Manuel Antonio National Park
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
Manuel Antonio National Park
With a mere 682 ha. of land area, Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest of Costa Rica's national parks, but probably the most visited park in Costa Rica. The park lies on the mid Pacific coast approximately 7 kms south of Quepos Harbour. White sandy beaches, cliffs, ravines, rivers, rainforest, mangrove swamps, lagoons, littoral woodland and island vegetation are the main components that make up this extraordinary park.
The forest habitat consists mostly of White-Faced Capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys, pacas, grey squirrels, raccoons, white-nosed coatis, and two- and three- toed sloths. The laughing falcon, black-colored hawk, white ibis, white-bellied chachalaca, blue-crowned manakin, fiery-billed aracari, green kingfisher, toucans, scarlet macaws are just some of the bird species that reside in the park. The islands and islets of Manuel Antonio afford an essential refuge for the various sea birds in the area, such as Brown Pelican, frigate birds and Ahingas. The lagoons in the park are home to caymans, boa constrictors, and grass snakes to name a few. In total, the park houses a total of 109 species of mammals and 184 of birds.
Part of the park's scenic beauty is provided by Cathedral Point, a 72 meter-high point of land that is covered by rain forest. The point was formerly an island just off the mainland, but ocean currents caused the deposition of sand between the two until eventually they were connected. The park's two most frequented beaches, Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur, are the sandy arcs on either side of the narrow strip of land that joins Cathedral Point with the mainland.
Due to the small size of the park and the massive amounts of visitors it receives, much of the wildlife that can be found here is quite acclimated to human presence and will allow close approach, especially the White-throated Capuchin Monkeys, Central American Squirrel Monkeys (This is also one of only two areas in the country where the endangered Central American Squirrel Monkey is found, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths, White-nosed Coatis, Central American Agoutis and Ctenosaur Lizards. [Note: These are still wild animals and should be respected and treated as such, enjoy the opportunity for a close look, but do not attempt to touch or feed them!]
Butterflies, birds, and large colorful land crabs are more of the plentiful inhabitants that provide interest during a trail walk through the park. And, if the waters are clear enough, a variety of marine life can be seen by snorkeling around the rocky ends of either beach.
The three main beaches of the park are Playas Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio and Puerto Escondido.
The Manuel Antonio Ranger Station is open from 8am to 4pm, and has drinking water and restrooms. The park has numerous trails and scenic overlooks with Sendero Serrucho being particularly breathtaking.
Getting Manuel Antonio National Park
• Manuel Antonio is about 4 hours away from San Jose.
• take the Pan American Highway west to the Atenas exit
• following the old highway through the mountains to the town of Orotina where you reunite to a more modern highway
• take the Jaco turnoff and follow this coastal highway south to Quepos
• from Quepos it’s 5 miles to Manuel Antonio Park