Manuel Antonio is one of the top places to visit in Costa Rica and many people have it as their first destination in Costa Rica after landing in San Jose International Airport. There are many ways to get there so here is our guide on getting to Manuel Antonio from San Jose and other places.
Something you should know first is that Quepos is the main local town near the touristic area of Manuel Antonio. They call Manuel Antonio the area of the hill above Quepos to the national park which is down by the beach on the other side. You have to go through the town of Quepos to get to Manuel Antonio and the national park which is at the bottom of the Manuel Antonio hill.
How to Get to Manuel Antonio from San Jose
Car: 3 hours
Bus: 4.5 hours
Plane: 20 minutes
The route from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is a very popular driving route for tourists and locals. If you plan to rent a car in Costa Rica, make sure you read our guide first! And don’t forget to get our car rental discount.
Manuel Antonio is 156 kilometers (97 miles) from San Jose International Airport. This drive takes around 3 hours one way on mostly flat highways. A high car, 4wd or 4×4 is not necessary to drive to Manuel Antonio, Quepos or the national park from San Jose.
You can use Waze or Google Maps as your GPS if you plan to use your cell phone. If you are using a GPS device, put the name of your hotel in Manuel Antonio as your final destination. If you are staying at an Airbnb or vacation rental, find the closest business to your place and put that in the GPS device if your Airbnb does not show up.
How Long is the Drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio?
The drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio is about 3 -3.5 hours with no traffic or stops. However, do note that San Jose and the San Jose International Airport has bad traffic in the mornings and afternoons (rush hour) so it can very well take longer.
We don’t recommend to drive this route at night. It gets dark at 6 PM everyday in Costa Rica so plan accordingly. If your flight lands after 2-3 PM, we recommend to book a hotel near the airport for the night and then leave the next morning so that you can drive in the daylight hours.
There are 3 toll booths coming from San Jose with costs ranging from 180 to 900 Costa Rican colones. It is best to pay in Costa Rican colones but they do accept USD (small bills only). However, they do not use a good exchange rate but they will give you your change back in colones. Credit card is accepted as well.
It is best to pay the tolls in local currency since it is quoted in Costa Rican colones. If you aren’t able to get some local currency beforehand, you can use your credit card or you can exchange about $5 USD to use for the toll booths at the airport when you land.
Map with Directions
Driving from from San Jose International Airport to Manuel Antonio.
Places to Stop Along the Way
There are a couple of nice places to stop along the way to make this drive more enjoyable. I will list them below starting with the ones closest to San Jose.
Safety tip: When you stop, always make sure to lock your car doors and roll up your windows when leaving the car. Make sure your luggage and belongings are in the trunk or at least fully covered and not visible. Always park where there are lots of other tourists and tourist vans.
Crocodile Bridge: This is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from San Jose. It’s a bridge that goes over the Tarcoles River, home to a large of population of crocodiles. There are also souvenir stores, an ice cream shop, restaurants and convenience stores here. We recommend to eat lunch or get coffee at Hacienda NOSAVAR as they have bathrooms, good coffee and food.
Jaco: Jaco is the most developed beach town in Costa Rica, about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive from San Jose. It is a surfing beach so you can stop by the beach to check it out and watch the surfers. We like to stop by Jaco Walk as they have a secure parking lot and lots of restaurants.
Jaco viewpoint: About 5 minutes south of Jaco, you will see an observation point area where lots of shuttles and people will pull over on the main road. There is a cool Jaco sign and very nice view of the town from there. Also a popular place to see Scarlet Macaws.
Hermosa: Playa Hermosa is known as the surfing stadium of Costa Rica and if you happen to pass by on a Saturday, you can watch the local surfing competitions. The road to Hermosa runs parallel to the beach so you can drive there to check it out.
Esterillos Town Center: Although this town center isn’t very busy, there are a couple of cafes/restaurants. It’s right off the main highway on your left. The beach, Playa Esterillos Oeste is home to a famous mermaid statue.
Quepos has its own local airport which makes it super convenient in case you don’t want to drive. The Quepos airport is located just 10 minutes outside of town. A one way flight from San Jose to Quepos costs around $80 USD one way per person and is around a 20 minute flight. The biggest local airline in Costa Rica is Sansa Air.
Itinerary tip: Many people like to fly from San Jose to Quepos and then rent a car from when they are in Quepos/Manuel Antonio. Then they return the car in Manuel Antonio and fly back to San Jose so they can avoid driving in the big city.
There are direct buses from San Jose to Quepos everyday so if you’re on a budget, the Costa Rican public bus is a good way to travel. You will need to first bus from San Jose to Quepos, and then Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re staying at a hotel on the hill from Quepos to the national park, you can take this bus (or a taxi to be faster).
There is a direct public bus from San Jose to Quepos with Terminal Transportes (Calle 5, Ave 18/20) everyday at 6 AM, 9 AM (Mon – Sat), 12 PM, 230 PM (Mon-Sat), 6 PM and 730 PM. There is a colectivo bus with the same company everyday at 7 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM and 5 PM (Mon – Fri). Colectivo means it makes lots of stops, directo goes direct with no stops so try to get the direct bus for a faster travel day. Colectivo can prolong the bus ride by at least 1 hour due to all the stops.
These bus prices are around 5000 Costa Rican colones one way but it varies between colectivo and direct. You’ll purchase your tickets at the bus station. Try to get there at least half an hour to 1 hour before to purchase seated tickets as it’s a popular route. This bus takes about 4.5 hours one way.
There are also some Ubers in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area which you can call after you arrive at the Quepos bus station to get to your hotel.
How to get to Manuel Antonio National Park
By bus, there is a bus from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park that runs about every 30 minutes or so from 530 AM until 930 PM leaving from the Quepos bus station. It goes all the way to Manuel Antonio National Park and people get on and off this bus a lot on this route because it passes by many hotels. This bus costs approximately 335 Costa Rican colones one way which you pay when you get on the bus.
You can also grab a taxi or Uber to your hotel from the Quepos bus station.
You can take shared and private shuttles to Manuel Antonio. You can quickly read about shuttles in Costa Rica and here are the detailed descriptions below.
Shared shuttles have set schedules and there is usually one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is best to prebook them as they are first come, first serve and they require a minimum of 2-4 people. Shared shuttles carry anywhere from 10-15 people and have one scheduled stop along the route. They only pick up and drop off at hotels and if you need pick up from San Jose Airport, you will need to go to the Denny’s Restaurant or Rostipollos Restaurant down the street (2 minute taxi ride).
Popular shared shuttle companies are Interbus, Caribe Shuttle and Easy Ride. Price is around $59 USD per adult.
Private shuttles are more expensive but drivers pick you up directly at the airport and you can ask them to stop anywhere along the way for food, bathroom, etc. It is the best option for families with young kids or seniors or big groups. A private shuttle from San Jose to Manuel Antonio ranges around $180-220 USD one way depending on number of passengers. Please contact us if you’d like to book a shuttle!
How to Get to Manuel Antonio from Other Places
How to get to Manuel Antonio from Jaco
This is super easy by bus, shuttle or driving. It’s 1 hour driving, 2 hours on bus. You can read this post on how to get to Manuel Antonio from Jaco. From the Jaco bus station, take the direct bus to Quepos.
By private shuttle, it costs approximately $80 USD one way.
How to get to Manuel Antonio from Monteverde
You need to take the bus to Puntarenas (420 AM, 3 PM by Las Juntas and 6 AM by Sardinal, 3 hours) and then Puntarenas to Quepos (3.5 hours). Then from Puntarenas, there is a direct bus from Puntarenas to Quepos everyday at 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 230 PM, 430 PM and 530 PM with Empresarios Unidos, Transportes Quepos. This takes 3.5 hours.
Driving takes around 3.5 hours and it is recommended to have a high car for Monteverde. Our recommendation is to go through Sardinal Route 606 which has a better asphalted road. You can read more about Monteverde road conditions here.
By private shuttle, it costs approximately $275 USD one way.
How to get to Manuel Antonio from La Fortuna
Take the 530 AM bus from La Fortuna to San Ramon (2 hours, ~2000 colones). Transfer to the bus going to Puntarenas which takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, ~1500 colones. Then in Puntarenas, get the bus to Quepos (~2000 colones, 2.5 hour ride). Then from Quepos, take the bus to Manuel Antonio National Park or taxi to your hotel. Total of about 9 hours.
You can also take shared shuttles and local flights from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio.
Driving takes around 5 hours. No 4wd required.
By private shuttle, it costs around $270 USD one way.
How to get to Manuel Antonio from Liberia/Guanacaste
Take the bus from Liberia to Puntarenas (everyday at 5 AM, 745 AM, 830 AM, 930 AM, 1030 AM, 1130 AM, 1230 PM, 230 PM and 330 PM, 3 hours) then Puntarenas to Quepos. If you are going from Tamarindo/Conchal/Playas del Coco, you need to get to Liberia first.
You can also take local flights from Liberia to Manuel Antonio. For shuttles, EasyRideCR has shared shuttles from Guanacaste (Flamingo, Tamarindo, Coco, Liberia) to Manuel Antonio.
Driving takes around 5-6 hours depending on where in Guanacaste. It’s 4 hours from Liberia.
By private shuttle, Liberia to Quepos costs about $250 USD one way.
Manuel Antonio Hotel Recommendations
Just in case, here are some of our recommended hotels in Manuel Antonio.
- Tulemar: Has bungalows and vacation rental houses. Huge property with their own beach access, pools, restaurants and spa. Has a lot of wildlife.
- Tico Tico Villas: Cute apartments, adult only. Good option for long term rentals.
- Hotel Mariposa: Nice hotel with absolutely gorgeous view of Manuel Antonio National Park.
- Selina Manuel Antonio: Hostel favorite for digital nomads or backpackers.
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