The beaches around Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio can be confusing, since they’re called by a variety of different names. It’s important to know which beach you’re on, however, because some are unsafe for swimming; check with the rangers about conditions. From north to south, the beaches are as follows:
Playa Espadilla (also called Playa Primera or Playa Numero Uno). This long, popular curve of sand fronting Manuel Antonio village runs down to the park exit, just outside the park itself.
Playa Espadilla Sur (also called Playa Dos or Playa Segunda). Espadilla Sur is the last beach you come to inside the park – the main trail towards the exit runs along the back of the beach. It’s on the north side of Punta Catedral, and while usually fairly calm, it’s also the most dangerous in rough conditions – beware the currents.
Playa Manuel Antonio (also called Playa Tres or Playa Blanca). Immediately south of Punta Catedral, and in a deeper and more protected bay than the others, Manuel Antonio is by far the best swimming beach, though you can still get clobbered by the deceptively gentle-looking waves as they hit the shore. Unfortunately, it’s quite narrow and can get crowded (the best time to come is before 10am).
Playa Puerto Escondido (also called Playa Cuatro). Reached along the Sendero Puerto Escondido, this is a pretty, white horseshoe-shaped beach. Don’t set out without first checking with the rangers about the marea (tide), because at high tide you can’t get across the beach, nor can you cross it from the dense forest behind. At best, it’ll be a waste of time; at worst, you’ll get cut off on the other side for a few hours. Rangers advise against swimming here, as the currents can be dangerous.