Driving to Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio By Car
Manuel Antonio is a popular tourist destination in the Central Pacific, known for its white sand beaches, clear ocean waters, and national park. It is home to a rich biodiversity of animals and plant life, plus being the perfect location for lots of fun water activities, like snorkeling, surfing and stand up paddle-boarding. The drive along Route 34 is a destination itself with its dramatic views of lush cliffs and clear blue waters. As a popular destination, the area has a large assortment of accommodations and amenities to suit a wide range of travellers’ tastes and styles.
Manuel Antonio National Park was created in 1972 and has well maintained trails that are home to 109 species of animals, all four species of Costa Rican monkeys and 184 bird species. The park’s relatively small size means it can’t sustain all the monkeys that reside there and bridges were erected to allow them to leave the park into the surrounding jungle.
It is the both most popular and smallest national park in the country, containing primary and secondary forest and twelve islets within its nine hundred-hectare boundaries. There are a few trails that are best explored with a naturalist guide to see most of the large variety of wildlife living here. Look for all four types of monkeys (Spider, Squirrel, Howler and White-Faced), sloths, iguanas and tropical flora along the trails.
The main trail is 1.3 miles and is a flat sandy walk good for all ages that parallels the white sand beach. The two main beaches, Playa Espadilla Sur and Playa Manuel Antonio are a thirty-minute walk inside to enjoy swimming, snorkeling and spectacular views. A slightly more challenging hike is Punta Catedral which has some steep inclines around a loop of 0.9 mile. This trail contains an interesting geographical phenomenon called a tombolo, which is a sandy bridge created by sediment building up until it connects what was once an island(Punta Catedral) to the mainland. The park is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30- 4pm.
On Mondays or if the park is full, Playa Espadilla is the public beach near the entrance that is a popular hang out for family and friends to gather for picnics, swimming and football(soccer) games. Unlike most beaches in Costa Rica, there are a few lifeguards on hand. Canopy Tours are very popular here and you can zip through the jungle canopy to see monkeys, sloths and the occasional tree frog. This area is known for canopy rides that also include rappelling and Tarzan swings. On a snorkeling tour, it may be possible to see dolphins and, maybe even a migrating whale while heading out on a boat to your reef location. You can also snorkel in the Manuel Antonio Beach which is only a twenty-minute walk in from the entrance. Surgeonfish, Cortez rainbow wrasse, several blowfish species, black nosed butterflyfish , three banded butterflyfish, Cortez angelfish and Passer angelfish can all be spotted in these waters. Coastal Jet Ski tours are normally a two-hour adventure, on low emission jet ski models to touring three island where an amazing array of tropical birds congregate, and snorkeling in Biesanz Bay to spot schools of parrotfish, angelfish and starfish is also possible.
Driving from San Jose takes approximately three hours, beginning on Route 27, then taking Route 34 to Quepos. It is a longer drive from Liberia, starting on Route 1, then taking Route 34 as before. From Quepos, Manuel Antonio is just a few minutes’ drive down the cliff top road to the beaches and natural beauty that bring tourists back again and again.
Photos copyright of manuelantoniopark.com