Family Vacations to Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica (James Randklev/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Manuel Antonio National Park Family Travel Tips

  • Manuel Antonio National Park only allows 600 visitors a day, so arrive when the gates open at 8:00 A.M. It can get very hot and sticky, so pack lots of water, sunscreen, lunch, a camera, beach towels, and a good pair of binoculars.
  • Have the front desk of your hotel arrange a tour with a naturalist once you arrive at Manuel Antonio. Their eyes are well trained to spot the wildlife and they carry a large telescope to get that close-up view.

A blue morph butterfly floats gracefully above our heads as we look up at the mangrove tree, trying to spot a large night heron hiding in the shade. Magically, out of nowhere, four white-faced monkeys appear, jumping vine-to-vine on the thick-rooted ficus trees. The two-toed sloth we spotted as we neared the beach lacked the monkeys' enthusiasm: Ever so slowly, the mother sloth inched her way back along a long branch, protecting the baby that clung to her stomach.

A little more than 1,600 acres, Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio National Park is a tropical paradise for both the young and old who yearn to watch wildlife roaming free in Central America. Yet, even without the possibility of seeing monkeys chasing one another through the sand, you'd still want to put Manuel Antonio on your itinerary for its sheer beauty. Rugged cliffs hem in this sliver of rainforest, lined with a perfect crescent of white Pacific Coast beach. Visitors come here to spend the day viewing wildlife, swimming in the ocean, and taking hikes up the hillside to exquisite vistas.

More adventures await you outside the boundaries of the park. Near the town of Quepos, outfitters specialize in taking people deeper into the jungle, especially on the canopy walks into Rainmaker Reserve. Farther out to sea, you can kayak in protected coves to a deserted beach or join one of the deep-sea fishing excursions. Indeed, the waters off this mid-coast region of Costa Rica are world renowned for their bounty of billfish, including marlins and sailfish. Go with a reputable outfitter like Costa Mar Dream Catcher. Some of the country's finest resorts are perched on bluffs above the Pacific or right on the beach, all the more reason not to rush through this section of Costa Rica. It deserves at least three days, if not a week.


Published: 3 Mar 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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