One thing is for sure: Costa Rica has the most amazing nature I have ever seen in my life. The lush, heavy, green, wild jungle is right behind you when you seat on the beach, resting from a day of surfing (or sunbathing), watching one the most stunning sunsets in the world. That’s how I remember it.
I have read a lot of different opinions about Manuel Antonio Park so I wasn’t sure of what to expect. And I was stunned! This is the most visited park in the whole of Costa Rica for a reason!
The park has 3 different trails leading through the jungle, to private beaches, to sloth hideouts, monkeys, crabs, and other animals. The park is known for its amazing flora and fauna, so if you are not a specialist in spotting those, a tour with a guide will definitely be recommended. It’s not cheap, nothing is in Costa Rica, but at least you will see things that you wouldn’t see on your own.
I opted for a solo tour and it was still very interesting! I saw a sloth, some crabs, a very big rodent, loads of butterflies and birds. The monkeys were everywhere. At the beginning I saw them by the entrance, playing in the trees, so I took a lot of pictures, thinking that I might not get a chance to see them again. I was so wrong! On the beach, the monkeys are the main attraction, as they come to steal backpacks and food! Never leave your stuff unattended, it might not be there when you come back. Seriously. My shoes were almost stolen by a raccoon! Happily, I spotted him and came back just in time. He was a cutie though.
The beaches are amazing. Golden sand, huge spaces, the lush jungle behind your back, monkeys playing (people screaming 😉 ). For more of a quiet time head to the big Manuel Antonio beach on the way to the exit (the first picture in that post). It was completely empty and much nicer than the main beach where everybody stops for a brake. It was my favorite beach in Costa Rica (although I have only visited the Pacific coast, so what do I know).
How to get there
You will most probably have your base in Quepos. It’s not a great town, but practical for visiting the Park. A cheap (0,65 cents) Manuel Antonio shuttle leaves the Quepos station every 30 minutes and leaves you at the beach, not far away from the entrance. The ride is 30 minutes. You can also stay in the Manuel Antonio village. There are some nice hotels there, but it’s more complicated for people who don’t have a car. By the way, definitely do rent a car if you can, it will be so much easier to get around. I, myself, travel most of the time with public transportation and I have to say that Costa Rica is not the easiest place to get around.
Where to eat
There are some stands at the entrance of the park, so you can buy something to eat, but you should definitely bring a small snack. No food is allowed in the park, because the animals will smell it and will try to steal it! Bring something small yet nourishing that the guard at the entrance won’t find in your backpack and bring the packaging back out with you. I know that after a day of walking through the jungle, in the humid heat, I needed it. There is no food available in the park.
On the Visit CostaRica website you can find more practical information about the park.