Manuel Antonio National Park

Puntarenas Province, Quepos, Costa Rica

A stunning national park on the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio has it all: nonstop beautiful beaches, lush tropical rain forest, and oh, the wildlife and flowers, everywhere you look. Monkeys abound on these beaches, and they are not timid around people. This is the place (the only place, thankfully), where a monkey pooped on my head. Ah, the memories... The Viewpoint Trail hike is an uphill climb to this lookout (mirador) with outstanding views of the coastline.

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Happy sloth

Even though Manuel Antonio Park is one of the most visited areas of Costa Rica, there’s still lots of wildlife to be seen lurking the jungle.


The capuchin monkeys are so used to people visiting Manuel Antonio Park that they are not scared of humans. They will wait with the racoons in the trees by the beach waiting to steal food from unguarded bags.

Manuel Antonio Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach is by far the most beautiful beach I have ever been to in my life. Everything from the white sand to the clear blue water to the lush green trees made this beach unforgettable. The water was extremely warm and it’s the only beach in the Manuel Antonio area that doesn’t have riptides. While this beach is open to the public, you have to pay the $10 admission fee to get into Manuel Antonio National Park.

The Backpack Thief

Manuel Antonio National Park is a wonderful opportunity to observe Costa Rica’s flora and fauna. This white-faced monkey was known for hopping on tourists’ backpacks and pilfering various items.

Life's a beach!

My husband and I took a week long trip to Costa Rica in Dec 2011. We spent a day in the Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast. We started the tour of the national park with a tour guide who was equipped with a high end telescope to point out the fauna and flora. Once done with the guided tour, we spent the rest of the day on one of the beaches within the national park which was far less crowded than the public beach in the town. But be careful, there are monkeys on the beach :)

Tranquil Beach in M.A. Park

This beautiful park is the second most visited park in Costa Rica so it can get a bit crowded, especially during the high season. I read in a guide book that Playa Gemelas was a smaller, more secluded beach that attracted fewer crowds. Perhaps others read the same thing because we found that beach to be quite popular. As we were leaving the park, we walked past the very crowded Playa Manuel Antonio to find this beautiful spot on Playa Espadilla Sur. Not a single soul on the beach. It was the haven we were looking for.

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.

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.

Tour of Manuel Antonio National Park

I decided to do a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park and it was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The guide knew exactly where to look for animals and we saw howler monkeys, cobras, poisonous grasshoppers, toucans, sloths and butterflies. Without the guide, I definitely wouldn’t have seen any animals. The park itself is absolutely stunning and hikers are rewarded with the most beautiful beach in the world for finishing the hike.

Finally, a monkey

After hoping and guessing on monkey calls and attempting to lure with food scraps, Manuel Antonio delivered our one demand of Costa Rica: making monkey friends. We didn’t think it was too much to ask, and as expected they really liked us. What monkey wouldn’t? In addition, this town had a much more populated beach, fun and friendly locals, and great restaurants right on the shore. We chose a dilapidated hostel that provided run-in’s with a crab and a roach, but ended our trip in such an upbeat, beautiful place. This is a great destination for good meals, beach soccer, a hike through the national park, and monkey-sighting. It’s a little more pricey than the smaller stops we made and more tourist-y, but your typical beach spot to lay out, para-sail, or jet ski. Hourly bus rides to San Jose for your departure are a convenient plus as well.


A close friend was getting married at Punto de Vista and wanted to take pictures on the beach before the ceremony. When we to a quick ride down the street, I had no idea what I was in for. The beach was more gorgeous than any I’ve seen before.

Take me away!

My husband and I took a week long trip to Costa Rica in Dec 2011. We spent 2 of those 7 days in Manuel Antonio National Park area. From the nearby town, Quepos, there are snorkeling tours in the Pacific waters surrounding the park. This was shot while on the tour.

Manuel Antonio National Park Tour.

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Costa Rica, despite the size is loaded with monkeys, sloth, birds, bats, iguanas and three beautiful pristine white sand beaches, there are not places to buy food or drinks, don’t forget to brings swimming gear, towels and sunblock. There are 6-7 trails and two lookout points with stunning views. Hiring a local naturalist guide is great if you are looking to take great pictures and learn about the flora and fauna. Cell: (506) 83907789

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