A drone shot of the National park Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
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Punta Catedral

Top choice in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

Geography fun fact: this isthmus, which is the centerpiece of the park, is called a tombolo and was formed by the accumulation of sand between the mainland and the peninsula beyond, which was once an island. At its end, the isthmus widens into a rocky peninsula, with thick forest in the middle, encircled by Sendero Punta Catedral. There are good views of the Pacific Ocean and various rocky islets – nesting sites for brown boobies and pelicans.

Along this land bridge are the park's two amazing beaches, Playa Manuel Antonio, on the ocean side, and the slightly less visited (and occasionally rough) Playa Espadilla Sur, which faces Manuel Antonio village. With their turquoise waters, shaded hideouts and continual aerial show of brown pelicans, these beaches are dreamy.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around attractions

1. Turtle Trap

0.21 MILES

At the western end of Playa Manuel Antonio you can see a semicircle of rocks at low tide. Archaeologists believe that these were arranged by pre-Columbian…

2. Playa Manuel Antonio

0.35 MILES

With its turquoise waters, this lovely forest-backed beach fronts a deep bay, sheltered by the Punta Catedral on the west side and a promontory on the…

3. Playa Espadilla Sur

0.38 MILES

A half-hour hike from the park entrance, the exposed Playa Espadilla Sur is to the north of Punta Catedral and gorgeous with pinch-me scenes of white sand…

4. Playa Gemelas

0.63 MILES

Clasped by volcanic rock and jungle, Playa Gemelas is smaller than the other beaches, but no less spectacular: this place could be a desert island beach…

5. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

0.83 MILES

Featuring lush jungle, picture-perfect beaches and craggy headlands, this tiny park (1680 acres/680 hectares) absolutely brims with wildlife (and often…

6. Playa Puerto Escondido

0.93 MILES

Visitors may visit a lookout over this gorgeous horseshoe-shaped beach, but the access point via the Sendero Puerto Escondido was closed indefinitely in…

7. Playa Espadilla


This wide stretch of white sand is found just outside the park entrance, in front of Manuel Antonio village. It's a popular place for families and beach…

8. La Playita

1.53 MILES

At the far western end of Playa Espadilla, beyond a rocky headland (wear sandals), this former nude beach remains one of Costa Rica's most famous gay…