Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 and is Costa Rica’s smallest national park. Located just south of the city of Quepos it covers over 1,950 ha of land and 55,000 ha of ocean. An area that is host to pristine rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs. The combination of golden sands, clear blue seas, and steaming green forests led to Forbes listing it as one of the world’s most beautiful national parks. As well as the incredible landscapes, the park also supports some amazing wildlife – with over 100 species of mammals and 180 birds. Here you can find coatis, both of Costa Rica’s species of sloth, as well as capuchin and squirrel monkeys. Not to mention iguanas, agoutis, leaf cutter ants, and many other amazing species!
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average cost: entrance to the park is $16 (free for children under 12). Guided group tours are $51 for adults and $35 for children. Private tours are $71 for adults and $55 for children.
Best time to visit: the typical dry season is December to April – although this is also when the park is at its busiest. The park is open from 07:00 to 16:00 every day (except for Mondays). It’s important to note that the park gets extremely busy and there is a risk you may not get in if you don’t get there in time (the park limits the number of visitors per day). If you can, it’s definitely worth getting up early to beat the crowds!
How to get there: to get there you can travel by public or private bus and/or car direct to Manuel Antonio or the nearby Quepos. Quepos also has a local airport, and you can fly in from San Jose in 10 minutes. There’s a good guide to getting to the park from San Jose here – which includes a stop off at Crocodile Bridge along the way.
Typical activities: guided tours, hiking, scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkelling, wildlife watching
Number of reports: 1
WILDLIFE IN Manuel Antonio
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
capuchin monkey – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The Panamanian white-faced capuchin is native to the forests of Central America. They are highly social and, on average, live in groups of around 16 individuals. Capuchins are known for their distinctive appearance – mostly black fur, with white fur covering their neck, throat, chest, shoulders, and upper arms. They are very easy to see in the park. Look out for them lounging and grooming other troop members on tree branches near to the trails. Keep a hold of your snacks though, as you may find one rummaging around your bag if you aren’t careful!
coati – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The white-nosed coati is very well known in Costa Rica – they are found throughout the country, although mostly near the coast. They share some similarities with North American racoons but have an elongated snout with a white tip. Coatis also have a long non-prehensile tail that they use for balance and signalling. They are often found in large groups of 10 to 30. They will happily walk along the trails in Manuel Antonio regardless of how many people are around. As with the capuchins, keep an eye on your snacks – the coatis will be keen to find an easy meal!
Sloth – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
There are two species of sloth that live in Costa Rica – the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and the brown-throated sloth – both can be found in Manuel Antonio. Hoffman’s two-toed sloth is nocturnal, so can be more difficult to see. The brown-throated sloth is smaller and slightly more active than the two-toed sloth. You are reasonably likely to see them without a guide in the park (as we did!). However, if you want to get a good view it’s advisable to hire a guide with a good scope. You can see sloths year-round although TripAdvisor reports peak in February. This is probably due to the dry weather in February which attracts large numbers of people and means the animals spend less time sheltering from the rain.
Squirrel monkey – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The Central American squirrel monkey is the smallest of the monkey species found in Costa Rica. It has the most restricted range of the Costa Rican monkey species and is found primarily in Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks. Males only average 0.8 kg, with females averaging 0.7 kg, and adults reaching between 25-30 cm in length. They have orange backs and a distinctive black and white facial mask. If you have a good eye, you’ve a good chance to see these monkeys darting about in the trees above. Although you may want to hire a guide if you want a closer look. Since 2008, this squirrel monkey has been classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN.
Photo credit: WildSide team member Katie Thomas