Manuel Antonio is the smallest and one of the most visited National Parks in Costa Rica.
The reason why is not really an enigma… It is very easy. It has beautiful white sanded beaches, surrounded by a thick and glorious rainforest, where animals as monkeys and sloths are very easy to spot.
On top of that it has good clean bathrooms and showers and it is a protected area, which means that you are not going to find a real commercial operation going on in it. In that sense, never mind the crowds it is as pristine as it was a hundred years ago.
However, there are some things to know about Manuel Antonio that are important to realize when you are going there:
1. Manuel Antonio National Park is better with a guide. You may think you can stick to what other people’s guides are talking or showing, and that if all you want to see is a sloth or similar, you just look in the pointed direction… However, guides can see things you don’t usually see with you bare eye, from tiny lizards to amazing birds… But that is not really the reason why to hire them… The reason why is because going into this luscious jungle without a guide is like going to a history and art museum without a guide… You can see, but you will never understand fully its wonders. Seeing the jungle is one thing… Trees, vines, plants all over, a spider here, a lizard there, a monkey jumping… Understanding the rainforest, its systems, its relations… That is another story! And can be an astonishing one if someone explains it to you!
2. Manuel Antonio can be crowded! And breathtaking! And precisely because of that… crowded. Several people from all over the world and all over Costa Rica, had the same thoughts you had. So, prepare, especially in high season for a crowd everywhere, in the restaurants, in the bars, the public beach, and the National Park. Unless you are coming in low season.
3. Better in the morning? Better in the afternoon? Both schedules have the pros and cons. Mornings are more crowded than afternoons, not a glimpse of doubt there. But! Wildlife is there, with all its splendor. Afternoons are easier, less people, more space… But wildlife is harder to spot (Not impossible… and is not a rule!).
4.No shops or restaurants. Inside of the National park you are not going to find a single place to buy a bottle of water or a coke. So, whatever you want to drink you have to take it. In terms of snacks, you are not going to find anything either… And on top of that you have to be careful with the snacks you take in as monkeys will take them from you… And no. It is not a good idea to take snacks to feed the monkeys, first because you put in in grave health danger. But also because they get pretty naughty when it comes to get snacks from people and you might end up with a bite and a trip to the nearest hospital.
5. 800 Hundred People limit. The park only allows 800 people at Manuel Antonio, so, sometimes you have to make a long line in order to be able to get in.
6. Choices, choices! There are so many things to do in the region that staying there for a few more nights is always a good idea. Manuel Antonio and its neighbor Quepos Port, truly have it all! Canopy, Rafting, Snorkeling, sunset sailing, rappelling, hot springs, rescue centers and cultural experiences. Don’t hesitate about booking more nights than the one needed to check the national park.
7. Manuel Antonio is not for everybody. The type of people who likes touristy places, who don’t mind crowds, who are used to lines while traveling. If your client is one of those that loves to get off the beaten path… We’ll recommend you the Caribbean side or the South Pacific… Osa Peninsula and Drake Bay.