Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is a national park on the mid-Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just south of the city of Quepos. The park is open 7AM-4PM every day except Monday. Visit early, because it is a very popular park and can get very crowded.
The park was created in November 1972, to an extent to protect it from development as the area's tourist industry began to boom.
The park is 682.7 Hectares in size; partly land, partly sea and mostly known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife. It is Costa Rica's smallest park. There are four primary beaches in Manuel Antonio: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Escondido and Playita. This national park is located on the pacific coast of Costa Rica in the province of Puntarenas.
Flora and fauna
In the park there is a lot of wildlife to be seen: Squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crabs, toucans, bats, birds and golden orb spiders.
Please do not feed the monkeys As tempting as it may seem and even if others are doing it, please do not feed the monkeys. The reasons to avoid this are endless and doing so contributes to the endangerment of the animals in and around the park. Do not feed any of the wild anaimals. They are devloping a tatse for Human food and will steal your lunch. You will be thrown out. The signs warning you of this are in English.
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. Climate: Dry Dec-Apr, Wet May-Nov, Wettest Sep/Oct Temp: Avg. high 92° (33ºC)
About 3 hours by car from San José.
If you go by car or shuttle service you should really stop at Puente Río Tarcoles (the bridge over Tarcoles river) about halfway between San José and Manuel Antonio. This is a favorite spot for crocodiles that come here to warm up before hunting at night. You will normally be able to see at least 30 crocodiles here. The reptiles pose no threat, but you should pay attention to the traffic, especially when you cross the road to see the crocodiles on the other side.
The Crocks sun them selves on the various sand bars in the middle of the river. They are long and fat. It is sad to see the garbage, used tires, plastic, in a river containing such magnificent creatures.
There is a bus driving the route Quepos-Manuel Antonio that leaves every 30 minutes. You can catch the bus at any of the many stops along the way. Fare 315 colones (US $0.60) each way (tel.777-03-18).
Entrance fee $16 per person. It is only $3 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 25 USD per person, however you may be able to negotiate a lower price. 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.
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.
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 6 inches deep and 3 feet wide.
At low tide the river is a meter and half wide and 20 centimeters deep, at high tide it is significantly wider and deeper. You would end up taking the boat. There are two row boats, 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 beachs. The back entrance is where the tour guides end their tour.
The beach. The prettiest beach is the furthest from the park entrance by the cul-de-sac. You enter the park and walk past two beachs in the natational park untill you make the turn to the left. It is a white sand beach about ½ mile in length, in a small crescent. The beach is about 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 life guard.
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 siginificantly larger. There is no life guard. There are no life guards at these beachs and one swims at their own risk. There are no marker bouys signling how far it is safe for one to go. There is not a dangerous current, as of summer 2007, at Manuel Antonio, but any person should familarize them selves with how to swim out of a rip current when going to a new beach that has no life guard.
Nearly all of the guides have high quality optics. If you have a digital camera it will take a picture through a tripod monted scope. You can get nice and close up. If you have a traditional film camera you should bring a telephoto lens for close up shots of the fast moving animals.
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. There use to be a roof over the tables in 2006, but in the year 2007 it was gone. 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.
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.
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 ($20-$30/night) and quality. Cabinas Pedro Miguel (tel.777-00-35) and Cabinas Piscis (tel.777-00-46) and Cabinas Sol y Mar (teL. 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 $50-$60/night. There are also a few upscale hotel/resort style properties in the area such as the Makanda by the Sea (tel.777-04-42) and the ancient Spanish style Hotel El Parador (tel.290-76-82).
Costa Verde, situated in the center of an exuberant tropical jungle, with a view of the Pacific Ocean, this hotel provides easy access to the wildlife of the jungle and a sense of balance between serenity and adventure. Comfortable and nice rooms are complemented by the restaurant, bar and swimming pool to make this hotel a very good option in the area.
Unfortunately, camping is prohibited in the park, as it is small and the impact of even a few people could possibly damage the fragile natural environment that the park is attempting to maintain.
Please watch out for pickpocketing etc. especially during low season. Everything is a negotiation, so don't get ripped off for parking, or National Park tours at the main beach, etc.