Manuel Antonio National Park

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 20, 2022

The beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park are often classified as the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, which has no shortage of charming beaches on both its oceanic facades. Probably part of their reputation stems from being part of the National Park, which eliminates all the hawkers who make it unpleasant to stay on ordinary beaches. Their ribbon of fine sand, set against a backdrop of lush greenery, rightly constitutes an image worth keeping to illustrate a successful stay in Costa Rica.

After paying the entrance fee at the park kiosk, the path first crosses a narrow creek that marks the park boundary on this side. From there, a short shady path leads to the beaches, the main destination for visitors. By scanning the trees it is possible to see typical birds such as toucans, dark spots in the branches can be sloths. However, they stay away from visitors and the chances of taking good pictures of them are quite small. Do not be fooled by advertising material.

The national park has existed since 1972 to protect this part of the primary rainforest, which was threatened by the development of agriculture and real estate projects. Of a modest size, less than 2,500 acres, 1,000 hectares, the protection of the park also extends to the neighbouring marine domain, covering an area of 136,000 acres, 55,000 hectares. The fauna and flora are now preserved, leaving visitors with beautiful natural beaches.

The two most easily accessible beaches, Playa Espedilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio meet to form a spit of land up to an ancient island, Punta Catedral. A rudimentary staircase leads to the high path allowing some glimpses of the nearby beaches through the vegetation.

With its beautiful beaches, the Manuel Antonio National Park is the most visited park in the country, which means that in high season it will be difficult to find a quiet spot.

Another less pleasant aspect, with or without affluence, are the coatis, the South American raccoons. They are particularly intrusive, devoid of any shyness, they come to search bags and clothes for food, even in the presence of the legitimate owners. Shouting or clapping only makes them turn their heads for a moment before returning to it. Physical contact is necessary to get rid of them. It makes you wonder if the hawkers are actually …

If the desire to bathe still prevails, the precaution of hanging belongings from the branches of trees can be a solution. But coatis are also good climbers, so it is best to keep an eye on the belongings. It seems that it is forbidden to bring food into the park, it would be better to comply with the rule.

Iguanas also roam the beaches, but they are more distant and discreet than the invasive coatis.

Capuchin monkeys are the big stars of the park, they attract all the cameras. Shy but curious, they approach and observe without coming too close. Interested in food, they grasp it dexterously and climb up the trees to eat it. They present a strangely human face with big dreamy eyes.

There is no official car park at the park. Around the entrance to the park, gardens and fields act as informal car parks, competing with each other. On the road, aggressive touts try to direct cars at them authoritatively, equipped with whistles and caps, wearing clothes that can be deliberately confused with official uniforms.

Then there are the offers of fake guides, equipped with binoculars mounted on a tripod. It is true that without their help it will be difficult to spot birds and sloth in the trees. It is up to everybody to decide their priorities.

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Costa Rica is best known for its natural parks and beaches, but just as a capital does not reflect a country, to know a country, it is necessary to know its capital. San José replaced Cartago as the country’s capital in 1823.

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Highlands, Costa Rica
Playa Espedilla Sur, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park

The beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park are often classified as the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, which has no shortage of charming beaches on both its oceanic facades. Their ribbon of fine sand, set against a backdrop of lush greenery, rightly constitutes an image worth keeping to illustrate a successful stay in Costa Rica.

Jacó and its surf beaches

On the Pacific coast, Jacó is the closest seaside resort to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, less than two hours away by car. Jacó is enjoying the development without it being too much of a burden, there is a little modern air to it, but still with many imperfections that are part of Costa Rica’s charm.

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Tamarindo or Tamagringo

Tamarindo beach on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is probably the most frequented beach in the country by foreign tourists, especially beginner surfers attracted by the easier waves. To the point of earning the unappealing nickname of Tamagringo. So don’t expect to discover the lifestyle of the Ticos, the nickname of the Costa Ricans, and it’s difficult to see the pura vida here.

Sámara, the sleepy beach

Getting to Sámara is not always easy, as if it had to be a deserved treat. Most of the roads are still dirt roads, continually traveled by all kinds of vehicles, rutted after rain, and it often rains.

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    • Costa Rica is great for nature, with parks in tropical rainforest inland or Manuel Antonio by the sea, preserving a primary forest. There are also many small resorts along the ocean with large beaches, but it’s a bit more classic. I wish you to be able to go there soon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have seen coatis in several places in South America, mainly in the tropical region. The racoons we have in Ontario stay away, in Costa Rica it’s the opposite, the coatis come to you and it’s difficult to get them to leave.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. what a gorgeous setting, and my goodness so many racoons. We have our share of pests in Australia, in some parts far too many possums, but those racoons are vicious little blighters! I havent been to this part of the world at ALL – central America. Hopefully one day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have travelled consistently in Latin America over the last ten years, there is a historical depth that does not exist in North America, as well as ancient architecture is closer to Europe. Otherwise lifestyles have developed according to local specificities.

      Liked by 1 person

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