One of my favorite days from our Costa Rica adventure was our trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. Everyone I talked to recommended going there and I read that it was one of the best places to see a sloth. I also wanted to do some rain forest hiking, without getting too far off the beaten path.
After 8 days exploring Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio did not let me down. Between the monkeys, sloths and adorable raccoons, to the breathtaking views and fresh air, I couldn’t have asked for more. Okay, maybe for a baby sloth to have dropped down from a tree and jumped into my arms, so that I could knock holding a baby sloth off of my bucket list without being responsible for messing up its fragile skin oil. But I’d already come to terms with the fact that this most likely wouldn’t happen. And sadly, it didn’t. But let’s not focus on the negatives.
During our trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, we did a short guided tour down to the beach. During this 0.8 mile tour, we saw white faced monkeys, squirrel monkeys, a bat, a sloth and an adorable raccoon. But our real adventure didn’t start until after the tour.
We decided to explore the park on foot by hiking the two short hiking trails that were open at the time. During our tour we had been completely surrounded by other people. There was laughter, kids yelling, noise in general. Getting away from the beach and going on a hike allowed for some solitude.
Two Hiking Trails in Manuel Antonio National Park
Sendera Playas Gemelas | 2 miles RT – This short trail takes you down past beautiful Playa Gemelas and then over a small crest and down to a beautiful overlook. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb down a ladder and hike out onto a secluded beach with pretty views. The hike is only a mile each way, but after a hot day at Playa Manuel Antonio, you just might feel it. We stopped at Playa Gemelas on our way back for a snack and a short break. We didn’t see any wildlife on the trail itself, but at the beach we did see a lizard and some hermit crabs.
Sendera Mirador | 1.6 miles RT – This short hike gradually takes you uphill for .8 miles. At the top you’ll come to a large overlook, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The turquoise water and warm breeze was definitely worth the hike. Again, no wild life, but we did see quite a few giant bee’s nests. They left us alone though. I can’t say what they did to the tourists who were poking their nest with a stick. We got out of there as fast as we could. Why, tourists? Why?
There’s also a short trail that connects these two hikes. We opted to take that in order to add a little more variety to our adventure. We did see a sloth hanging out in a tree on this less traveled trail. And we could hear monkeys taunting us, but they never showed themselves.
A few tips for visiting Manuel Antonio National Park
- Don’t plan to go on a Monday. They’re closed on Mondays, so you’ll be disappointed.
- Don’t plan on bringing snacks into the park. You’re not allowed to and they search your bag upon entering. I was able to bring in a few lara bars, because I have food allergies and had a note from my doctor, but they still went through them to see what I had. No chips or nuts.
- When we were driving from Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park we were waved down by some guys with “official badges” to park at the beach. We were told that is where all of the parking was and that was also where you paid for your tour. I wasn’t sure about it, nor was I really comfortable with the way they were handling it, but they gave us a receipt and handed us off to a guide. They told us it was free parking and even had someone there to watch our cars. This is NOT the parking area, and these are not official guides. While our guide was okay, he mostly just piggy backed off of what the park guides were showing us and acted really rude when we didn’t want him to use our cell phones to take pictures. He also followed us around at the end of the tour, obviously looking for more money. When we got back to our car, we were stopped by a women who insisted that we pay her because we parked in her private lot. The fee was equivalent to roughly $3.00 so we paid and went on our way, but the entire scam really bothered me. Just keep driving until you get to the park.
- I do recommend hiring a guide for your visit. While you will most likely be able to see the big animals (monkeys, sloths, etc.) without a guide, you will most likely miss the frogs, plants and insects. It’s also good to keep in mind that the guides make a living off of guiding tourists, and they work hard. By hiring a guide, you’re helping out the local economy.
Christian and I are hoping to head back to Costa Rica this coming fall to explore more of the beautiful country. Do you have any hiking trails you’d recommend? Tell me about it in the comments section below!