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30 Jun 2023
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Holiday Vacations

Manuel Antonio National Park may be the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but it is, without a doubt, the most popular.

There really is no other place quite like it. White sand beaches, enchanting nature trails, and more exotic animals than you could dream of - all in one place.

Its unique location brings all kinds of wildlife: coastal species along its beautiful beaches come together with the altitude of the mountains that meet the shores, creating a unique tropical rainforest environment filled with a multitude of species.

Touring Manuel Antonio National Park

When staying at an HRG vacation rental, we always recommend that our guests do a private tour of Manuel Antonio in order to get a VIP experience and see as many animals as possible.

An Elevated Main Trail

Photo Credit: Matyas Rehak

From the park entrance, you will walk through the mangrove forest. This is an enchanting way to begin your time in the park. This trail is, in fact, more of an elevated boardwalk so that even in the rainy season, you can always keep your feet dry as you cross through this mystical wetland. Here you might see animals like coatis, toucans, howler monkeys, and even deer. Keep your eyes peeled, and also your ears! Howler monkeys can be heard from more than a mile away.

Popular Hiking Loops

Photo Credit: Jenari

From the mangrove forest, you will have your choice of routes and hiking trails or senderos. Punta Catedral is a popular loop for those who don’t mind a few stairs. You’ll arrive at the top of a beautiful view or mirador of the turquoise ocean and white sand of Manuel Antonio Beach. Along the way, you’ll pass through new forests as well as old-growth trees, and amongst the flora is a whole world of fauna.

From here, you may choose to loop back around on the main trail, and many people love to close out their tour on the tranquil Manuel Antonio Beach. There are plenty of almond trees where you can find shade, and you might find some friends while you’re there too! White-faced monkeys, scarlet macaws, and other species of birds and mammals love the beach almond tree for its fruit and shade.

Sloths, Iguanas, and Monkeys, oh my! Animals of the Park

Did you know that Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet? That is to say; they have a very high concentration of animal species in a small geographical area. And Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the best places to experience the country’s biodiversity.


Photo Credit: Stephan Hawks

We always recommend a guided tour when visiting the park. The local experts know exactly where the three-toed sloths are hanging out. Costa Ricans call this mammal the oso perezoso, which directly translates to “lazy bear.” After checking these guys out for a few minutes, you’ll understand where they get their name from!

Tropical Mammals

Photo Credit: Ondrej Prosicky

This is a great place to see other mammals as well. Coatis, raccoons, agoutis, deer, as well as both species of sloths (two-toed and three-toed), can all be found here.

Snakes, Reptiles, and Amphibians

Photo Credit: Nature's Charm

Depending on whether you are afraid of snakes or you can’t wait to see one, your local guide will give you a fair warning before showing you where the great boa constrictor is hiding.

Serpents, reptiles, and amphibians might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but looking at them through the telescope of your local guide is a great way to appreciate the beauty of these tropical creatures without getting too close. 

From poison arrow frogs to venomous pit vipers to the “Jesus Christ” lizard who walks on water - having an expert show you these easy-to-miss creatures is a great reason to opt for a guided tour!

The Award for the Cutest Animal in the Park Goes to….

Photo Credit: buteo

The squirrel monkeys. Even the adults have the face of a sweet little baby. These little monkeys hang out in groups, and they don’t mind checking out the humans as well. While they aren’t as friendly as the white-faced monkeys, they still love to put on a show. One little known fact about the squirrel monkeys: they were the inspiration for the old classic children’s toy “Barrel of Monkeys.” Their prehensile tail, sweet faces, and agility inspired the creator to make a toy out of them.

Manual Antonio: The Ultimate Day Trip

This epic nature park is located in the town of Quepos on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Being one of the main attractions of the Puntarenas region, it makes for a great day trip from our home location of Los Sueños, Herradura. Visitors from Jaco, Dominical, Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas Port, and San Jose will take a day trip to Manuel Antonio. The rest come from all over the world to stay nearby for a great vacation. After reading this guide today, you’ll understand why.

Have Lunch in a Downed Cargo Plane

Photo Credit: Alisa_Ch

Besides the fantastic natural aspects of the park, which call people in, the location makes for a great day trip. After exploring the park in the morning, many visitors enjoy having lunch at El Avion restaurant. This neat restaurant has been built inside of a downed C-123 Fairchild cargo plane. Learn about the plane and how it ended up in a Costa Rican jungle while you enjoy a delicious Costa Rican lunch.

Launch at the Beaches of Manuel Antonio

Photo Credit: Simon Dannhauer

After lunch, many travelers enjoy spending the afternoon at one of the many beautiful beaches of the Quepos/Manuel Antonio region. Some of our favorites include Playa Manuel Antonio, Playa Biesanz, Playa Escondido, Playa Gemelas, and Playa Espadilla. 

Due to the park's prosperity, the area surrounding it also has an abundance of wild animals. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself drinking a coconut on a white sand beach, watching white-faced capuchin monkeys playing in the trees.

Take it Easy with a Guided Tour

The area has many other activities worthy of an epic Costa Rican vacation. Snorkeling and kayaking are some of the best things to do around the clear, calm waters of Manuel Antonio. And it wouldn’t be a trip to the rainforest without a thrilling ride down a zip line. All of these activities and more can be found in the stunning town of Manuel Antonio.

Visit Manuel Antonio National Park

This experience is a must for anyone visiting Costa Rica who is remotely interested in nature and wildlife. It is your one-stop shop to see the enchantment of the rainforest, the beauty of the coastline, and the love of the wild animals.

Manuel Antonio National Park is a great place to go year-round. Sometimes the animals are most active in the rain, and in any event, it hardly rains all day during the rainy season.

We typically send our guests with a travel guide to make their experience as rewarding as possible, but if you like to do things on your own, you will still have a great time.

Let our team at HRG Vacations help you plan your perfect experience at Manuel Antonio National Park.