5 Tips to Make the Most of a Day at Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Costa Rica. Priced at $16 a ticket for non-nationals, it is one of the most expensive National Parks in the country. Almost every traveler has it on their ‘must-do’ list, so we want to make sure you get your money’s worth. Go prepared and spend your time wisely to make the most of your visit to the park.
1. Arrive Early
The park entrance opens at 7am sharp. In peak tourist season, a line will start to form at the gates before the park even opens. There is a limit on the number of visitors permitted inside the park at one time, so if you arrive late in the morning, you may have to wait for people to leave before you are allowed to enter.
The best time for viewing wildlife, especially birds, is early in the morning. By lunchtime, at the hottest point of the day, many of the animals you are hoping to see will be conserving their energy and taking a siesta until the temperature begins to lower again.
2. Pack a Lunch
Although you will find showers, bathrooms and drinking water in the park, there is nowhere to buy food or drinks. Your ticket only permits one entrance, so you cannot leave to get lunch in a nearby restaurant and then re-enter the park. To make the most of your time in the park and prevent hunger from cutting your visit short, bring a picnic lunch, or at least some snacks to keep you going as you explore the trails.
Be aware, the park guards will request that you only enter with food that is already prepared and ready to eat, with minimal packaging. They want to cut down on the incidences of littering and leftovers being thrown away or fed to the wildlife. Camping stoves, excessive food packaging, and alcohol are not allowed inside the park.
3. Bring Snorkeling Gear
Most visitors arrive hoping to observe and take photos of the astounding biodiversity to be found within the park. You should definitely bring your camera and binoculars if you have them, but don’t forget about the wildlife to be found below the surface of the water. To appreciate everything in the park you will need to be looking down at the forest floor, up at the treetops AND in the ocean.
Bring a mask and snorkel to explore the tidal pools and coves teeming with tropical fish and coral. Students at Manuel Antonio Spanish School have free access to snorkeling equipment throughout their stay.
4. Don’t Get Stuck at the First Beach
Many visitors walk from the entrance along the main trail to ‘Playa Manuel Antonio’, and end up staying there for the rest of their time in the National Park. Without a doubt, this is a beautiful beach. You can swim in the calm bay and often see monkeys emerging from the jungle right onto the beach itself. However, it is just one of the many attractions within the park.
Make time to see the breathtaking views from Punta Catedral or Puerto Escondido, spot Jesus Christ lizards running across the lagoon, visit the waterfall, and relax on the quieter Gemelas beaches.
5. Take a Guided Tour
In order to really appreciate the natural wonders of Manuel Antonio National Park, you will need a qualified naturalist guide. Equipped with a high definition telescope and years of experience spotting elusive wildlife, a guide will be able to show you magnificent toucans, sunbathing sloths, and red-eyed tree frogs hiding under leaves.
Our recommended guide, Marvin, can tell you about everything from the history of the National Park to the social behavior of white-faced capuchin monkeys. Contact us for more recommendations about the National Park, or to book a guided tour for your visit.