Are you ready ?
First time visitors to Manuel Antonio usually end up at the main beach known as Playa Espadilla. And no wonder, Playa Espadilla is a stunningly beautiful, long and wide white sand beach, easily accessible and close to restaurants and an assortment of vendors. However, for those looking for a little more privacy, the Manuel Antonio area hosts several other “hidden” beaches, each with its own personality. Those that are popular with visitors include:
Playa Espadilla Sur
This is the most visible and accessible of the hidden beaches. As the name implies, this beach is just south of the main beach and separated by an estuary and ragged rock formations.
It’s located inside Costa Rica / Manuel Antonio National Park. The sand here might even be whiter than its counterpart to the north, and it certainly is more private. There are no services here, although there are bathrooms and showers in the park. This beach is more suitable for swimming than Playa Espadilla, but like all of Costa Rica’s beaches, you do need to be aware of riptides.
Manuel Antonio Beach
This beach is also located in Manuel Antonio Park, but on the opposite side from Playa Espadilla Sur. Visitors usually discover it at the end of the main trail in the park. And what a refreshing discovery! This beach is smaller and narrower than the Espadilla beaches, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in swimability. The water is calmer on this side of the park, and there are also tide pools, perfect for snorkelers. Manuel Antonio Beach offers shade as it is bordered by deep green mangroves and palms.
There are no services here, also, so you may want to pack in a lunch and water. There are monkeys. Lots of monkeys.
This is another smaller beach and it’s in the opposite direction above the main beach. Playa Bisaenz is a little more difficult to access than the others but it has that rare combination of seclusion and service.
A 10 minute trail from the main highway will take you down to the beach where you will find laid-back vendors selling food and drinks (including blackberry margaritas) as well as kayak, umbrella/chair and paddleboard rentals. Many visitors report seeing monkeys as well as sloths on the trip along the beach trail. Be sure to wear solid shoes.Parts of the beach are rocky, which makes the perfect home for hundreds of small colorful crabs.
Above Playa Bisaenz toward Quepos, you will find a beach that you will almost always have to yourself. Playa Macha (also known as Doctor’s Beach) is exceptionally serene. Lie on the beach and hear nothing but the waves. A great beach for meditating. Bring food and water and wear hiking shoes or sports sandals. No flip flops. The reason this beach has so few visitors is because of a fairly difficult hike from the main road that takes about 40 minutes.
This is not a great hike for children or those with medical conditions. But if you are in good shape and desire to combine a challenging hike with a day at the beach, Playa Macha is waiting for you.