Manuel Antonio is a popular destination for a reason; the diverse wildlife, incredible beaches, and adrenaline-filled adventures are hard to beat. With so much on offer, during high season the hottest spots can get a little overcrowded. Luckily, there are still plenty of hidden gems left to discover here. We recommend some of our favorite off-the-beaten-track alternatives to the most popular attractions.


Manuel Antonio National Park vs. Rainmaker

White sandy beaches and the chance to catch sight of a sloth or capuchin monkey amongst the tropical foliage of the National Park attract crowds of wildlife lovers every day. A lesser-known option is the Rainmaker Conservation Project located in Parrita. Take your time to enjoy spectacular views of the cloud forest from hanging bridges, and take a dip in the naturally formed pools and waterfalls. Early morning bird watching tours and night tours are available for the die-hard nature enthusiasts. After your hike, you can grab a beer from Perro Vida, the on-site microbrewery.


Biesanz beach vs. La Macha beach

Biesanz beach, resembling a tranquil blue lagoon, is often recommended as an alternative to the popular Manuel Antonio beaches. However, being a smaller beach, it fills up quickly and you will be surrounded by vendors selling their wares. A far more serene option is La Macha beach. This is one of Manuel Antonio’s best-kept secrets and does require a fairly strenuous walk along a jungle trail to reach it. The hike is well worth the effort though, as this hidden cove tends to be peaceful and cool, allowing you to revel in the unspoiled beauty, stress-free.


El Avión vs. El Arado

El Avión is the unmissable C-123 Fairchild cargo plane that has been converted into a popular novelty bar. If you are looking for a more local experience, you may find it at El Arado, a cozy family-owned restaurant located on the quieter ‘old road’ to Manuel Antonio. Co-incidentally also named after a piece of machinery, if you see the old-fashioned plow outside, you have the right place. An extensive menu including lots of seafood, Asian-inspired dishes, and vegan options will keep everybody happy. The portion sizes and happy hour cocktails are amazing value.


Marina Pez Vela vs. Zona Americana

Marina Pez Vela offers international cuisine and a fantastic view of the sunset. Here you can enjoy outdoor movies and special events throughout the year. For a more secluded sunset spot, visit Nahomi park in the nearby ‘Zona Americana’. Jutting right out into the ocean, it creates a dramatic backdrop for those looking to exercise, enjoy a picnic or just hang out. Club Banana hasn’t changed hugely since the 1950s. Family-friendly and informal, you can enjoy typical Costa Rican dishes, play pool and even do karaoke. If that’s not entertaining enough, there is always something going on at Teatro Copaza. Attend a theater or dance performance there and you will be helping to fund community development projects for at-risk youth.


Ziplining Tour vs. Bee Farm Tour

Ziplining is undoubtedly guaranteed fun for thrill seekers, however, these tours are pretty similar wherever you do them. For a more personalized experience, unique to the area, consider the Bee Farm Tour. With dwindling bee populations threatening global biodiversity and food production, there is one local family dedicated to keeping the buzz alive. Miguel and his family have created a haven for endangered native bee species and other tropical wildlife on their Villa Nueva property, just 20 minutes from Manuel Antonio. Visit them to discover the secret life of bees, learn how to harvest honey and try the wide variety of products made on-site.


By Anousha Al-Masud