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What Is Manuel Antonio National Park?

By Lumara Lee
Updated May 23, 2024
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Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Although it is the smallest national park in that country, the park attracts more visitors than any other because of its beauty and the wide range of activities it offers. Its approximately 1,685 acres (682 hectares) of land consists of beaches and rainforests teeming with diverse wildlife. Manuel Antonio National Park also protects 135,906 acres (55,000 hectares) of marine reserve, and is a popular destination for eco tourism.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, boating, swimming, snorkeling, and bird watching. They may see dolphins cavorting in the ocean while palm trees sway in the tropical breezes. Scenic coral reefs and the colorful fish that swim among them attract photographers, divers, and snorkelers. The beaches have fine, white sand perfect for exploring barefoot or for sunbathing. Unlike some of the other beaches in Costa Rica that have dangerous riptides, all of the beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park are safe for swimming, surfing, sea kayaking, and other recreational activities.

A walk on any of the trails through the rainforest will treat the visitor to the sight of the many sloths and monkeys that live there. Manuel Antonio National Park is home to more than 100 species of mammals including armadillos, raccoons, and coatimundi, and other wildlife such as lizards and snakes. The several hundred species of birds in the park include toucans, macaws, parakeets, green kingfishers, and hawks. Butterflies and hummingbirds are abundant.

Four species of monkeys inhabit Manuel Antonio National Park. One of them, the squirrel monkey, is endangered. As forests were cleared to raise livestock and grow bananas, the squirrel monkey’s habitat kept decreasing until it was confined to two small areas in Costa Rica, including Manuel Antonio National Park. Fewer than 1,700 squirrel monkeys are believed to exist today. Other types of monkeys that can be seen in the park are the white-faced capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys.

Hikers can take guided eco tours to learn about the flora and fauna in Manuel Antonio National Park or walk on their own. They can take a trail that offers a spectacular view of the Pacific coast or hike through lush rainforests and take pictures of the wildlife and tropical vegetation. Fishing is a popular sport there and deep sea fishing charters are available. There are many hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other activities just outside the park, which offers an oasis of calm in comparison.

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Discussion Comments

By anon992558 — On Sep 16, 2015

Manuel Antonio is amazing. I loved getting mauled by their white faced monkeys! So much fun!

By Mae82 — On Dec 22, 2011

My husband and I are looking for a really unique place to visit and it looks like the Manuel Antonio National Park has a lot to offer. Does anyone have any idea of what it costs to do some of the activities like a guided trek or a half-day fishing trip?

We really want to make sure that we can get some photographs of the squirrel monkeys and I imagine we'll need a guide to point them out to us on our tour. We have visited a rainforest before and it is surprising how hard it can be to spot animals.

By wander — On Dec 21, 2011

@lonelygod - I had the chance to tour around Costa Rica a little while ago and the country really is gorgeous. The thing with Monteverde is that you not only have the wildlife of the cloud forest, but it is also close to Arenal Volcano, which is still active and amazing to watch at night.

If you want to snorkel though the reefs at Manuel Antonio are lovely and there is a ton of wildlife there too. If you also love beaches I would definitely work in visiting this area first. You can always schedule in a 3 or 4 day trip from San Jose to the cloud forest and volcano if you really want. There are tons of tour operators that can hook you up.

By lonelygod — On Dec 21, 2011

I have been wanting to visit Costa Rica for years just to check out the scenic beauty and finally see some of the wild life that the country is so famous for. How do you feel that Manuel Antonio National Park stacks up against some of the other more well-known areas like the Monteverde cloud forest reserve?

The two areas are quite far away from one another and I only have a couple of weeks to tour the country, so I am afraid I am going to have to pick and choose when it comes to the locals I see. I really want to get in some snorkeling, so that is a big part of my trip.

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