Located on the country’s mid-Pacific coast in the province of Puntarenas, some 93 miles southwest of San José, is Costa Rica’s most popular beach destination. The once-sleepy beach town Manuel Antonio, whose scenic drive that reveals steep cliffs crashing into the blue Pacific is just as popular with tourists alone, boasts sublime views, home to one of the most stunning tropical rainforests in the country – which remains green year-round unlike other parts of the country. The area is mostly known for its wildlife and the several beautiful, world-class beaches found between town and its picturesque national park of the same name, the latter reason to visit alone. Parasailing, surfing, snorkeling, fishing, swimming, relaxing on beautiful beaches and tours to Manuel Antonio National Park are all activities to indulge.
Spread out across a winding, 3-mile road that begins in nearby Quepos and ends at the entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, Manuel Antonio offers all the imagined amenities, including a jumping nightlife, varied dining scene, and a range of accommodation options, many of the area’s most luxurious stays perched atop a forested ridge with spectacular views of the surrounding beaches, rainforest, and islet-dotted Pacific. Resembling a modern town, neighboring Quepos features its own share of nighttime entertainment.
Easily reached by foot, Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, as well as one of its most popular. The park was created in 1972 to protect the approximately 1,680 acres of partly land and partly sea from rising tourism development. It comprises a variety of diverse ecosystems including coral reefs, fresh water lagoons and herbaceous swamps, preserving 4 primary, idyllic beaches (Espadilla Sur, Manuel Antonio, Escondido and Playita); humid tropical forest, and more. The park is 1 of only 2 locations in the country where you can see all 4 types of monkeys: spider, howler, white-faced capuchin, and the endangered squirrel monkey – many right from your hotel’s window. This is also a top destination for seeing sloths both inside and outside the park. Other wildlife finds inside the park include iguanas, crabs, a variety of birds including the colorful Toucan, bats, golden orb spiders, and more. Explore the park’s small system of 4 (0.6-2 miles) easy hiking trails, some taking you inland through the humid tropical forest or dumping you at the park’s beaches.