Costa Rica Adventure: Manuel Antonio National Park
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Imagine visiting the most abundant park filled with wildlife at every turn on each path. Just when you think, it cannot get any more incredible, you discover limitless ocean views and experiences with three breathtaking beaches.
Established in 1972, Manuel Antonio National Park was established to protect the rainforest and animals from commercial development. While Manuel Antonio National Park may be one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica with 4,900 acres, it is one of the best parks for animal wildlife observation (Enter Costa Rica). My visit definitely proved to be filled with wildlife and wonder.
No matter how much time you are planning to spend in Manuel Antonio, Manuel Antonio National Park is a must see and experience for a half to full day of your visit. This is one Costa Rica Adventure you definitely do not want to miss.
Shot on my Canon EOS M100
Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is located in Manuel Antonio, National Park. Visiting the National Park is a Top 10 Experience in Costa Rica for sure!
Manuel Antonio is located approximately three hours from San Jose, about three hours from Monteverde, along the west coast of Costa Rica. After my month in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, I spent almost a month in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I knew I wanted to spend a minimum of two weeks near the beach.
As a result of the pandemic and decreased tourism, the shuttle that did run daily from Monteverde, Costa Rica to Manuel Antonio did not reach minimums for the morning within the week I planned on leaving. I explored the possibility of taking a bus. However, with CoVid and having a suitcase, backpack and purse, I opted not to take the bus due to safety and ease. I reached out to Carlos, the Uber driver I connected with in San Jose and ended up having him drive me at a reasonable rate lower than Uber.
We drove for about 3-4 hours stopping along the way at Las Tarcoles River where we said hi to some fellow crocodile friends. The stop is right at half way between Monteverde and Manuel Antonio, as well as a great midway stop coming from San Jose, Costa Rica. The Crocodile Bridge gives you easy and safe views of our friends down below.
Quepos is the nearest town to Manuel Antonio Park you reach first coming from either San Jose or Monteverde. Once you reach Quepos, you drive through town and up a long windy road to reach Manuel Antonio.
Manual Antonio National Park is located in the center of Manuel Antonio. One day I went to explore, the manager, Jorge at my Airbnb dropped me off at the Quepos Bus Station. For 600 colones, about a $1, I took a bus for about 20 minutes to Playa Espadilla Beach for my surfing lesson in Costa Rica.
The stop at Playa Espadilla Beach is great for both access to the public beach, as well as walking distance from the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park. Whether you decide to surf or not, the walk to Manuel Antonio National Park is about 10 minutes from the stop.
When you arrive at the park entrance, you must put on your mask currently. If you forgot your mask, there is a stand where you may buy a mask, water, and pipa fria (cold fresh coconuts)! Keep in mind, you may only bring liquids in the park. Any type of food is now strictly prohibited due to the wildlife.
So, I finished my pipa fria before entering the park. I was able to easily bring my Herbalife Beverage Mix. I explained to the gentlemen checking my bag it is a protein powder to mix with my water.
Entrance Fee and Hours
As a non-resident of Costa Rica, the entrance fee for adults is about $18. Make sure you check the website for updates, and rates for residents and children as they are subject to change.
The hours are currently Tuesday - Sunday, 7 am - 4pm. The park is closed on Mondays.
What to Wear to Manuel Antonio National Park
The temperature in Manuel Antonio is warm and humid. The average year round is 81-86 degrees F. The climate is tropical with a dry season December - April and wet season from May - November. February - April are typically the warmest months.
I visited in February with incredible weather, breeze, and clear skies. I wore my bathing suit, a sheer pink dress, and sandals the first time I visited February 19, 2021. The second time I wore a bathing suit, and white bohemian type dress. I brought a change of clothes to put on after the beach.
There are plenty of bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms in the park.
Trails in Manuel Antonio National Park
There are incredible hikes and trials you may visit in Manuel Antonio National Park.
All of the trails are well marked everywhere. After one visit for a half day, I decided I will visit again before I go to capture everything, and spend more time at the beach.
Not to mention, I thought I accidentally erased all my video footage both on my camera and phone. When I thought I did, this confirmed I would visit again. Later, I realized I had the video footage.
Either way, I knew I wanted to visit again to experience the views, additional trails, and more time at the beach! Yes PLEASE!
The trails include:
Trail: El Perezoso This is one of the shortest trails and runs parallel to the main road. It is easy to walk, and leads to the beaches, Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Norte and as well. This is the first one I took. I saw a deer, sloth, 10+ Monkeys, 10+ Iguanas, and countless crabs! On my second visit, I saw 5+ monkeys again on the trial alone!
Trail: La Catarata Close to the entrance it leads to a small waterfall
Trail: Playa Escodido is beautiful and past Playa Gemalas. After walking down El Perezoso trail, I went on this path on my second visit to see the incredible views. This beach is visible only from a distance due to the height.
Congo Trail:This short trail connects Playa Gemelas and the Mirador Trail; it can be used as an alternative return route. After visiting Playa Escodido, I went back towards Playa Gemelas and onto this path to reach the Mirador Trial.
Trail: Mirador 1.3 kilometers in length, this trail will lead you to a gorgeous lookout from where you will be able to observe the majestic beauty of Punta Serrucho. I did this on my second visit! Wow!
Trail: Punta Catedral Punta Catedral is one of the most iconic parts of the park. It is 1.4 km long and takes about one hour to do the full tour. The site has several lookouts that allow you to enjoy spectacular views. I ended up doing this one of my second visit and it is well worth it!
Beaches In Manuel Antonio National Park
The beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are breathtaking. The first time I visited, I spent about 2 hours at Manuel Antonio Beach, and could have spent days. I spent about an hour at Espadilla Norte and did a workout! I spent about 15-30 minutes at Playa Gemelas.
Trail: Playa Gemelas This short trail will take you to Playa Gemelas, and connects to the other trails in the western portion of the park. If you visit this trail during low tide, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a unique view of Punta Catedral. I ended up doing Punta Catedral and Playa Gemales. It is incredible and very few people when I went on a Friday.
Playa Gemelas is a beautiful and private beach. When you enter into the water, it is rocky. I put on my water shoes, and it is still a bit awkward to navigate. It is incredible as you can see!
The second time I visited on February 26, 2021, I arrived at the park at 7:30 a.m. First, I hiked the Escondido, Congo, and Mirador trials to see the incredible views. Afterwards, I visited Playa Gemelas about an hour. I stopped for a vegan burrito at the cafe. The rest of my time I spent at my favorite: Manuel Antonio beach.
Manuel Antonio Beach is shaped like a U, has beautiful rocks to the left, and trees allowing shade from the sun. The entrance into the water is soft and sandy!
Side note: Keep an eye out for these beautiful (and sneaky monkeys) at Manuel Antonio Beach. Apparently, for years food was allowed in the national park. The monkeys got used to both lots of human interaction including being fed. As a result, they now boldly come close to the beach including digging through people's belongings looking for something to play with or eat!
I saw them do this countless times to people's things that were close to the forest like here. My things were closer to the water and they didn't come close.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is a must for Costa Rica Adventure when you visit.
Look at me, I didn't go just once, but twice!!! Who doesn't love #thebeachlife?
The wildlife and wonder you will experience at every turn will leave you in limitless awe and wonder!
Are you curious about Costa Rica and the Pura Vida?
I've got One Day and Top 10 Things to Do in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica coming up!
Not to mention our Inspiring Travel Now & in the Future Project &
Costa Rica Retreat coming in August 2021!
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