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What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

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30 posts
What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

My wife and I are renting a car & driving from Juan Santamaria airport to Manuel Antonio the first week of April. I was wondering how safe the drive is, & are there places to stop if we need to use the restroom? We will be leaving the airport in the morn. Thanks for any help.

Phoenix, Arizona
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2,222 posts
TripAdvisor Staff  What's this?
1. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Hi Sam C,

We've moved this topic to the Manuel Antonio National Park forum, because it should be more likely to receive some replies here. We hope you find the information you're looking for.

Best regards,


London, England...
Level Contributor
2,518 posts
90 reviews
2. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Drive is perfectly safe, all modern paved roads until quepos and the last few miles are still paved, just a bit older.

A great stop off would be at the tarcoles river bridge. You can't miss it as you'll wonder why there are so many tourists stopped peering over the side - it's because there's about 30-40 crocodiles just sat sunbathing underneath it! On the side you'll be coming from there's some tourist-tat shops n a café/bar/restaurant you can use. Given you'll have all your stuff with you it's probably best to stop here rather than the other side.

Playa Hermosa...
Destination Expert
for Manuel Antonio National Park, Jaco
Level Contributor
1,233 posts
67 reviews
3. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Getting onto the Autopista del Sol (new toll road) is slightly tricky but after that the drive is easy, paved roads and decent signage. The drive should take you 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Be especially careful of your speed, don't push the speed limit, don't pass on a double solid line and watch for school zones. There is usually traffic police just south of the Tarcoles where the speed drops to 60 (near Carara). Do not leave anything of value inside your vehicle without one person staying w/ the vehicle at all times (and to be on the safe side, this includes the Tarcoles croc bridge too). If you stop for lunch, pick a place where you can park you vehicle next to your table and watch your vehicle (all the doors, not just the back or side). Fiesta Del Mariscos is just past the Tarcoles, on the water and has great food too! You won't see "rest stops" as you might see in the states; however most all restaurants will allow you to use their bathroom even if you are not dining there. (Might be a very small charge for that.) It is not uncommon to come upon a traffic stop (you will be waved to the side of the road). The officer will ask for your drivers license, passport and possibly vehicle paperwork. This is all very normal so don't panic that you've done "something wrong". They are just making sure everyone is following the rules! If you haven't already, familiarize yourself with spanish road signage (ie: ceda means yield). Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Dominical, Costa...
Destination Expert
for Dominical
Level Contributor
508 posts
8 reviews
4. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Another good stopping point, with perhaps a safer parking situation that the very busy Tarcoles tourist area, is the mall which contains the AutoMercado in Herradura. Its about 12 km south of the Tarcoles bridge. There are public restrooms in the mall and the parking lot is patrolled by a guard.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
44,965 posts
28 reviews
5. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Of course Tarcoles...and for good sea food...Steves and Lisas...about 15 minutes from Tarcoles bridge...the road is better than ever...

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in PARADISE!


Manuel Antonio
Destination Expert
for Manuel Antonio National Park
Level Contributor
2,171 posts
6. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

The drive is no big deal, just be ready with small bills or colones for the tolls. The Tarcoles bridge is a must stop (lock up your stuff!) for the crocodiles, all other gas stations will let you use their faciliites if needed for bathroom stops. One on my favorite sodas is el Guacimo, about 10 minutes on your left on the side of a mountain after exiting the Caldera Hwy towards Jaco. Great homemade tortillas! Enjoy!

Tillsonburg, Ontario
Level Contributor
160 posts
8 reviews
7. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

One more thing. Take your time and do not try to drive like the locals and passing when you should't. They know what they're doing and we are not use to this type of driving and could cause an accident as I almost did.


Level Contributor
30 posts
8. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Thanks everyone for the help, we are extremely excited! If anyone else has any suggestions please let me know.

Level Contributor
204 posts
10 reviews
9. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Looks like you got a lot of good advice. I am happy to hear that no storms have made taking the back way necessary this year. :)

One thing I would add Sam is there is a really nice little outcropping with parking past Jaco. Great view and nice place for a scenic pic with ocean behind you. Also if it is later in the afternoon you may be able to see flying Scarlet Macaws all along the highway. We have seen them just about every year near the Surf flags area.

Have a great time!


Level Contributor
11 posts
18 reviews
10. Re: What to expect driving to Manuel Antonio?

Tried to drive to MA from Arenal Volcano area via our GPS....MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD ROAD MAP with you as well. Our GPS must have had too many Imperials b/c it started 'looping' our directions & then went into a stupor! I always carry a map and used it for rest of our trip. There's a fairly new highway all the way to Pacific coast and down past Jaco to MA. Learn a few words of Spainish...people are always kind and helpful if you do. ENJOY!

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