stunning when viewed from out on the turquoise sea. 

I love that this tour is geared toward anyone who loves sailing and wildlife (like me!). Plus, it includes snorkeling, as there’s so much fantastic marine life here, from reef sharks and sea turtles to seahorses and parrot fish. The cruise is also a fantastic opportunity to spot the resident dolphins who live in the park year-round, and to see whales between June and October. Oh, and did I mention there are free drinks on board?!

Of course, you wouldn’t want to miss the chance to explore the park on foot, either. Luckily, this tour also includes a guided 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) hike through the rainforests. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll spot some of Costa Rica’s fascinating wildlife here – Manuel Antonio has certainly never let me down! 

The tour costs $288 USD per person, which includes breakfast and lunch, but do note that you have to book for at least two people at a time. I think that this is such a fun and relaxing way to experience Manuel Antonio National Park – and isn’t that what vacation should be all about?

5. Flexible Tour with Excellent Reviews

Bailey walks the boardwalk in Manuel Antonio NP
On the hunt for some animals
A monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park
Found some!

What I like the most about this tour is that it gives you a lot of freedom. Although the wonderful guide, Arturo, is more than happy to give you pointers and show you different parts of the park, you can also spend time exploring by yourself if you prefer. This means that Manuel Antonio is your oyster, whether you want to hike along the nature trails or relax on the gorgeous beaches. We recommend a mix of both! 

We always really appreciate a good amount of free time on tours. We like to have a guide who can share their expertise with us, show us around, and in this case, help us to spot wildlife. However, it’s always so nice to have some time to ourselves. With this tour, you get the benefit of a knowledgeable guide while being able to explore exactly how you want to. 

Another thing that we always appreciate is food! This tour includes breakfast and lunch, so there aren’t extra costs on the day. And speaking of costs, this tour is priced at $175 USD per person, unless you’re traveling solo, in which case it’s $250 USD. I love that it’s a small group tour with no minimum size for it to run. In the off-season, you might even end up getting a private experience! 

Related Read: If you’re wondering where to eat in the city, read our list of the best restaurants in San Jose.

Other Activities to do while You’re in San José

Daniel and Bailey at the Poas Volcano viewpoint, Costa Rica
Poas Volcano is so cool!

There are plenty of things to do in San Jose! But if you’re having trouble filling that itinerary, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below.

  • Visit Poas VolcanoPoas Volcano is a very active volcano and it’s only about an hour and a half drive from San José city center. Seeing this huge acid-blue lake crater is mesmerizing, and this specific tour covers entry and guarantees you skip the long lines.
  • Take a coffee tour – You can’t leave Costa Rica without trying their world-renowned coffee! There are literally hundreds of coffee farms around Costa Rica, but some of the most famous are located only a short drive from San José. And on this Britt Coffee tour, you’ll try some of my favorite coffee and chocolate in the world!
  • Go whitewater rafting – There are some awesome places for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, including the Pacuare River near San Jose. If you love adventure like me, you have to go on a guided rafting tour! This tour had fantastic guides and included lunch after the rafting, as well as transportation.

Where to Stay in San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose city
People out and about in San Jose!

San Jose is definitely not lacking when it comes to accommodation options! There are actually hundreds of hotels to choose from in San Jose, and most of them are extremely affordable! Below you’ll find our favorite options for each budget.

Grano de Oro Hotel – $$$

Want a luxurious experience? Grano de Oro Hotel is right in the heart of San Jose and features an on-site gourmet restaurant, massage services, and a rooftop garden! The entire place is absolutely gorgeous, with vaulted ceilings and a beautiful interior design. You can walk to many of San Jose’s attractions, and you’re just a 15-minute drive to the airport.

Room rates start at $170 USD per night. For luxury in a great location, book the Grano de Oro Hotel right here on Booking.com.

Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel – $$

For a great mid-range option, Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel is absolutely stunning. The whole place is quiet, cozy, and clean. Each room provides garden or golf course views with a furnished balcony. They offer laundry, room service, and an airport shuttle for a fee – and they’re just a 10-minute drive to the airport. The staff are super accommodating and happy to answer any of your questions.

Prices here start at around $105 USD per night. For a relaxed and reliable choice, reserve a room at Terrazas de Golf Boutique Hotel online on Booking.com.

Costa Rica Backpackers – $

If you’re looking for a budget option in San Jose, I recommend Costa Rica Backpackers. This hostel has excellent ratings, is in a great location, and even includes an airport shuttle and swimming pool! They also have free coffee, a great on-site restaurant, and super helpful staff.

The best part? Shared rooms start at $10 USD per night and a private room is only $27 USD a night. You can book your stay on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.

Pura Vida!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Costa Rica in a pool of water
Thanks for reading!

Nature lovers can’t miss Manuel Antonio National Park – and visiting from San Jose is so easy! There are so many tours, but we can personally vouch for the ones we listed. Plus, they all cover roundtrip transport as well as meals, so your day is pretty much sorted.

We hope you find a tour you like and have an incredible time at the park. If you want to read more content, check out our Costa Rica blog. We’ve traveled all over the country and even lived here for a while, and we’re happy to help you do the same! Thanks for reading.

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