Travel in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio National Park

Did you know that Costa Rica holds 5% of the planet’s biodiveristy, yet takes up only 0.03% of its space?

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Say what?!

Yes, you heard me right! This country has an incredibly rich ecosystem, and to protect those plants and animals, over a quarter of the country is made of national parks! 😮

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elevated trail at Manuel Antonio National Park, to protect the plant life and reduce the impact on nature

Manuel Antonio National Park is one such refuge for this unique array of wildlife. This popular park lies on the Pacific coast of the country, and is well-known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. ❤

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Espadilla Sur at Manuel Antonio National Park

Getting There:

To get to Manuel Antonio from Monteverde, I first took a local bus to Puntarenas, then another local bus to Quepos, which is next to the national park. This journey took 7 hours and cost 8 USD in total.mdp

Where to Stay:

I stayed in Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park, since it has cheaper food and accommodation.

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main drag in Quepos

My go-to for food in Quepos was Pali grocery store, where they have cheap eats, like canned beans, pasta, and cereal.

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Pali, “welcome to low prices”

Quepos also has a nice farmer’s market, where they sell fresh produce, and even souvenirs.

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farmer’s market stand in Quepos
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visiting the farmer’s market with a Malaysian and an Italian from my hostel

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sloth stuffed animal souvenirs

Quepos also has a nice beach, surrounded by the mountains.DSC_3663
My hostel in Quepos was called Pura Vida. During my visit, they had a special offer, where you stay 3 nights and get the 4th free! This meant that my dorm bed was only 6 USD/night! This included free drinking water and a free pancake breakfast.

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cute hostel cat

The hostel also gave me tips on free things to do in the area. For example, one day they gave me directions to a secret waterfall that I visited with some German tourists.
20170605_092244Another day I went to a local hangout called Biesanz Beach, where people were swimming, paddling in kayaks, and serving up spiked tropical drinks. 🙂

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crashing waves at Biesanz Beach
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kayaks for rent at Beisanz Beach
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makeshift beach bar at Beisanz Beach

As a side trip of my own, I decided just to walk around the area, where I saw lots of wildlife.

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Slow down for children, sloth, monkeys, and iguanas. Let’s just cover all our bases! 😛

This area is absolutely teeming with colorful birds!

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cherrie’s tanager
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red-headed woodpecker

Heck, I even spotted this fuzzy little mammal in the local restroom.

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What a nice surprise to see two eyes staring down at you when you’re on the potty! Hah!

Anyway, although those were nice activities to do on the side, the main reason I was in Quepos was to visit Manuel Antonio National Park.DSC_3797

Getting There: 

To get from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park, I took the local bus, which runs every 20 minutes, and costs about 75 cents per ride. DSC_3907

Entrance Fee: The foreigner fee to enter the national park is a whopping 16 USD, which is 6X more expensive than the price for locals. I justify this cost, in the hopes that the money is being used wisely to help preserve this beautiful park. 🙂DSC_3736

Manuel Antonio National Park 

Now you will see, the goal of this national park is to preserve the ecosystem, with minimal interference to the natural landscape.

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There is a minimalist trail running through Manuel Antonio, to reduce interference with nature.

The wildlife sightings during my visit included various unique reptiles and small mammals.

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Jesus Christ Lizard, known to run on water
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black spiny-tailed iguana
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guatusa, a small rodent
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whitetail deer
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This raccoon reminded me of the scene from Elf. Does somebody need a hug? 😛

I even saw my first sloth, high up in the trees! 😮

Fun fact: Sloths are the world’s slowest mammals. They spend most of their life high in the trees, hanging upside-down below branches, so they’re less visible to predators. They also have an incredibly slow metabolism, and only come down from the trees once each week to defecate. DSC_3873

Another interesting find in the park were these black palm trees, which have dangerous, spiky thorns on their trunks, yet edible seeds on their branches. Not sure how anyone climbed up there safely to find that out. 🤔

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black palm trees at Manuel Antonio
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colorful, edible seeds on the black palm trees

The park also has four stunning beaches chock-full of crazy critters.

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beach in Manuel Antonio
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red land crab

And by crazy critters, I’m not talking about the crabs either! I mean the gangs of loco monkeys running amok all over the beach. Hah! During my short visit, I watched a monkey steal a cellphone out of a backpack, a loaf of bread from a cooler, and even a banana out of a small child’s hand! 😮

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Aladdin, the banana thief 😛

Just look at this little crapper try to steal the sunglasses off my face! 😮

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Close, but no cigar

At that point, I was sweaty and exhausted, so I decided to leave. At the exit, the locals were savvy enough to have this waiting for me and other tired tourists to enjoy. 😀

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fresh coconut water, with optional addition of rum 😉

After that, I ended my visit by taking a stroll through the surrounding area of Manuel Antonio, home to posh hotels and villas, with incredible views of the coastline. ❤

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villa near Manuel Antonio
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tropical flower
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Pacific Ocean view

Anyway, that wraps up my time in Manuel Antonio. Up next I’ll be exploring the urban capital of San Jose. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then! 😀

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8 thoughts on “Travel in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio National Park

  1. What an incredible country indeed. So much biodiversity packed in a tiny space. Sometimes we don’t need large spaces to house a diverse array of fauna and flora. If only we have more of reserves in Africa where you last travelled through. For many of the species there need space!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip! That hostel had one of the best deals in Costa Rica! Gotta love a good bargain! Thanks again for checking out the blog! Safe travels! 😀

      Like

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