Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Manuel Antonio National Park & Beach {Costa Rica}

You know those pictures you see about Costa Rica beaches, with the cristal clear water that suddenly looks turquoise and surrounded by a jungle and wildlife? That image is the one I have always had about Costa Rica even before we moved here.

Since moving here our only beach reference was in Puntarenas and locals don't consider it their best beach! Last December right between Christmas and New Year's while my parents and sister were visiting we planned a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, now if you've never been to Costa Rica this is one of the places I've included in my list of fun things to do with kids in Costa Rica.

Since we didn't all fit into one car and rental SUV's were scarce we decided to hire a private shuttle service. We had heard about this company through friends and were so happy to have found a shuttle and driver available for us, they picked us up at our doorstep early in the morning and we didn't have to worry about getting lost, traffic or driving. The chauffeur was very helpful and resourceful when we needed to stop for potty breaks. The shuttle fit all 7 of us comfortably plus the driver and his co-pilot and we still had space for more people. Here's what the shuttle looked like:

On the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in the province of Puntarenas next to Quepos is Manuel Antonio National Park, this park has 4,800 acres of land for you to explore and is rich in flora and fauna. To give you more an idea on the wildlife in the park there are about 350 bird species {amongst them is the toucan, }, 109 mammal species {three and two toed sloths, monkeys, howling monkeys, raccoons, squirrel monkeys, coatis to name a few}, reptiles {such as basilisk lizards, iguanas, eyelash yellow snake and more}. Here is some of the wildlife we saw during our day there:

A few things to keep in mind when visiting Manuel Antonio National Park:

* The park is open to the public from 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday {holidays included}. Admission is: 

$10.00 U.S. Dollars per person {non-residents}++
¢3,500 Colones per person {locals/residents} 

* Entering the park can be a bit tricky since during Costa Rica's high season {December - April} locals and foreigners head to Costa Rica's beaches to enjoy the dry weather with lots of sun. I mean tricky because to enter Manuel Antonio National Park there is a limit on how many people can be inside, so for us arriving at 11 a.m. in the morning meant we were in line to get in for almost an hour standing in the bright sun and humid weather not the best combination with kids. We had to wait for people to leave the park so the line would move and we could finally go in.

* You can't bring alcohol into the park or beaches, we saw many locals and even foreign tourists asked to dump their alcohol, even if it was not opened. Smoking is also prohibited. However you can bring food and drinks, you can also bring an ice chest and chairs we saw families dragging little carts with their belongings to the beach. 

* Keep your belongings at a close distance from you, I'm not kidding there are raccoons that come down from the trees to take your stuff and believe me you'll never find it. Ever. Once they had someone follow some raccoons to where they took the items they "stole" and they were surprised to find cameras, passports, wallets, clothes and even sunglasses! These animals are not afraid of getting too close to humans and if you try scaring them off they will throw whatever they find around them at  you. Exhibit A:

* Make sure your camera is fully charged and has enough memory to take pictures, this park has howling monkeys, sloths, lizards, birds, snakes and many more animals. You'll want to capture with your camera to remember how beautiful it is.

* Bring your own beverage and snacks as there are no vendors inside the park, it is very common to see family's lugging a cooler full of ice, snacks, drinks and even food. There are several picnic tables to enjoy your food. Make sure you don't have glass containers, since they are not allowed. This helps preserve the natural beauty of Manuel Antonio and its wildlife

* There are 4 different beaches inside the park: Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Escondido and Playita, we went to Manuel Antonio which considered the prettiest one. This beach is a shorter walking distance from the entrance and has restrooms nearby. My husband went once before us and couldn't access one of the beaches because there was a crocodile sighting. It is common that the beach is closed due to crocodile sighting since there are several swamps nearby. 

* There is no lifeguard on duty {at least when we went I didn't see one} so be mindful when entering the water. 

As with any other outdoor adventure in Costa Rica bring sunblock, a change of dry clothes, towel, sunglasses, hat, comfortable and light clothes because along the coast temperatures are higher and so is humidity. 

Leaving Manuel Antonio we felt very happy at all the animals we saw, not to mention many butterflies that were not captured due to my camera's battery running low. However once back at our shuttle I was able to hook up my phone to the power outlet and managed to get this image of the sunset that day, truly stunning to say the least.

++There has been speculation that the admission price for non-residents will be increased to $16.00 USD per person. I would double check if possible, if not make sure you have enough cash on you just in case.

+++Please note that the picture of the basilisk lizard, the eyelash pit viper snake and the sloth were taken by my traveling niece Damaris P. Reyes. 


  1. Wow those photos of the wildlife are incredible Maribel! I cannot believe you have been there a year now. What a great experience for your family. Nice sunset photo too!

    1. Thank you Raquel! That is actually one of my favorite photos :D

  2. I love this park too, thanks for all the info and these are great pictures!

    1. Thank you! It was a photographic collaboration between my niece and I.