* Prices may differ from that shown
Manuel Antonio National Park
This is one of the most visited National Parks in the wonderful country of National Parks. It is in the central Pacific region of Costa Rica just south of Quepos and about three hours drive from the capital San Jose using the Costanera Highway which in some parts is a very good fast road.
We drove to the park from our hotel in this area, the Pelican hotel near Parritta and as we got close to the park we were 'guided' into a parking area beside the road by official looking people. We got out and thought we had a fair walk to the park entrance but accepted that then the hard sell for a 'guided walk' started. It took us while but we realised we had been conned into parking there and decided to get back in the car and try and get a little closer to the park entrance about half a mile down the road.
This time we checked first and the parking attendant assured us this was the correct place to park and pointed us in the direction of the park entrance. This was not easy to find as the entrance was a rough track not labelled at all off the main road. The only sign pointed to the craft market which threw us off the scent slightly but having asked a local man we headed off down the muddy track and eventually came to the park entrance which was in the same area as the craft market or stalls selling souvenirs.
The entrance fee was $10 US, the same as all the other National Parks in Costa Rica which we thought was quite a fair price. They do not take credit cards , you have to pay in cash and the tickets are not picture ones, just a fairly scrappy receipt which was a bit disappointing as we do like to put tickets in our photo albums as souvenirs but I suppose these are cheaper to produce than a special picture ticket.
At the entrance are a number of official guides who will escort you round the park and point out anything of interest. They do have amazing eyesight and they also have telescopes on tripods so you can fix your camera on this and get a close up photo of the animals, birds, reptiles or mammals. The moneys and sloths are quite tricky to spot as they are often up very high in the trees so this could be really handy. The guides were not cheap though about £20 per person so we decided we would not bother as we had seen quite a lot of animals in the other parts of Costa Rica and thought we had an idea of what we were looking for. Often it was obvious when there was something to see as you would find a group of people looking in a certain direction and people were very good at pointing out animals they spotted to other people.
Just next to the ticket booth was a toilet block which was clean but not at all adequate for the number of visitors that go to the park. There were two ladies loos so if a bus trip arrived you could have a VERY long wait. Luckily there were only a few people coming in to the park at the same time as us and we only had to wait for a queue of 10 ladies. There was also no toilet paper , soap or towels nbut as I said it was quite clean and the toilets did flush although we were reminded not to flush any toilet paper down the toilet it should go in the bin beside it.
The park is on the coast and includes the four beaches of Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Escondido and Playita which are quite different, varying from secluded coves, surfing beaches and palm lined shores. We did find the sea was very surf like on one side and chose to swim in the sea off the Manuel Antonio beach. There are changing rooms but not really sufficient number for the crowds that visit on weekends and even though we were there on a week day I still had to wait some time for a space to change in as there were only four cubicles, two were toilets! There were no benches or hooks outside the cubicles so you could not really get changed outside near the basins as there was water everywhere. I can't imagine what it is like at the weekends.
The beach was lovely with whiteish sand, lined with trees of the coastal wet forest through which a troop of Capuchin monkeys passed leaping and cavorting around the visitors. One little fellow managed to steal a red T shirt from a branch and spent quite some time trying to put it on much to our amusement though I'm not sure the owner was too thrilled. Another of these cheeky monkeys went up to a family on the beach and began to inspect the contents of their bag, the lady looked quite concerned but as she stood up and moved the monkey ran off. There were so many of these pretty cute monkeys in the trees near the beach for about ten minutes then they moved on. This was typical of the animals in this park, you just had to be there at the right time or you missed them.
We saw a deer walking along the path and this was the only deer we saw in our time in Costa Rica. Shortly after the deer we spotted a coatimundi munching its way through the undergrowth and then another walking along a branch of a tree. Large groups of tiny squirrel monkeys leapt from branch to branch above our heads and often they swung from one side of the path to the other using the hanging branches. They came quite close at times but were so curious as to come down and interact with people.
There was a strong tidal pull or rip but provided you stayed within your depth you were okay. The waves were quite strong but not over whelming like they were on the other side of the small peninsula. A coral reef suitable for snorkelling was just off this beach but we had no snorkels and I was not happy about going too much beyond my depth because of the strong rip or current.
The park continues out on a promontory so there is a beach on either side of the wet forest area. The paths were clearly laid out and labelled and some were okay for wheel chair access too. Animals in Costa Rica are not easy to spot and the trickiest of all is the sloth as they do not move much and really look like a ball in the tree often really high up at about 40ft up. We were lucky though and spotted two up high in a tree and luckily my husband's camera has a good zoom lens so we did manage to get a couple of photos of the sloth balls.
This was a really interesting park as it was easy to walk around and although it is quite large there are many paths you can walk round that are not too far. Each route has the distance clearly labelled and if a steep climb is involved then it also warns about that with a sign. As it is really hot and sticky walking around in the park we decided that we would avoid the routes with steep climbs. After about an hour and a half walking around we decided it was time for a swim to cool off and we went to battle the changing rooms ready for our swim on the beach.
We spent a total of about three hours walking, swimming and looking at the animals before returning to our car at the car park.
The car park was beside a hotel where they had a nice looking restaurant from where you could see another beach. We decided to go and have a cool drink there to refresh ourselves. The menu looked quite reasonable and a lot better than our hotel so we ended up having lunch here too. My husband and I both opted for the Costa Rican lunch meal called Casados which consists of black beans, rice, salad and either fish or chicken. We both had Mahi Mahi fish which was delicious. We had this meal several times while we were in Costa Rica and it was very satisfying and quite tasty.
I would suggest if you want to visit this beautiful park that you do NOT go on a week end as it gets very crowded. Take toilet paper and be prepared to queue and take plenty of bottled water as it is very hot and you could easily get dehydrated. Do not get conned by the people hailing you in to park along the road side they are just trying to get you to take a guided walk with them at a price. Instead continue to the hotel at the end of the road and park in that car park where there is shade and you car will be watched by the parking attendant while you are in the park for the price of your parking fee. I also recommend the hotel there for lunch and a cooling drink.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name