Manuel Antonio National Park – A Pura Vida Guide

Costa Rica · About Outdoor Activities

Mention a white sandy beach and National Park in Costa Rica and you will be quickly directed to Manuel Antonio National Park. We hired our own tour operator & guide for the day leaving from our resort, but you can also choose to hire a guide at the park if you have rented a car. This small but touristy park is located on the Pacific coast about 70 km south of Jaco. We passed through the town of Quepos which had lots of hills with wonderful views. A few miles further and there we were at the park. There is plenty of parking close to the main entrance but do plan on doing some walking after all your here for a nature hike. We purchased our tickets at the booth and our guide suggested we use the washroom facilities before heading on the main trail. A great idea because as soon as you hit that wide trail you will quickly be immersed in all that is around you. Our guide escorted us to the main trail which is about 1.8 km long and covered in small stones.

Capuchin up close

Along the wide path our guide spotted a frog nestled amongst the leaves. A very important fact he pointed out was to be careful and stay on the path as sometimes there are snakes in the forest. He told us about the many snakes in Costa Rica and which ones to lookout for especially the poisonous ones.

Sloth high up in the tree tops

My friend and I were alerted to look high up in the tree and sure enough there was a sloth. One of the main attractions in Costa Rica is seeing a sloth in the wild. We suggest if you plan on spotting a sloth to bring your binoculars as they are difficult to see. They tend to blend in with the surroundings. I wish I had binoculars at the time but certainly will make sure to purchase a pair for my next trip back to Costa Rica. The park is located in what’s called a transition zone. Between the tropical wet forest and the rain forest. If you are lucky enough you may spot some deer or see the macaws soaring overhead.

Along with us we had brought our beach bags, towels and swim suits as we heard the beach is beautiful. As we head down the rocky path we could see the beautiful turquoise water off in the distance. To my left was a building with more washrooms. I was able to change into my swim suit. The back drop to the beach is covered in many shade trees. We suggest keeping an eye on your bags not just for protection from humans but also the scavenger critters. We call them raccoons back home but here they look a little different with longer snouts. They are “coatis” and sure like to check out what goodies you have in your bags. Put lots of sunscreen on as you will find being close to the equator your skin will burn quickly. As we headed to more trails white faced monkeys ran by us like a bunch of school kids. They to I’m sure wouldn’t mind having a look inside your beach bag for treats.

Capuchin Monkey at the edge of the forest

I couldn’t wait to drop my bag with our guide and head for that tempting water I love so much. The sand is hot in the afternoon here so either were you sandals to the edge of the water or run fast. OUCH your feet will burn on the hot sand. The water was a beautiful temperature just the way I like it. WONDERFULLY WARM! No waves just delightful water to lay back and soak up the sun and lavish in the tranquil surroundings. You guessed it, I’m a beach and palm tree girl.

Over looking the beach from one of the trails

My friend decided that she wasn’t up for swimming so she sat in the shade and enjoyed the wildlife breezing past her. I sure would have loved to head out to the reef just off shore our guide mentioned but I didn’t want to be rude and over stay my time. Although I could have stayed all day. After an enjoyable cooling off in the ocean we decided to hike the short trails close to the beach. One of the trails takes you to a look out point and from there you can see other islands.

A tiny island off shore

Some of these islands are apparently nesting spots for the birds. Everywhere you looked you could see another spot to place your towels. It seemed like you could almost have a private location all to yourself. As we walked the monkeys seemed to follow us. At one point we could see tapirs amongst the trees.

El Avion Restaurant

We followed our guide down another rocky hill and then through the low tide waves we carried our sandals to the end. They had nice benches to sit and take a rest. A little vendors market was selling some crafted items so we stopped to admire their craftsmanship. We waited a brief moment while our guide brought the van to pick us up. Before heading back to our resort our guide “now our friend” took us to El Avion and showed us this airplane that had crashed from Nicaragua. It was turned into a restaurant & bar. I couldn’t resist stepping inside to see what a real cargo plane looked like from the inside. You can even hop up in the crock pit and check it out.

What an amazing day we had at Manuel Antonio National Park. I can’t wait to return & bring my snorkel gear.

What we liked about Manuel Antonio National Park

  • the price was only $10 USD for entrance fee
  • of course the beautiful beach
  • the monkeys
  • drink water available from taps
  • park cleanliness

What we suggest about the park

  • go early in the morning
  • visit on a weekday if you don’t like crowds

Animals at the park

  • sloths (two or three toed)
  • monkeys (capuchin)
  • coatis
  • deer
  • tapir
  • herons
  • osprey
  • kingfisher

Park hours

Tuesday – Sunday 7am – 4pm

Closed on Mondays

If you liked our experience and want to read more about Costa Rica: find macaws.

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A big thanks to our guide for a wonderful day!

As always Pura Vida!

Have you been to Manuel Antonio National Park? What did you think?

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