The Manuel Antonio National Park is one of those places that we can consider a mix of what really represents tourism in Costa Rica. Here you can find a very lush-beautiful tropical rainforest, lots of wildlife and one of the most beautiful beaches of the world!
Besides everything I just mentioned, the Manuel Antonio National Park area is very well developed for tourism, as a matter of fact, is one of the 2 most developed touristic towns of the Central Pacific Region of the country. People ask me all the time “why do you recommend so much for us to go to Manuel Antonio?” and the answers are very simple:
First, it is very easy to see wild animals there, actually, I cannot think of other place in Costa Rica where one can see monkeys so often and so close, because literally, you could touch the monkeys if you wanted to do it, although, I never recommend to touch a wild animal of any kind because you never know how they are going to react… The reason why is so easy to see wild animals here, is because the park is very small (is actually the smallest of the 28 national parks of the country), made of only 1,983 hectares (4,957 acres), that are isolated from other protected lands, therefore, the animals are abundant and never get out of the park-area, because is surrounded by agricultural farms where the wild animals don’t travel through.
Second, the beauty of the Manuel Antonio National Park beaches, where one can enjoy of a contrast between white sand and a lush-green rainforest in the background. This is a sight not very common to find, in fact, this park was in the Forbes top-10 most beautiful national parks of 2011.
Third, because of the incredible natural beauty of the whole area, even outside the park, one can enjoy of the best views of Costa Rica from the many restaurants or hotels that have been built up on the hills, from where you can get panoramic views of the jungles, the ocean, the many small isles and the peninsula of the national park called “Punta Catedral”.
Fourth, because of convenience, where you’d be able to find an endless amount of restaurants that offer a wide array of menus of international and local cuisine in a 7 kilometer stretch (3 miles), from the town of Quepos to the entrance of the national park. In that same 7 kilometer stretch, you can also find lots of hotels from all price ranges, from hostels to 5 stars; some close to the beach, but the vast majority up on the hills, many of them with incredible views.
And last but not least, I recommend to go to Manuel Antonio National Park because of the many things that can be done there, like parasailing, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, hiking in the park, kayaking, surfing, spending time at the different beaches, or going to the mountains nearby which is only a 30-40 minutes ride, where many other things can be done like white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, zip lining, hiking, horseback riding, swimming in waterfalls, riding ATV’s, etc. No wonder Manuel Antonio is the second most visited national park of the country, with approx. 150,000 visitors every year.
In pre-Columbian times, the Manuel Antonio National Park area was populated by the native tribe called “Quepoa”, that’s why today’s main town is called “Quepos”. In colonial times the whole region was dedicated to agriculture and farming, but in 1,972 the Manuel Antonio National Park was created, in order to protect the largest patch of forest left that it was not used for farming and to also protect the many species of animals found there, such as white faced capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys which are an endangered species, howler monkeys, iguanas, sloths, crocodiles, caimans, coatimundis, raccoons, deer, agoutis and many species of birds and insects. The park is also a marine sanctuary made of 55,210 hectares (181,088 acres) that protects dolphins, migratory whales and a large variety of marine life.