Manuel Antonio National Park
Written by Cyril Brass

     Abundant wildlife, diverse ecosystems and stunning beaches are some of the things that make Manuel Antonio National Park one of the top wilderness are in Costa Rica. 

Unique in its land coverage, the park spreads over a small portion of tropical rainforest and includes a significant offshore area out into the Pacific Ocean, encompassing small uninhabited islands.  Although the fame of the park has grown in recent years, and it is now a well-known tourist destination, it is still  must-see for the visitor to Costa Rica. Deer, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

There are four beaches within the park area, each of which is outstanding. The two white sand beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio, are bordered by lush, living rainforest.  Gentle waves brush up on the fine grain coral-white sand and the warm turquoise water allows visitors a chance to take a refreshing swim after a few hours of  hiking on the park trails.

     The seven kilometers (4.3 miles) of marked trails will take intrepid nature enthusiasts deep into the humid tropical forest.  The well-groomed  trails meander through dense jungle growth to secluded coves, observation lookouts, and a captivating waterfall.  Take time for a picnic lunch at one of the coves while soaking up the natural beauty of  forest and sea, then take in the panoramic vistas along  the pacific coastline before crisscrossing a shallow creek whose origin is a picturesque waterfall sheltered by rich vegetation. Depending on the time of the year, during the dry season, the waterfall may only be a gentle trickle over the rocky cliff.

     One of the easier walking trails is the Perezoso trail, named after the sloth, which can be sometimes seen in the area, as it favors secondary forest growth.

     Another trail winds its way up through the forest-covered cliff of Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point).  Once an island, it is now connected to the mainland by thousands of years of sediment and sand buildup.  It is a worthwhile hike up the narrow path as it encircles the point,  providing incredible views of the bird sanctuary islands and majestic open seas. White-faced Capuchin Monkey, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

     The diverse ecosystems provide excellent habitats and refuge for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Abundant wildlife can be spotted on the forest-lined trails, high on the tree canopy and on the pristine beaches.  If you're lucky, you'll spot a coatimundi digging in the underbrush debris for bugs and insects, see a sluggish three-toed sloth climbing high overhead in the thick foliage, see colorful crabs scurrying on the damp forest floor or enjoy the white face capuchin monkeys playing in the trees above the trails. Other known species within the park are caiman, armadillo, agouti, deer and squirrel monkey.  

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the few remaining habitats for the adorable endangered squirrel (titi) monkey.  Just as the wildlife is protected so is the tropical vegetation of primary and secondary forests, mangrove swamps, and lagoons.  The endangered Black locust, the poisonous Manzanillo, mayflower, balsa, and palms provide a deep green background to the unspoiled beaches.


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