Manuel Antonio National Park is a must-include experience for any Costa Rica itinerary. For many families, traveling to Costa Rica is all about experiencing the jungle and there is no better place to explore and learn about the jungle ecosystem than Manual Antonio National Park.
While my family loved learning about wildlife in the jungle of Puerto Viejo, exploring the Caribbean beaches of Central America, and even hiking around the Pacuare River in central Costa Rica, a walking tour of Manuel Antonio National Park was an extraordinary opportunity to see the details of the jungle the untrained eye would certainly miss.
If you’re traveling to Quepos town and Manuel Antonio National Park, a guided tour of the park is well worth it! Here’s why.
Explore Manueal Antonio with an experienced guide
The walk from the park entrance gate to the beach is roughly half a mile. The guided tour takes you slowly down the gravel path leading to the beach.
Over the course of about two hours, your guide will point out all the details of the jungle.
We began by looking at several varieties of grasshoppers, spiders and even a snake. However, these creatures are all masters of disguise and would never have been visible to the untrained eye.
Our guide knows on which plants to look for specific bugs, and how to spot snakes, reptiles and bugs on leaves, high in the trees and on the jungle floor.
Because walking off the path is not only discouraged but down right dangerous, the guides carry large spotting scopes which they set up quickly, with fast, expert hands so everyone in the group has a chance to view the sightings up close.
Every so often people will attach themselves to your group, and while the guides tolerate this for the most part, the “hangers on” are not invited to make use of the spotting scope and end up moving on. Without the guidance of a nature expert, you simply would miss out on most of the sightings. We learned more about the jungle in these two hours than we had over the past 2 weeks living in the middle of the jungle.
Our guide was excellent with kids as well, lowering the scope and making sure they had a chance to view everything as well. They also allowed us to take photos with our phone via the scope, resulting in some amazing close up nature photography!
The most comfortable beach experience
The area around Manuel Antonio stays consistently hot year round. The only real differential is the humidity. Either way, it’s hot. After walking slowly for a few hours, everyone in the group was hot and sweaty.
We arrived to an awe-inspiring sight at the Manuel Antonio beach. A perfect, protected bay with white sand and clear, flat turquoise water, it’s no wonder this beach is regularly included on lists as one of the most beautiful in Central America.
This is truly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. And a very welcome sight after a sweaty hike through the jungle!
Thankfully one of the guides went ahead to claim one of the few picnic tables at the Manuel Antonio beach. We arrived to find cold waters and fruit salad laid out over a table cloth waiting for us.
As we reached the table, we were even offered cold towels to wipe our faces after the hike.
Next, for about an hour, we were given a chance to swim and enjoy the natural beauty of this beach. We floated in the bathwater-warm water, admired the scenery and watched others doing the same. Mid-morning in July, the beach was very busy. We were there on a weekend, and I’m told Manuel Antonio National Park beach is less crowded during the week, when it’s only tourists and not locals.
We gratefully accepted the towels offered to us by our guide, dried of and quickly walked back to the park gate. The return trip was a much quicker walk, as the heat of the day was approaching and the kids were ready to get back to the pool.
Overall, booking a guided tour of the park is essential and an experience I always include in my custom Costa Rica itineraries I book for families.