PARQUE NACIONAL MANUEL ANTONIO
Petit Futé's opinion on PARQUE NACIONAL MANUEL ANTONIO
This 682-hectare park, named after a conquistador buried here, is one of the most visited in Costa Rica. In 2011, it was elected one of the twelve most beautiful parks in the world by Forbes magazine. In 2019, the 4 beaches even obtained the Bandera Azul certification (after having lost it a few years ago...). The surroundings are clean, but it is clear that the wave of visitors in the high season does not contribute to the optimal conservation of the site. Fortunately, the vegetal entanglement defends the integrity of the forest and the animals are kind enough to approach it: sagoons, birds, lizards, blood-red and night-blue crabs, yellow spiders in the middle of webs shining in the sun, and iguanas that come out of the bushes in the late afternoon and run away between your legs. In some areas, openings have been made to access beaches and picnic areas.
Swimming is no problem at all, but beware of raccoons and monkeys (more greedy than gourmets) who will come and help themselves in your backpack; everyone attaches their belongings to the trees above! All these long, clear sandy beaches are also perfectly suited for observing the fish that abound near the coast. All you need is a pair of fins and a snorkel.
Access and guide. Funny detail, the park makes so much money thanks to tourism that the tickets are bought in a secure bank counter, 75 m before the entrance, to protect the forest rangers! It is on this short distance that the guides of all kinds will come to you. Demand their business card. The most professional do not do this and wait quietly next to the main entrance.
Path to the beach. The sendero paralelo, parallel as its name suggests, to the car access for people with reduced mobility, very popular, leads to the famous beach of Manuel Antonio in about twenty minutes, the favorite of families. If you see a crowd, it means there's an animal. In general, it is lazy people who are out there, if not raccoons. They are known to steal from tourists' bags just like Capuchin monkeys. They'll do anything to eat. Even if the image can make people smile (and you will get dozens and dozens of "Likes" on social networks, don't feed them! By doing so, you protect them and contribute to their survival for years to come. Think about it!)
From Manuel Antonio beach, several less frequented paths lead to different beaches. The nearest one, on the other side of the road, is Playa Espadilla. It is one of the most pleasant. If you decide to go south along it, keep in mind that there is no access to the exit, which was the case a few years ago. Continuing on the main path to the left after Manuel Antonio beach, you reach a small rocky creek and then Puerto Escondido (in half an hour), a fault in the secondary forest that borders a piece of primary forest, the last one. No access to this beach
From Manuel Antonio beach again, a path leads to Catedral Point which, a long time ago, was an island (72 m high). For about a hundred thousand years, sand has been deposited between the island and the coast to form what today provides access to it. This phenomenon is called "tombolo", and the tombolo at Catedral Point is said to be one of the most remarkable in the world.
Another path on the left, at the entrance to the park, leads to a waterfall only during the rainy season. Finally, the short Los Congos trail is for those who love the mountains. To enjoy all these trails, spend the day in the park; for a single trail and a swim, two hours will be enough.
Opening time and information on PARQUE NACIONAL MANUEL ANTONIO
Admission: 16 US$. Free for children under 11 years old. Open every day, from 7am to 4pm, but beware the park closes on Mondays in low season! The services of a guide cost from 20 US$. Limited access beyond 600 visitors, it is better to anticipate. For parking: park close to the park and don't be fooled by the so-called official agents who will try to get you paid on the road from the beach.