Manuel Antonio National Park is nearly quite literally, a little slice of paradise. Costa Rica’s smallest national park, it sits like a jeweled pendant jutting out into the ocean just south of Quepos on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast.
- Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica's second most visited park behind the Poás Volcano National Park
- The Pacific Ocean in front of Manuel Antonio Park is also world-renowned for its fishing
- Manuel Antonio is home to more than its share of five-star luxury enclaves, hidden discretely away among the lush green hillside
Less than seven hundred hectares in size, the park boasts a startling stereotypical tropical magnificence. Punta Catedral (Cathedral Point) is aptly named, a forest-covered gem with winding trails standing high above the water, offering spectacular views with minimal effort to find them. The Catedral was once an island, but is now connected to the coast by a thin strip of land that forms a spine between two of Costa Rica’s most notable beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio. This formation, one of the most often photographed locations in the nation, is what all of Costa Rica identifies as Manuel Antonio, a national icon for natural beauty and the spirit of preservation.
The town of Manuel Antonio proper is hardly separable from Quepos, and most visitors will never know that the two towns are not one and the same village.
Manuel Antonio is home to more than its share of five-star luxury enclaves, hidden discretely away among the lush green hillside, with a dedicated following of celebrities who are drawn to the stunning natural beauty and guaranteed discretion and world class pampering that has become the defining feature of the accomodations of Manuel Antonio.
The park is easily accessible, and home to sloths, iguanas, a very precocious tribe of squirrel monkeys and countless crabs. Rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs combine for a most picturesque beach experience, an illusion that you are miles from nowhere. Park is open from 7am to 4pm Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays.
With only 687 hectares, Manuel Antonio National Park serves as a home to at least 364 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and marine life, both the common and the endangered, as well as numerous species of flora and fauna,
The Pacific Ocean in front of Manuel Antonio Park is also world-renowned for its fishing. From November to April it is not uncommon for a typical angler to release multiple billfish in the over 100 pound range.
There are also 12 islands off the coast, which provide excellent refuge for rare and endangered sea birds and represent an important nesting site for the Brown Booby and the Brown Pelican. To date, 346 species have been discovered in the park, including 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds, as well as an incredible variety of insects and reptiles, and rare possibilities to see the huge endangered Oliver Ridley and Green Marine Turtles.
Four beaches are contained within the limits of the park: Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Teloro, and Playita.There is a lifeguard program, but precaution must be taken, as riptides occur.
Before colonization and tourism the Quepoa Indians lived off the rich, fertile land. After the 1800’s settlers transformed this land into banana plantations and built docks to ship bananas worldwide. The banana plantations where replaced with African oil-palms in 1980’s. Today, those docks are used for the sport-fishing industry.