The Manuel Antonio beaches are world-renowned for their beauty, surfing opportunities, and laid-back environment. But the beaches go by a number of different names, and it’s easy to get them confused. This handy mini guide will help you find the perfect Manuel Antonio beach for your Costa Rica vacation.
Playa Numero Uno is the first beach you’ll encounter when you leave the boundaries of the Manuel Antonio National Park. Also known as Playa Primera or Playa Espadilla, this beach is a great introduction to the beach scene at Manuel Antonio. This beach is popular for activities like volleyball and soccer. Swimming is possible but watch out for strong rip currents.
Just off the northern end of Playa Espadilla/Uno is La Playita or the “Little Beach.” For many years a nude beach popular with young men, today the beach is more mainstream. Wear proper footgear when visiting La Playita as the beach can only be reached by traversing a rocky headland. The beach is also inaccessible for two hours every day during high tide.
Just past La Playita is Playitas, a small beach better suited for thrilling surfing. With waves that break both right and left over a rocky bottom, surfers can find the largest swells at mid to high tide.
The second large beach, often called Playa Dos or Playa Segunda lies just across the line in the national park. Also referred to as Playa Espadilla Sur, this beach has a well-marked trail that leads directly to the exit. Beware swimming here following strong storms.
The most popular beach for swimming is Playa Manuel Antonio proper, also known as Playa Blanca (“White Beach”) and Playa Tres. A popular tourist destination, the gentle-looking waves can sometimes pack a real wallop. Playa Antonio Manuel is also a popular surfing spot with breaks ideal for both beginning and intermediate surfers.
Playa El Rey (“The King Beach”) is usually free of sunbathers but is a popular area for surfers. With very clean left and right breaks that perfectly synchronize with large swells, Playa El Rey offers superb surfing.
Playa Cuatro, also known as Playa Puerto Escondido (“Hidden Port Beach”) is a scenic horseshoe-shaped expanse of fine white sand. The beach earns its name because the sand gets completely “hidden” (covered) by water during high tide, so check with local rangers before attempting to enter the area. Be advised that there is no access to this beach from the forest.
If you’re visiting the Manuel Antonio area to surf or enjoy other activities, contact the Manuel Antonio Surf School and Camp (MASS).