One of the most spectacular parks in Costa Rica, and one that many tourists have on their to-see list, is Manuel Antonio Park. Located on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica it is the smallest of the national parks in this country, however the unique and varied biodiversity that can be found here means it’s a park that is very popular. The park is open Tuesday to Sunday, but is always closed on Mondays so keep that in mind if traveling to this area.
Manuel Antonio Park is a rain-forest that is surrounded by beaches, and marine life. There are over 109 species of mammals living here including sloths and monkeys, and 184 different bird species. In the waters surrounding the park you can spot dolphins and whales, and searching the jungle’s trees and leaves you will often discover reptiles and amphibians.
There are hummingbirds hovering throughout the forest, sometimes stopping briefly to rest. This one was spectacular as he sat on his perch.
The iguanas were certainly not shy and could be found on benches and tree trunks sunning themselves and not bothered by the tourists snapping pictures of them. I think they may have been posing just a bit!
Some of the larger mammals living in the park include coatis, which we saw in the Monteverde Cloud Forest area and look like this…
and White-Faced or Capuchin Monkeys
Of course a highlight of any trip to Costa Rica and its parks is seeing a sloth. Manuel Antonio didn’t disappoint and soon after we entered the park we saw a gathering of people and guides looking up into the trees at a large sloth hanging out there. Our guide was able to set up our cameras onto his spotting scope to capture some fantastic photos.
I would highly recommend booking a guide for a tour of this park. They will know where the animals are and be able to point them out to you. We found that the guides were in constant communication with each other and also have equipment that you can use to really see the animals up close.
Once we had traveled along the pathways within the park it was time to head to the beach. Manuel Antonio has two beach areas on either side of a small peninsula…Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio. We found ourselves at Playa Manuel Antonio first and sat here for awhile enjoying the sun. This side has some rocky outcrops at one end and so is quite protected from the surf.
The other side of the peninsula is Playa Espadilla Sur and if we had known how quiet it was we would have come here first. It is a much longer stretch of beach area and there were very few people here.
Manuel Antonio Park is definitely a must-see in Costa Rica. The sheer number of animals we saw in such a short time and in such a small area was quite incredible.
If you do travel to this park make sure that the guide you get is reputable. There are people that will dress like guides and try and sell you admission tickets and their services. Do not be intimidated by them, but head directly to the admission booth beside the entrance to purchase your entry ticket. You can also book guides ahead of time and for more information on doing this click here.