Doing a trip or a day trip on the bus to Manuel Antonio can be easily done from Jaco, allowing you to stay in the cheaper town of Jaco whilst also getting to experience one of the best national parks in Costa Rica.
In order to get to Manuel Antonio on the bus from Jaco, you need to take one bus to the town of Quepos, followed by a change at the bus terminal there to a local bus headed to the national park.
1. Bus from Jaco to Quepos
The important thing that you need to know are the bus times. As Manuel Antonio opens at 9am, you want to make sure you take advantage of the day (and the crowds) and get there early. Whilst it isn’t the biggest national park it certainly takes a day to explore, as you wind your way from rainforest to beach all in one day. The trip from Jaco to Quepos also takes around 2 hours, followed by a quick 20 minute ride up the hill to Manuel Antonio itself. Because of all of this, it is important to get one of the first buses from Jaco to Quepos, with the bus times being as follows:
The cost of this bus as of April 2017 is 1,200 colones, with tickets purchased on the bus. You can catch the bus from anywhere on the main road in Jaco called Avenida Pastor Diaz, with the bus passing through here before exiting back onto the main road going towards Quepos. We recommend being 15 minutes early for the bus, with the supposed 6:30am bus for us showing up slightly early!
2. Bus from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park
When you arrive in Quepos you will be dropped off at the main bus terminal in town. From here, buses depart approximately every 20 minutes going
up to Manuel Antonio and the national park. You will see the blue buses arrive with a sign in the front window stating that it is going to Manuel Antonio, and as of April 2017 the price for a one-way ride was 295 colones.
You take this bus all the way until it reaches a turnaround point in the town of Manuel Antonio, where you can follow the crowds and the signs to the left towards the entrance of the park.
3. Returning to Jaco
Returning to Jaco on the bus simply requires you to take the same trip in reverse. The only difference being that you need to ensure that when you get to Quepos you purchase a ticket on the next bus to Jaco (there are pre-allocated seats for the return journey).
Because you need to purchase a ticket for a seat reservation for the ride from Quepos to Jaco, it is imperative that you arrive back in Quepos from Manuel Antonio a little while before the bus leaves to ensure you get a seat. Buses regularly pass by where you were dropped off in Manuel Antonio to take you back to Quepos, with the bus times from here to Jaco including:
We do not recommend taking the last bus back to Jaco, lest you miss out on a seat leaving you stranded in Quepos for the night.
You’ll be glad you took the trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, with it being one of the highlights of our time in Costa Rica. We were able to see many animals that we never dreamed would be so close to us, including sloths, monkeys, and many species of birds.
The other highlights beyond the animals themselves is being able to hike your way around the jungle, and the hidden beaches just beyond the trees offering crystal clear waters and fantastic opportunities to swim whenever you feel like it.
One of the biggest pieces of advice for the park is to not bother getting a guide for your time here. The entry to the park will set you back $16US already, and discreetly stopping wherever the guides do whilst ambling around at your own pace allows you to see the exact same animals and hear the same information as the tour groups. Basically anywhere a group of people form is another opportunity to see an animal, so stay curious and explore- you never know what you will end up seeing there!
Enjoy the national park, and your time in Costa Rica!