Taking a nature hike through Manuel Antonio National Park
Africa has its "Big 5" but Costa Rica boasts its own cast of critters. I saw dozens of white-faced monkeys and lizards in Manuel Antonio as well as some tropical raccoons scavenging on the beach. The highlight of the day was spotting two sloths casually gnawing on leaves overhead.
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Manuel Antonio: Where the Wild Things Are
When friends want advice on where they should travel as a family, I first ask them if their children have ever been out of the U.S. If not, I usually suggest Costa Rica since it's not too far away, English is widely spoken, and it's very family friendly.
It's for parents who are ready to take off their training wheels!
The main reason I recommend this Central American paradise is because it has plenty of fantastic opportunities to see wildlife up close. And if there's one thing almost all children like, it's animals!
Oh, and there are some great beaches, too, but that's another highlight.
The beauty of Costa Rica is that there's wildlife all over the place. One of the best places to see the vast varieties of sloths, monkeys, and tropical birds is in Manuel Antonio National Park.
Because of the abundance of wildlife—and proximity to beautiful beaches—this area does get pretty crowded. So if you want something a little less busy, Tortuguero might be a better option. But Manuel Antonio is quite easy to navigate and very child friendly, so that's a major plus.
If you do come here specifically to see the animals, I strongly recommend you head out as early as possible and that you hire a guide. Not only will they tell your kids great stories about the animals you see, like the White-headed Capuchin monkey, Black Spiny-tailed Iguana, and White-nosed Coati, but they actually help you find them—which can be quite challenging without them.