The big attractions to Manuel Antonio are its idyllic beaches, park, and scenery. Manuel Antonio's beaches have been rated among the best in the world. The Pacific Ocean water is very warm, clear and clean. Surf is usually very moderate, although as with all ocean beaches one must beware of rip currents.
The main beach is Playa Espadilla and it is the largest, several kilometers long. Playa Playita is at the far north end of the main beach. Other smaller more secluded beaches include Playa Beisant, Playa La Macha, Playa Vacas, and Playa Doctor's. In the National Park you will find Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Escondido.
During day trips from Manuel Antonio you can encounter many isolated beaches at Playa Matapalo, from Baru national Reserve to Dominical, and Playa Ballena near Uvita.
If seclusion and loosing their tan lines is what you want then Playa La Macha (9.41592, -84.1646) may suit you.
To find this beach, from the main road walk or drive in from the road, in from Tico Tico and toward the ocean, go past the restaurant on your left and take the next left at Bongo Hostel, then take an immediate left. Once you get to the top of the hill, then a walking trail begins (some people take a taxi to here). The path hits a T and go right, you will then get to the beach. Walk past the clothing optional sign and take the walkway to the left.
Playa Espadilla is Manuel Antonio's largest and most crowded beach. It has the National Park and restaurants and stores at south end and surfing and Playa Playita at the north end. The north end is much less crowded.
Near the National Park you can find food and drinks, plus a wide variety of beach rentals, such as chairs, sun umbrellas, surf boards, parachute rides, and seadoos.
Most LGBTQ people gather away from the park at the far north end of the beach (9.39587, -84.15774), just to the left of the large rock, or in front of the surfing area. There are no restaurants or services at this end of the beach and it is far less crowded than near the park. From time to time, a few regular peddlers will offer you drinks and snacks. During weekend, Christmas, Easter, and other holidays it can become very crowded with gay partiers.
Playa Playitas (9.39703, -84.16425) has long been known as another gay gathering point. Playitas can be found by walking north past the end of Playa Espadilla and crossing over two sets of rocks. Gay people typically meet at the far end of this beach. At one time Playitas was a clothing optional beach, but since a hotel opened on the beach nudity is rare. If loosing your tan lines is a must, then some people now go past Playitas and past the point over the far rocks to a nude point (9.39642, -84.16676) or go to Playa La Macha.
Crossing the rocks to Playita or the rocky point can be dangerous at high tide. It is recommended to only cross or return at low tide. Check the tide times before you go.
Other beaches can be reached via a short drive including:
Marino Ballena National Park (9.1641, -83.75949), in Uvita. A park worth seeing with natural secluded beaches.
Baru National Reserve (9.26215, -83.88027) where you can walk for miles on undisturbed beach while viewing wildlife and birds.