Wild Kingdom and Beach…Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park….
Although this national park is the smallest in Costa Rica, and has only been in existence since 1972, it packs a powerful punch. The corridor getting to the park is where most of the capitalism in Costa Rica has landed. The small highway is lined with hotels (some really nice), bars, condos, etc. None of them are high rises, which is nice, but it is definitely a crowded corridor. I had no interest in staying in this area, but if you are young with no kids, the nightlife might appeal to you.
Costa Ricans use this park more than foreign tourists, so make sure if it is a holiday weekend that you plan ahead. They only allow so many people in the park at one time. We were there during Christmas time and the tickets sold out in one hour. Adult tickets are $10 each, kids under 12 are free.
I highly recommend hiring one of the many park guides. A naturalist guide will take you on a 2 hour easy hike with a spy scope and spot animals for you. The hike isn’t very far, you just seem to stop every 10 feet or so to look at wildlife, so that takes some time. Some animals are really close and some definitely need the scope. We saw bats, howler monkeys, Jesus Christ lizards, hermit crabs, sloths (2 different kinds), iguanas, white faced monkeys, spiky palms, and a variety of birds.
There are 3 beaches in Manuel Antonio Park. They are all safe to swim and relax in. So make sure that you bring your swimsuit, towels and some snacks. The farthest one from the entrance is the least crowded and has great snorkeling, and even a pre-columbian wall in the water they think was used to trap sea life for food. I’m not a fan of crashing waves in the ocean, but it was so calm, I stayed in with the kids and played for hours.
It’s important to remember that you are still in Costa Rica. The water ran out the day we were there, so the bathrooms were locked, so be prepared to be flexible. As always, that sun is strong, so don’t forget your sunscreen. Beware of toxic trees at the first beach in the park. Touching the bark and leaves will leave you itching for days. That’s why we hiked past the first beach with the naturalist guide, and ended our day at the farthest beach.
You could spend many days at the beaches here. There are also tons of activities available along the entrance corridor. Zip lines, ATV tours, kayaking, are all available for thrill seekers. Since we had experienced the biggest baddest zip line of them all, in the Arenal area, we decided to just have a beach day here. Instead of staying in the Manuel Antonio area, we headed further south to Xandari Resort on the Pacific.
More on that next week…Happy Trails!!!