Manuel Antonio Park has the best variety of animals of any place I've seen. Plus, the beach beaches in the area are located inside the entrance.
The cost of entry is $6 US dollars. You also can pay in colones. The fee covers entry for the entire day. You can bring in food and towels and relax on the beach all day and take breaks to walk through the park and see some of the animal life.
The trails are great. One takes you to the top of the hill and provides an expansive and beautiful view of the water and islands. That same trail passes by a waterfall and through some very thick foliage.
You also can hire a guide outside the park to show you around the park and point out some of the animals you may not be able to see on your own.
For a different view of Manuel Antonio, Quepos and the neighboring Puntarenas beaches go on a sail boat. The one we booked was through Sunset Sails in Quepos. They market the sail is as a sunset sail -- which funny enough was at 9 a.m. in the off season (to beat the rain, they say). We saw a hunchback whale that played about 100 feet from the boat. We anchored and went snorkeling (Man! Those fish aren't shy!). And the captain fed us fish, rice, pineapple and ice cream!
Our captain's name was Minor and he was a gem! When he welcomed me on the boat, he said "Before the sail is over, you and I will have plans."
"Oh, really?"" I said. Of course, we didn't but I think it was more due to his attraction to men than to anything else. :)
The sail lasted about three hours. The water was rough when we went out and many people got a little seasick. But Minor swears it's only rough after a heavy rain.
We walked the trails of Manuel Antonio NP with an experienced naturalist guide. The walk took about 3 hours and we paid 20 USD. The guide gave an excellent in-depth explanation of the natural history and the wildlife of the park. He had a good fieldscoop with him which gave us the opportunity to see the animals up close. We were even able to make close-up pics through the fieldscope. It was a great experience. I recommend it to everyone.
We were very satisfied with our guide Juan. You can find his website below.
Well, if you're in this area, how can you not do Manuel Antonio.
A couple things for first timers. Manuel Antonio sits at the end of the main road coming from Quepos. There are relatively no side roads. The bus runs every 30 minutes and will take you right to the park (it's virtually impossible to get on the wrong bus). Learn the buses!
The park costs around $7.00 (under 12 free). Near the park, you will be confronted by people wanting to be guides. We were offered prices (for 4 people) from $50 to $160. I'm sure we could have found one cheaper, but we weren't interested. You absolutely do not need a guide, and the park is too small and too well marked to get lost. That said, a guide will almost guarantee that you will see snakes, monkeys, sloths etc., as they keep in touch with each other and let each other know the animals' locations. Some also supply food, and have very powerful telescopes that you can take pictures through.
The choice is yours, but be sure and get a good rate.
We went during the rainy season and had most of the trails to ourselves. The main beach was the most crowded (20 people) and is where we saw the most wildlife (monkeys, raccoons, and a large German couple changing out of their swimsuits in front of everyone). Watch your possessions! There was a raccoon going from bag to bag seeing what kind of goodies he could steal. This baby was not shy.
The park is beautiful, with well marked trails and gorgeous beaches. There is no sense of roughing it. At times they have a concessions stand open, there are bathrooms, primitive showers if you go swimming, and even pay phones. It's still beautiful though. None of it has pavement, or sidewalks.
It's mostly like going to a large nature center, but an extremely beautiful one with wonderful beaches.
If you take the back way out down the service road, you will exit by some small hotels that are tucked away in the woods. There are some small stands here selling food and drinks. As you exit, make a left to get back to the main road.
Although it is Costa Rica's smallest national park, it is one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas in the country. Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. The beaches are one of the most beautiful in the country. The forest is home for sloths, iguanas, howler monkeys, white-face monkeys and the rare squirrel monkeys.
One of the special features of the park is Cathedral Point. With its forest topped cliffs this peninsula was once an island, but is now connected to the coast by a thin strip of island. This land bridge now forms the spine separating the parks two most popular beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio.
To get to the entrance of the park you have to wade across the shallow Río Camaronera. During high tide there are little rowboats available to bring you to the other side for a small fee.
The park entrance fee is US$7.
Opening hours: 7 am to 4 pm. Closed on Monday.
There's secure parking near the entrance: 1000 colones.
A canopy tour in Quepos is a must! I can't remember the name of our tour group but they are all probably about the same. We did about four hours of zip lines and repelling through the canopy of the forests. Although we didn't see much animal life (except a good number of reptiles like dart frogs and iguanas) our guides stopped every few minutes to have us smell some kind of leaf, touch a plant or taste something. Then after the thrill of zipping through the tops of the trees, we swam in a nearby stream and then had a rollercoaster of a ride back to town. I really don't see how those trucks make it very long.
On the road south to Quepos and Manuel Antonio, about an hour before you get there, you will go over a big bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. You cannot miss it. There will be dozens and dozens of cars pulled over. There is a small warning sign about crocodiles. And sure enough, park your car & walk over to the bridge, and look over the side to see many crocodiles in the river. In fact, these are some of the largest crocodiles in the world.
Whether you like wild tropical nature, sandy virgin beaches, limpid waters or hiking in humid forest, you'll enjoy this place. A contrasting mix of paradisiac beaches along the curves of the peninsula and wild, deep, green, rain forest.
Apparently, with a guide, you can see both marine and terrestrial wildlife. But without one, we only heard a few animals run away... saw insects, reptiles and pelicans... and heard howler monkeys (which, when you never saw one, sounds like raging King Kong... quite impressive!). We also gase at numerous deserted beaches and choose one to our convenience to bathe a little. The water was calmer than in Jaco and even Manuel Antonio, since it's more secluded.
Bring drinking water and fruits (not sold inside the park), bathing suit and towel, shades and hat, sunscreen, walking shoes but you could easily walk the path in sandals. Enjoy!
PS The first part of the park will be the continuation of the city beach, but since it's inside the park, much less crowded and with no vendors. Entree fees may be worth it just for that piece and quiet! (6$ to get in, around 20$ more each for a guide)
More details and pictures of what we saw in the travelogue of my Quepos page
Went back a year later. Maybe we were luckier, maybe we knew what to look for, but we saw a lot of wildlife, even without a guide. Spider, anteaters, howler monkey, capucino monkey, agouti, coati, iguanas, ... Had a blast: 4 hours walking the paths, picnic in the rest area (table, water, ...) and the afternoon on the beach looking at pelicans fish.
The other thing we wanted to do here was white water rafting. We have done the rafting in other locations and we wanted to try it again. My son and husband were in the front of the raft and my daughter and I were in the back. It was raining (it was the green season) but it didn't matter we were wet anyway.
This was a half day trip. It was pretty strenuous. My son was too tired (after waterfall rappeling and white water rafting) to eat dinner.
Naranjo River: Class III – IV (green season) challenging for more experienced paddlers
Cost : Half day (4 Hours) $79
The park is 1700 acres, and is absolutely beautiful. I could have watched the monkeys all day long. Seeing the animals in their natural environment was an incredible experience. The park is small enough to explore on your own, however a guide will point out many things you might otherwise miss. The photo ops are endless.
The family had two things they particularly wanted to do in Costa Rica and zip lines was one of them. We drove up to Manuel Antonio and then booked the zip lines and all we could get was the 2 pm one. But it was quite fun, and we enjoyed it even though there were a lot of other people doing it at the same time.
The Titi Canopy Tour had 16 platforms four of which are build on the ground and the other twelve hang 90 feet above it from trees.
... of forest, with paths well signed and well kept... I have worn trekking shoes as I'm one who like to go off the path ;-)...but you can wear normal shoes and I like to enter the wrong path by myself :-P... but you can also hire a guide for a price of about 20 US $...
notes on the national park:
it has four beaches: playa Espadilla Sur, playa Manuel antonio, Playa Purto Escondido, Playita... but don't ask me on which one as this iguana, sorry I don't remember...
note on the park: no camping is permitted and it closes at 4 p.m.
the entrance fee is 8 US $ per person, per day.
Now Quepos is not on the Osla penninsula which is the optimal place to view these beauties, but there is still the chance to view them here. Your local hotel will book a spot on a private or chartered boat. I took the Pink Panther boat where our guide said they saw both whales and dolphins on the previous day. We saw pods of baby spotted dolphins on our trip three times and it was so exciting! Without being charged more, we were provided alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and a seafood/pasta salad. We snorked around a rock that attracted some fish, and we swam on our own private beach in Manuel Antonio. The guide provided very little useful dialogue during the trip, but it was a very enjoyable two-hour excursion. $60.00 per person. I booked mine in Quepos with Alvro at the inexpensive hotel Mar y luna (on the central avenue).
I took a 3 hour surf lesson at MASS (Manuel Antonio Surf School). It was $55 and I had the instructor all to myself. It was a lot of fun, and I felt very safe. This was my first time, and we did not go into the deep water. The school is set up right on the beach at Manuel Antonio, so you can't miss it.