Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (Quepos)
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
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Costa Rica'a first major ecotourist destination was Manuel Antonio, and it remains one of the country's most popular beach area destinations; composed of three long strands of magnificent white sand beach, bordered by rainforest on one side, and by the Pacific on the other. Overlooking these wide, pristine beaches are tall cliffs covered in thick jungle vegetation and the views from the hills overlooking Manuel Antonio are spectacular. In fact, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the few locations in Costa Rica where the primary forest comes down to the water’s edge in places, often allowing bathers to swim in the shade.
Pristine sandy beaches, cliffs, points, ravines, rainforests, diverse wildlife and an extremely hot climate are some of the features of Manuel Antonio Park. Manuel Antonio National Park is located just south of Jaco, along the pacific coastal highway, which makes it a highly accessible destination. One of the most popular parks in Costa Rica is also one the smallest. Although small, the park’s 683 hectares boast some of the country’s most varied and breathtaking scenery with ecological treasures on every hiking trail. Enclosed by lush and very wet tropical forest, the park’s trails offer sightings of white-faced monkeys, sloths, coatis, raccoons, iguanas, snakes and many bird species. The park is also home to the Costa Rican squirrel monkey, which is endemic to Manuel Antonio, but also endangered. Manuel Antonio is a must for any traveler with an eco-conscience agenda.
Manuel Antonio National Park came very close to becoming a resort in the early ‘70’s, but was saved by various local eco-friendly interest groups. The park has become a popular destination for its picturesque beaches and diverse ecology and at one point started to become overcrowded. This problem was soon alleviated when park officials decided to enact a maximum number of visitors who would be allowed into the park each day.
Adventure opportunities are around every corner in Manuel Antonio. Surf shops offer rental boards for use on the local beaches, and provide lessons for beginning surfers. The sunset at Manuel Antonio is truly unbelievable and there are local guide outfits that provide sunset sailing tours for an extraordinary ‘sunset’ experience. Local dive centers give lessons and guide their guests to some of the most inaccessible yet beautiful places on the globe. Other scenic sites in Manuel Antonio are: the tombolo at Cathedral Point, a long, sandy strip that connects what was Cathedral Island to the mainland; the cove at Escondido Harbour with blue-green waters bordered by underwater caves and cliffs pounded by the surf; and the magnificent beaches where sometimes olive ridley and green turtles come to lay their eggs.