Our Costa Rica family adventures continue to … Manuel Antonio National Park! Located just outside Quepos, and only 132 kilometers from San Jose, Manuel Antonio National Park is a crown jewel of the Costa Rican park system. It’s also one of the most visited destinations through out Costa Rica, and a destination worth considering when planning your own Costa Rica adventure.
A Day in Manuel Antonio National Park
What makes Manuel Antonio National Park a “must-see” destination? Perhaps it’s the tropical jungle trails meandering past expansive, pristine beaches. Maybe it’s the 109 different mammals and 184 birds that call the park their home. Or possibly it’s the chance of seeing dolphins or migrating whales swimming just off the coast.
Manuel Antonio National Park is exactly where we found ourselves one day on our Costa Rica adventure. And just what did we see while in the park? Check it out in this photo journal of our walk through Manuel Antonio National Park.
Monkeys and Sloths and Iguanas, Oh My!
With 109 different mammals, we were bound to see some critters! And we sure did. First up – monkeys monkeys monkeys all around. Howler monkeys, spider monkeys and Capuchin monkeys in tree top canopies, and along the ground.
Monkeys quiet and shy, not easy to see. Monkeys as curious about us as we about them. Monkeys keeping a keen eye on us as we walk on by.
Don’t miss the sloths – they are sure to be hanging out nearby. Sloths high up in the trees. Sloths in slow motion. Count the toes so you know if you’ve seen a two toed or three toed sloth. Hey look, this three-toed guy’s posing for us!
Sloths hard spot, as they sleep away the afternoon heat. This sleeping sloth was hanging out just a short distance above us. Loved these guys! Definitely a family favorite.
A walk through the park isn’t complete without spotting a few four legged reptiles. Green iguanas, spiny-tailed iguanas and common basilisks, they’re here too.
There were iguanas in trees. And iguanas on logs. Even more iguanas scurrying by on the ground. The iguanas of Manuel Antonio National Park seemed to be everywhere.
And they seemed to have no fear of us humans. Yes, we were this close to this beauty. Before he scurried off to his next adventure, and thankfully not into my backpack!
Birds and other critters abound throughout the park, but sadly, many were too fast for my camera! Maybe next time.
A Bounty of Beautiful Costa Rica Beaches
There are four beaches within the boundaries of Manuel Antonio National Park. Taking the time to slow down and relax on at least one of them is a must do! And while there, enjoy the white sand beaches. Swim in the warm Pacific Ocean. Listen to the sounds of the surrounding jungle.
Look up! Check out those trees along the water’s edge. There might just be a sleeping sloth tucked up in the branches! That’s where we met one during our tour.
Look down! Explore the tide pools. Beach comb for treasure. Here’s some of the treasures you might just come across. If you do, please remember to return the treasures where you found them so the next explorers will have the pleasure of seeing them too.
Look all around. Enjoy a barefoot walk along pristine, white sandy beaches, soaking it all in. Yes, the beaches are an adventure all their own. As is Manuel Antonio National Park.
Lessons Learned – Three Things I Would Do Different
I’ve share several of our family journeys in my writings. We’ve had spectacular times, rarely a bad moment. Until now. Manuel Antonio National Park is absolutely stunning. It is a site to behold, a crown jewel for Costa Rica, and definitely something to experience.
It was also one destination where we experienced a few bumps along the way. What would we do different? Three particular thoughts immediately come to mind:
Spend More Time In The Park at Our Own Pace
We explored Manuel Antonio National Park with a guided group tour. Our guide was phenomenal with both her knowledge of the park and it’s inhabitants, as well as her ability to find critters hiding in the trees, or unique plants along the forest floor. Sadly there were a few members of our tour group that didn’t “share” the same vision of park exploration as our guide and the rest of the group.
Our intent was to also spend one day exploring the park at our own pace. Unfortunately our only available day was Monday, and the park is closed on Mondays. We missed out on exploring the park on our own, left only with the guided tour group experience. 🙁
What I would do different? Explore the park with a guide, then return the next day, bright and early, to experience the park at our own pace, without the distractions of others who may not have the same idea of wildlife and nature viewing that we do.
Spend More Time at Manuel Antonio Beaches
Being on a guided tour limits the time one has to enjoy absolutely everything the park has to offer. In our case, it was the beaches within the park. Our tour only had scheduled one 30 minute beach break while in the park.
What I would do different? I’d make more time for in-park beach time. We enjoyed the beaches around Quepos, and they were beautiful, but there was just something special about hanging out at the same beach as that sleeping two-toed sloth.
Stay in Quepos for Closer Proximity To the Action
We chose not to stay in Quepos as we had heard it was a “very touristy” town. Our bad! With only two days in the area, and staying 45 minutes outside Quepos, we did not take full advantage of all the town had to offer. Though we did enjoy a fab sunset dinner at El Avion, the front of which was an actual military plane!
What I would do different? Stay in Quepos. As much as we prefer to be away from the crowds, this was one time we felt it actually took away from our experience.
And In Conclusion …
Would we do it all over again? Yes! Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Costa Rica. I’d just do it differently next time. 🙂
Have you experienced Manuel Antonio National Park? Let us know about your adventure in the Comments section below.
Read more about our family adventures in Costa Rica at the following blog posts:
Images from C.Biederman.