Manuel Antonio often is the smallest nationwide park in Costa Rica, at just below eight sq. miles—but it surely’s large, large, large in biodiversity. The truth is, with greater than 100 mammal and 180 fowl species, it’s one of the biodiverse areas on this planet. A four-hour drive from the capital of San Jose, the park serves up an enthralling mixture of pristine rainforest and a few of the most stunning beaches lining the nation’s Pacific shoreline. A brief stroll right here unveils every thing from sloths and moths to tree frogs and toucans—adopted up by a heavenly plunge within the emerald-green Pacific.

Take into account our current jaunt there in November, which we added onto a week-long paddling itinerary whipped up by Amazing Vacations Costa Rica.

“It’s by far my favourite nationwide park in all of Costa Rica,” says firm founder Jason Tonioli, whose outfit makes a speciality of journeys to the nation. “It has unbelievable jungle and wildlife—and then you definately get to hang around on one of the stunning seashores on this planet.”

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Reptiles & Rivers

Shuttling us from our resort in San Jose in a cushty van is Gustavo and our lead information, Arnaldo. Cease primary: Recent mango and pineapple smoothies at a roadside stand, which we sip whereas strolling throughout a bridge over the Rio Tarcoles to see crocodiles sunbathing under.

“Don’t fear,” says Arnaldo, “there received’t be any the place we’re paddling.”

We go by means of the surf cities of Jaco and Quepos, stopping at a seashore overlook with a plaque of the Costa Rican Olympic Surf Staff that competed in Japan. We’re in whole surf nation, however on our option to run rivers—solely in Costa Rica.

Passing towering Guanacaste timber standing sentry over rice fields (they’re Costa Rica’s nationwide image, additionally known as “elephant’s ear” for his or her seedpods), we quickly arrive on the Lodge Manuel Antonio on the finish of the highway within the city of the identical title. Positioned on a jungle-lined seashore, it abuts Manuel Antonio Nationwide Park which is only a brief stroll away. We stroll on the seashore and swim, adopted by a sundown cacique cocktail (that includes native sugar cane) and a scrumptious carne asada dinner.

Within the morning, we stroll to the park’s entrance and meet our information, Andre—rapidly confirming the good thing about taking a guided tour versus going it alone. A couple of steps into the tour, our geared up information units up his Swarovski recognizing scope on a tripod to disclose the stick-like head of a snake (a non-venomous coachwhip) protruding branchlike from a vine. A couple of steps later, he whips it out once more and dials in a tiny bat clinging to the underside of an enormous leaf.

Closeup of an elusive toucanet (toucan-like bird) sitting on a branch in the rainforest of Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio National Park
Courtesy Picture

Rainforest Revelations

The guides right here work collectively—radioing backwards and forwards to tell one another the place the prize wildlife is hiding. How else may one clarify how Andre simply factors out the tiny, crimson eye of a tree frog? A couple of steps later, he spots the frogs’ sparkly, waterdrop-like eggs clinging from a vine. A flip farther on and it’s a Jesus Christ lizard subsequent to a creek—so named for its capacity to run throughout water.

Andre continues to level out a tremendous array of bugs, wildlife we’d’ve in any other case missed, explaining every thing from their symbiotic relationship with different vegetation and animals to survival mechanisms even Darwin could be hard-pressed to discern. After all, we additionally spy loads of greater critters, from Jurassic Park-like iguanas and slovenly two-toed sloths to squirrels and whiteface monkeys—beelining for guests’ backpack zippers. The sloths, we be taught, play host to as many as 100 several types of bugs of their fur who get inexpensive housing in return for cleansing duties. The meddlesome monkeys, in the meantime, are even sensible sufficient to rub themselves with toxic millipedes to evade predators.

Andre will get most excited once we spot the elusive toucanet, a smaller toucan whose beak continues to be the dimensions of Andre’s grin. “That is very particular,” he enthuses. “That is the primary time I’ve seen one all yr.”

Forested beach at sunset
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Seaside Bliss

On the finish of the tour, after Andre bids us adieu and we hike a couple of extra trails on our personal, we’re turned unfastened at a trio of spectacular seashores—one ranked among the many most stunning playas on this planet. After refueling on the sand with a fast snack, we hike a path that winds across the forest-topped cliffs of Punta Catedral—as soon as an island however now related to the coast by a skinny strip of island.

The land bridge types a backbone separating the park’s two most placing seashores, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio—a half-mile-long white sand crescent bisecting inexperienced jungle to at least one facet and a secluded cove on the opposite. After exploring the isthmus, we make the leap and savor a refreshing swim within the ocean.

Monkeys, sloths, frogs, iguanas, snakes, toucans, pelicans, hummingbirds, and now a dip within the emerald waters of the Pacific. What number of nationwide parks supply that?

Aerial view of jungle and beach
Stefan Neumann / Shutterstock

Park Beta

The park is open year-round, on daily basis besides Tuesdays, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrance tickets can solely be bought on-line. Group guided excursions can be found at $65 for adults, $50 for kids (personal excursions: $75/adults, $60/youngsters), together with round-trip transportation from space resorts and trip houses, entrance payment, bilingual licensed guides with telescopes, and time to spend on the seashores. Trace: Watch out for scammers attempting to promote overpriced parking and excursions close to the park entrance.

Getting There

Manuel Antonio Nationwide Park is positioned 165 kilometers from San Jose on the Pacific Ocean (a few four-hour drive). Home flights, 5 every day between San Jose and Quepos, price $75-$95 one-way.

Park Tip

Go along with a information. They’re specialists, know the animals’ habits, and the place they’re within the park. You’ll see far more wildlife, due to their experience and high-powered recognizing scopes, and be taught attention-grabbing details about each the wildlife. Bonus: you possibly can take stunning close-up images together with your smartphones by means of their scopes.

Different Issues to Do

River operating

Book a trip on certainly one of three rivers that dump into the Pacific close by—together with the family-friendly, jungle-lined Sevegre. Step-it-up-a-notch on the Class III-IV Naranjo or, if it’s operating, the creek-like Guavo which you’ll be able to paddle proper into the ocean.

Waterfall plunging

Take a facet journey to “Cataratas Nauyaca,” certainly one of Costa Rica’s top waterfalls, the place a steep, hour-long hike leads to an enormous, two-tiered bridal veil value each drop of sweat for the plunge into the avocado-green plunge pool on the backside. Tip: Swim behind the veil at looker’s left.


Tack on a day or two and hit the waves at Manuel Antonio or the close by surf cities of Jaco, Quepos, or Domincal, which serve up shore break for brief boarders and factors for lengthy boarders. Trace: Longboarders, strive Domincalito a mile down the kiosk-lined boardwalk from Domincal.

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