Should I Buy Real Estate In Manuel Antonio? A Quick Area Overview

Should you move to, or buy real estate in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica? Well that depends on what you’re looking for. In the first of an occasional series of articles looking at popular real estate locations all over Central America, here’s a brief area overview of Manuel Antonio for those starting to look around.

Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most magical places.

When you look at a photograph of a Costa Rican beach where the jungle meets the ocean, all coconuts and monkeys, there’s a decent chance you’re looking at a picture of Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio is the poster child for Costa Rican tourism because of the national park.

Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest in Costa Rica, but one of the best known, most beautiful, and most visited. The area has been a tourist and leisure playground for years and offers more to see and do than about any other part of Costa Rica. Hiking, wildlife spotting, river rafting, ocean kayaking, canopy zip lining, sports fishing and surfing are all here.

The area has it all except for golf. But even that’s no biggie as the Los Sueños Resort, home to one of Costa Rica’s finest courses, is an hour away.

Manuel Antonio itself is a small village on the beach at the entrance to the national park.  

There’s not much there—restaurants and tourist shops. But the area also encompasses the seven-kilometer road between the town of Quepos and the park entrance. This road weaves through the rainforest-clad hills, providing access to high-end boutique hotels and secluded luxury homes.

The character of Manuel Antonio is discreet luxury and a high-class living experience.

Highway 27 makes getting to Manuel Antonio from the capital city of San Jose and the international airport easier than ever.

What used to be a grueling four-hour drive on narrow winding roads now takes way less time.

This means getting to and from San Jose for day trips to stock up on supplies is easy. Herradura, north of Jaco, about 45 minutes from Manuel Antonio, also has the best supermarket in the region, although Quepos itself is great for day-to-day shopping.

Quepos also hosts banks, a clinic, and a marina—Pez Vela—which serves as the center of the area’s vibrant sports fishing scene.

Think of Quepos as the supply center to Manuel Antonio.

Manuel Antonio is prettier and better suited to tourists while Quepos is the workhorse of the two locations. Between them, they offer one of the best locations for living in and buying a home in Costa Rica.

So what are people buying in the Manuel Antonio area? What’s on offer?

As discussed, most private homes in Manuel Antonio are on the higher end. Large private homes to use as vacation rentals—the vacation rental home industry in Manuel Antonio is huge.

One facet of Manuel Antonio to consider is its topography. The area is one winding road with mountainous jungle on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Unlike other beach communities in Costa Rica, you don‘t get much room to expand. This keeps the area pretty much exclusive, development-wise.

Condo projects exist in the Manuel Antonio and Quepos area, but things are altogether more low-key than Jaco or Guanacaste. The area is about luxury homes on private land more than anything.

True beachfront living in Manuel Antonio is not a viable option.

Costa Rica has strict zoning regulations to protect the beaches, meaning the law prohibits developing land up to 50 meters from the high-tide line. In Manuel Antonio, this applies, although most beaches are inside the national park, making any question of development a moot point, anyway.

Also, the topography of the area means most homes sit up in the lush hills overlooking the ocean, not on the ocean itself.

This means the luxury residences and homes of Manuel Antonio have some of the best Pacific views on the planet, something always considered in the property prices around here.

Despite the prevalence for larger, more private luxury homes in the Manuel Antonio area, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything smaller on offer.

A few gated communities are also going up in the area to suit those looking for something less ostentatious. Many of these places are still in the development stage, so buyers are often going in at the ground floor and purchasing lots instead of completed homes.

So summarizing the property buying experience in Manuel Antonio, the key points to remember are these:

  1. Location. The area is close enough to San Jose and the international airport to make for easy day trips.
  2. Topography. The area comprises protected forests and jungles spreading down the mountainsides to the ocean. This doesn‘t allow a great deal of room for expansion.
  3. Home types. Because of the topography, most homes are discreet, hidden affairs in the hills overlooking the ocean. This means killer views. The area has one of the best luxury vacation home markets in the country.
  4. Amenities and services. Manuel Antonio has many restaurants, both down near the park and along the road to Quepos. Many of the luxury hotels have their own great restaurants too that non-guests can use. Quepos is great for day-to-day services and shopping, also Jaco to the north, and San Jose on the odd occasion.
  5. Weather. The Manuel Antonio area sees a LOT of rain. This is an important fact to acknowledge. That lush jungle, home to all those monkeys that drop by your home, exists because of the rain. The dry season runs from December to April, but outside those months expect rain most afternoons. This is not a bad thing—but forewarned is forearmed.

Manuel Antonio is more of a tourist area than an expat area.

That’s okay, but it means foreigners moving to the area should expect others foreigners to be more transient.

An expat community exists in Manuel Antonio and most people who move to to the area love it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t either, as long as you know what you‘re getting into.

James Dyde is the editor of CentralAmerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.