A traveler’s guide to Manuel Antonio National Park

Playa Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

martingarri/flickr

Costa Rica has some stunning beaches and pleasant cities, and all in all it is one of the best travel destinations in Central America that you could find anywhere. But it is the extraordinary wildlife and rich flora that make Costa Rica truly special. It is not surprising then that Manuel Antonio National Park, despite being the smallest national park in the country, is one of its most popular tourist attractions. Over 150,000 people visit the park every year thanks to its captivating beaches and hiking trails, and many travel magazines list it among the most beautiful national parks in the world. There is no better way to experience the Costa Rican outdoors than in this enchanting place. Here’s a short traveler’s guide to Manuel Antonio National Park that will hopefully whet your appetite to explore it in minute detail.

 Transport

The nearest city to Manuel Antonio National Park is Quepos, a small town with good connections to San Jose. Although the park is not very far from town and it is certainly possible to go on foot if you are fond of walking, there are buses leaving in the direction of the park every 30 minutes. The buses stop at several interesting places along the way, so if you’re staying several days at the park you can visit the area in stages. Taxis are also available, but they are considerably more expensive than the bus fare. Rent a bike or a scooter for complete freedom in the park.

Attractions and things to do

Manuel Antonio Beach, photo by Jeremy Vandel

Manuel Antonio National Park is famous worldwide for having some of the prettiest beaches in existence: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teldoro, and Playita. The beaches have stunningly soft and white sand, clear water, and many people swim in the ocean at the beach despite the danger of riptides. The hiking trails you unavoidably need to take in order to reach the beaches are also out of this world. There are four designated hiking trails in Manuel Antonio, all of them shorter than 3 kilometers.

Apart from the swimming and hiking, Manuel Antonio also has world class fishing opportunities. You can book a fishing trip in Quepos, or head out on your own with your rod and try your luck at sailfish and marlin. Guided park tours are rather expensive but are worth the price as the guides are very experienced and will show you some interesting hidden places. Wildlife is also possible, and so are mangrove tours and scuba diving, snorkeling or whale watching.

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