Note: if you want to jump strait to some tips for visiting the park, they’re at the bottom.
As I mentioned previously, the main reason I wanted to go to Costa Rica was to see a sloth in the wild. But, the wildlife in general was a huge draw for us. Quepos, Costa Rica is a place where the jungle meets the ocean; it’s a beautiful area and it’s teeming with animals. Manuel Antonio Parque Nacional is a safehaven for the animals. They are protected and they flurish. All of the pictures in this post were taken while at Manuel Antonio National Park.
Something to know when you are traveling to Manuel Antonio: there are people along the drive there that prey on tourists. We were driving to the park and a man in an official-looking outfit stepped into the middle of the road, blew a whistle, and waved us into a parking lot. Another man came to our window and told us this was the parking area for the national park. We asked him if it was the only place to park and he looked us in the eye and said yes. It didn’t feel right. If this was the parking lot for the national park, wouldn’t there be more than four cars parked there? We got out of the car and then they were trying to convince us to hire a guide. Jer and I looked at each other and asked again if this was the only place to park. The guy got really nasty with us and told us just to leave. So we did.
We got maybe a quarter of a mile down the road and then someone else tried to flag us down to park in their lot. We passed about six other parking lots. Know this: the park does not have its own parking lot. So, you will have to pay to park in one of these lots, but there is a parking lot right next to the entrance. The original lot was about 3 miles from the park. Let me just say that we would have been super angry if we had parked there.
When we stepped out of the car, we paid $6 to park in the lot, and then we were immediately harassed about hiring a guide. We didn’t think that we wanted a guide but they had a scope set up and told us to look through it. Through the lens we could see a small, green snake. I asked the man where it was and he pointed to a palm tree across the street. I walked right up to the palm tree and still couldn’t find it. He pointed it out to me, and that’s when we decided that hiring a guide was probably a good idea. They wanted $60 for both of us but we talked them down to $40. Please know, everything in Costa Rica is negotiable. Even our beautiful hotel, Issimo Suites, negotiated with us on the price.
We were so glad that we hired the guide! Without him, we would have only seen four animals. With him, we saw about twenty. He was full of information about the wildlife and the vegetation. It is so easy to spend your time looking but not seeing. You can hear the animals, but you can’t find them; that is what is the most maddening. Definitely add this place to your list of places to visit, especially if you love animals. Seeing them in their natural habitat is a special experience and totally worth it.
Tips for visiting Manuel Antonio Parque Nacional:
- Entrance to the park is $10 per person.
- There are bathrooms inside the park but they are sparse.
- There is nowhere to buy water. Definitely take a lot with you.
- Take bug spray.
- Take sunscreen.
- We expected trails but the main part of Manuel Antonio National Park is made up a service road.
- The service road ends at the first beach. If you want to swim wear a swimsuit.
- If you keep walking past the first beach, there are trails. Some of them are very steep, but they are worth it.
- Hire a guide, and negotiate on your price.
- Ignore everyone waving you into parking lots until you can actually see the park entrance.