A Visit to Manuel Antonio From Jaco
Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica’s best known national parks, lies only an hour south of Jaco and Room2Board.
It’s a beautiful park, bringing together rainforest, pristine beaches, and Pacific views. While absolutely worth a trip, the park’s popularity does it a disservice.
My day at the park started early – at 8am specifically. My advice is to do the same. The park opens at 7am and the earlier you arrive the better. Manuel Antonio fills up quickly. I went in the middle of the week, on Wednesday, and by noon when I left there were few solitary places remaining in the park.
Another piece of advice – get a guide! Especially given the amount of foot traffic through the park, guides are essential to seeing a decent wildlife to human ratio. If you’re particularly disinclined to pay the $20 per person (in addition to a $16 entrance fee) for a guide, you can always eavesdrop on the endless groups of tourists. Just follow the pointed fingers and binoculars. That said, park guides have one incredible advantage – telescopes. They are also particularly adept at training their lenses with lightening speed and snapping through the scope.
Our guide pointed out iguanas, a Jesus Christ lizard (they walk on water… get it?), three sloths (my first in Costa Rica!!), howler monkeys, poison crickets, spiders, brightly colored Halloween crabs, and many birds.
Quepos and Manuel Antonio and the road between them, are particularly developed and high end compared to the other areas of Costa Rica that I’ve visited. Expect higher prices, sprawling hotels, and the convenience of bathroom facilities along Manuel Antonio’s hiking trails.
A note about the raccoons: The animals of Manuel Antonio have wised up to all the foot traffic, and resulting people food, coming through their environment. Once lunch time rolls around on the beaches, raccoons come out of the woods in large numbers. These animals have no qualms about walking right up to picnicking park visitors. If you leave a backpack on the beach, expect it to shortly be rifled through by little paws. The raccoons are certainly a nuisance, also amusingly uninhibited, but also carriers of rabies – so watch out!
I wrapped up my tour of Manuel Antonio with a walk around Punta Catedral Point. Many stairs and three beautiful views of the Pacific, completely free of other people! The trail wrapped up with steps down to a deserted corner of beach. My private Manuel Antonio paradise. Highly recommend.
Major take aways:
Unless you enjoy your pristine beaches and animal viewing with a Disney World like flair, get in and out in the am.
Spend the money for a guide – it’s worth it.
And avoid the raccoons!
With those caveats in mind, you’ll have a wonderful time in this tropical paradise.