Manuel Antonio National Park

Photo © carolinadaniel

Travel Guide Central America Costa Rica Manuel Antonio National Park

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Introduction

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach

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The Manuel Antonio National Park is located in the south of Costa Rica near the city of Quepos and is one of the most visited areas in the country. Despite the crowds, the park is a must for a visit. With an area of only 16.24 km2 it is the smallest park in Costa Rica. It has an exceptional beauty and in 2011 the leading American magazine Forbes named it one of the 12 most beautiful parks in the world.

The park has a beautiful setting with lots of wildlife, including sloth, several species of monkeys, iguanas, numerous birds including the toucan, bats, spiders and snakes. Activities include guided walks, wildlife watching and relaxing and one of many beaches inside or just outside the park.

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Geography

The topography of the coastal area is rugged and has slopes of 20% or more. The altitude varies from 0 to 160 meters above sea level. Off the coast are small islands that are part of the national park. The forest-covered peninsula Punta Catedral was once an island and is connected to the mainland by sedimentation. As a result, a sandy strip has arisen, a phenomena called Tombolo. The beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio, are among the most beautiful in Costa Rica. The beaches Escondido and Playita are outside the borders of the park and can be visited for free.

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Weather

The dry season lasts from December through March, but it is commonly rather humid year-round. In rainy season some of the paths can get extremely muddy, on the other hand you have the chance to experience the park rather empty. The rain makes the plants grow in all their green glory.

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Sights and Activities

Flora and Fauna

Manuel Antonio National Park is rich in flora and fauna. There are 352 species of birds, 109 species of mammals and 346 species of plants registered. The ocean has a great diversity of marine fauna. In the area often birds like toucans, pelicans, ospreys, kingfishers and cayenne bosral (aramids cajaneus) are observed. Iguanas, lizards and snakes are common. One of the most prominent mammals present are the raccoon, coati, agouti (rodents), sloth, capuchin, squirrel and titi monkeys. During the dry season it is more likely that animals can be observed as they go to the beaches for food.

Beaches

The prettiest beach is the furthest from the park entrance by the cul-de-sac. You enter the park and walk past two beaches in the national park until you make the turn to the left. It is a white sand beach about 650 m (½ mile) in length, in a small crescent. The beach is about 12 m (40 feet) from the jungle to the water. The waves are gentle and the current is not strong. The beach itself is free of trash and litter, as are most beaches in CR. There is no lifeguard.

Outside the National Park there is another beach, which you will pass on the way to the national park, it is free to enter. On this beach, one can rent chairs, surf and boogie boards, and purchase a massage. The waves are significantly larger. There is no lifeguard.

There are no lifeguards at these beaches and one swims at their own risk. There are no marker buoys signaling how far it is safe for one to go. There is not a dangerous current, at Manuel Antonio, but visitors should familiarize themselves with how to swim out of a rip current when going to a new beach that has no lifeguard.

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Opening Hours

The park is closed on Mondays and open from 7:00am to 4:00pm on Tuesday to Sunday.

There is a limit of 600 allowed (simultaneous) visitors on weekdays and 800 on weekends, but this tends only to be a problem in the Easter week and the last week of the year. At these times you might have to stand in queue and wait for someone to leave before you are let in if you arrive late.

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Cost

The park entrance is about 5 minutes’ walk from the bus terminal. The fee is ₡8000 per person. It is only $2 if you can show your residence card. There is a limit of 600 allowed (simultaneous) visitors on weekdays and 800 on weekends, but this tends only to be a problem in the Easter week and the last week of the year. At these times you might have to stand in queue and wait for someone to leave before you are let in if you arrive late.

You can also hire a guide to show you around and point out animals for US$25 per person in larger groups, or $35 per person in very small groups. They are required to speak English. It is worth the money, as some animals are right in front of you, but you do not see them until they are pointed out to you. The guides carry lenses on tripods and you can see through them and even take pictures using a digital camera, traditional film cameras will not give a close up of the animal.

Near Playa Manual Antonio beach are toilets, showers and changing rooms available. There are picnic tables, but an undisturbed lunch is not guaranteed. There is a high probability that Capuchin monkeys will carefully observe your moves in a noisy way (do not feed the animals!) On the beach, the monkeys are in competition with coatis: these animals are very photogenic but also very adept at stealing from unsuspecting sunbathers.

If you go to the park for a swim, take snorkeling equipment along. Playa Manuel Antonio is a great place for snorkeling as it has silky white sand and a beautiful coral reef.

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Getting There

By Plane

Quepos Managua National Airport (IATA: XQP) is 8 kilometres of Manuel Antonio. Nature Air and Sansa Airlines maintain daily flights from San José and Liberia.

By Car

On a paved road Manuel Antonio can be reached within 3 hours from San José via Jacó.

By Bus

There is a bus driving the route Quepos-Manuel Antonio that leaves every 30 minutes from 7:00am-10:00pm. You can catch the bus at any of the many stops along the way. Fare 300 colones (US $0.60) each way (tel.777-03-18).

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Getting Around

Once close to Manuel Antonio, it is possible to walk from most hotels to the beach and to any restaurants/attractions in between. There is a public bus route which will take along the one road to the beach to the hotels and restaurants that service the tourist trade. Bus rides costs ₡315 and may not accept US dollars (will provide change).

There are no street lights, and no side walks to the hotels, so carry a flash light to walk along the road. The park itself closes before dark, but walking between your hotels and restaurants will require a flashlight and in the raining season good quality shoes to avoid stepping in the mud and tripping over the rocks in the unpaved road.

There is a small field, at the entrance to the park, where one can park their car for a high fee, and buy a fruit or soda before one enters the park. None are sold inside the park. Be sure to pack your trash, and take it out with you. The garbage barrels are few and far between and littering in the beautiful place is a mortal sin of a dozen major religions and over 50 minor ones.

The Parque Nacional de Manuel Antonio can be reached quite easily by foot, but at high tide a ferry is (often) required to reach it, costing a nominal fee. The intrepid traveler could, of course, ford the waters by swimming it, but help the local economy and pay for the boat ride. At low tide the rives is 15 cm (6 inches) deep and 1 m (3 feet) wide.

This is a 650 m (1/2 mile) hilly long walk over uneven rocky surface. Shoes, not flip flops, are recommended. If you enter the beach from this entrance, the nicest beach is the first one encounterd. If you have to cross the water the nicest beach will be the last one.

At low tide the river is a meter and half wide (4.5 feet) and 20 cm (8 inches) deep, at high tide it is significantly wider and deeper. You would end up taking the boat. There are two row boats, 3 m and 4.5 m (10 and 14 feet) in length, and there is a small fee. There is another entrance that is a by passing the river, by the northern gate, but it is a significantly longer walk to the beaches. The back entrance is where the tour guides end their tour.

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Eat

It is not possible to buy food or drinks inside the park, although just outside the park there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Take care not to allow your lunches to be infiltrated or stolen by the Park's resident thieves, the coatimundi. While swimming in the ocean, make sure your backpack does not have food in it. If it does coatimundi will try to open it (and they don't know how zippers work).

There are four large picnic tables by the bathroom. The tables are on a raised concert platform.

Most of the hotels have a full service restaurants. There are other full service restaurants where one can enjoy a dinner under roof with an sun set kissing the ocean.

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Drink

There is a water faucet at by the picnic tables. The water is supplied by a local well that brings in slightly brackish water. The basin it runs into is very shallow and it is difficult to refill your water bottles. Bring cups.

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Sleep

Because camping is prohibited within the park, a number of lodging choices have sprung up around the perimeter of the park. One of the popular local lodging offerings consists of "cabinas" (cabins) which vary in price (US$20-30/night) and quality. Cabinas Pedro Miguel (+506 777-00-35) and Cabinas Piscis (tel.777-00-46) and Cabinas Sol y Mar (+506 777-14-68) are a few popular choices for this type of lodging. The Manuel Antonio Park area also has a number of hotels which average about US$50-$60/night.

View our map of accommodation in Manuel Antonio or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Accommodation in Manuel Antonio National Park

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This is version 11. Last edited at 10:05 on Jan 24, 18 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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