Manuel Antonio may be one of the smallest protected green spaces in the region but is also one of the busiest. It is a wildlife sanctuary, offers great trails, and has few beaches which attract both tourists and residents. The location of the park is within a popular beach and resort town which attracts a large crowd.
Manuel Antonio National Park is a small park on the Pacific Coast close to Jaco. The park is great to explore by without a guide however the guides are great to point out sloths and other wildlife that is not easily seen.
Rates and Parking
National and residents’ entrance fee is 1,600 colones ($2.5)
The non-residents entrance fee is $16
There is no official parking for the park. You will see a lot of random people claiming they are official parking attendants for the park and charging an outrageous amount of money for the parking. You can probably hackle with them for a better price. With our limited Spanish we just paid what they asked for knowing that we were just ripped off. This is a major downside to visiting Manuel Antonio National Park.
You do not need a guide to explore the park however, it may be a good idea to hire one to learn more about the park’s biodiversity and spot more of the wildlife. To avoid scammers pretending to be guides it is best to book online through a trusted website or hire a guide once inside of the park.
A great resource for all national parks in Costa Rica is SINAC.
Location and Direction
Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific coast, about an hour north of Uvita where we stayed. The drive is easy and the road is paved. We did not have any issues with Google Maps getting us to the right place.
Manuel Antonio Park Entrance and The Facilities
Multiple hand washing stations are set up at the entrance. Bathroom facilities and a water filling station are available at the entrance as well.
The bathrooms and changing facilities are available inside of the park at a few different locations, generally around the beach area. There is a cafeteria inside the park located at the end of the Sendero Perezoso.
Manuel antonio Park TrailS
Manuel Antonio National Park has eleven interest points you can explore whether it is walking the trails or enjoying the beach life which makes this park perfect for a day trip. All the points of interest and trails are identified on the map in the picture above to give you a better understanding of the park.
Once you pass the entrance you will be starting off on Sendero Perezoso (Sloth Trail) and given the name you would expect to see sloths everywhere. No such luck! They are very hard to spot since they do not move that much. They spend all their lives hanging from the tree branches even when feeding, sleeping, mating or giving birth. This is where the guide comes in handy, as they usually know the spots, they like to hide in and can point them out to you.
The trail is a boardwalk that leads you to a fork in the road. At the fork, to the right are Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio and to the left is more hiking, viewpoints, and Playa Gemelas. This is also where the cafeteria with refreshments, ice cream and food is located as well as more facilities (bathrooms, showers, changing rooms).
At this point, we headed to the left and explored park points 8, 9 and 10. The trail continues as a combination of a boardwalk and a paved surface with some stairs. First stop is Playa Gemelas. More intimate and secluded white sand beach with amazing views all around. Great place to relax, go for a swim, or just enjoy the view for a few minutes.
Once back on the trail it leads to Mirador Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port). To get to the viewpoint you will have to take a set of stairs but will be rewarded with unforgettable beauty.
This is just the beginning of the stairs, if you continue to viewpoint 10 – Mirador you will encounter even more stairs. However, there are a few benches along the way if you need to take a break. At the end of the trail, you are rewarded with the majestic beauty of Punta Serrucho, a landmark in the shape of a sawtooth due to numerous tectonic movements.
To complete this loop with a starting point at the entrance and coming back to the cafeteria, with plenty of breaks to enjoy the views and beach can take up to 3 hrs. and still gives you plenty of time to explore the other side of the park with more popular beaches.
TIP: Unfortunately, Punta Catedral is CLOSED at this time.
Both Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Sur are beautiful beaches with amazing views. Even though they are more crowded than Playa Gemelas you can still find quiet spots to enjoy. That is quiet spots from the humans, the wildlife may not be as cooperative. In this area, we saw Land Crab, White Faced Monkeys and Iguanas all over the place.
When we decided to call it a day, we walked on the Playa Espadilla Sur to Bahía 8 connecting trail and walked back to the exit still in hopes of seeing a sloth or toucan, but again no such luck. At the end of the beach trail, there are more facilities available.
Depending on your schedule you can make a day out of this park or only spend a few hours hiking and wildlife watching. Either way, you wouldn’t be disappointed. The only downside to this park is not having designated parking as we already mentioned earlier.
Things to Wear
Because of the unpredictable weather always wear quick-drying clothes when hiking in Costa Rica.
T-shirts, shorts and hiking sandals are the best options for the majority of the year. If interested in swimming definitely bring bathing suits and towels.
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