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Manuel Antonio National Park

Author: Diane Robbins
Date of Trip: April 2013

Our final stop on our Costa Rica trip was the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area along the southern Pacific coast. We had four nights here and this was to be our R & R at the end of our trip … my beach time. I had visited Manuel Antonio National Park previously, had good memories of it and hoped to spend our last days relaxing at the beach and enjoying the wildlife the park had to offer.

What a disappointment! The entrance to the park has changed since my last visit. Our hotel was within easy walking distance but if you came by public bus, the closest bus stop was now a 15 to 20 minute walk to the park entrance through streets that took you away from the water. As you walked to the entrance you were approached by guides soliciting clients. (They were very pleasant and didn’t keep bothering us after we said “No.”) Tours were $20 per person and we figured that — at least the first time into the park — we’d wing it. (And that is on top of the $10 per person entrance fee.)

We made the right choice by going without a guide. While the guides were able to spot some sloths, they were way up in the trees and hard to see. We didn’t hear or see any of the guides pointing out birds except for one hummingbird that was back in the brush. Monkeys were easy to find since they appear to have as much interest in us as we have in them. But generally we were very disappointed by the lack of wildlife.

The main path is a gravel road and several times we had to make way for vehicles. Unless you go early, the park is very crowded. As we left around noon (park opens at 7:00 a.m.) we saw families coming in with beach and picnic items. There are now changing rooms in the park and also drinkable water.

The one thing that didn’t disappoint was the beach that I remembered inside the park or the sunset from the public beach. We spent two mornings in the park … after our first negative wildlife experience we figured it had to be better the next day. It wasn’t. After about two hours sitting on the beach, we returned to our hotel where we saw more birds at poolside in one hour than we did the entire time in the park.

On our third day we decided to skip the park and instead headed for the public beach. Unlike the calm waters within the park, the waters at the public beach are rough with high waves. We were able to rent an umbrella and two lounge chairs for $10. I enjoyed jumping the waves and body surfing but I sure missed the old Manuel Antonio National Park.

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