Hey, my name is Maximilian Lehrke. Thanks for stopping by my article on Manuel Antonio National Park! I’m a photographer from Germany who grew up in Cologne – one of the most multicultural cities in the country.
The main purpose of my photography is to share the vastness and depths of our world with as many people as possible. I especially love capturing the nature of our planet. Compared to nature, many of our problems seem small. I feel free in nature and travelling helps me achieve that feeling.
One place that caught my attention recently was Costa Rica. I learnt how much the country invests in maintaining its nature and I wanted to see more for myself. Costa Rica is considered a model country of how things can be done sustainably. Almost a quarter of the country is a national park!
Thirty years ago only 21% of Costa Rica was covered in rainforest (due to the arrival of loggers). Today, that number stands at 60%! The country is blessed with kilometres of beaches, rich fauna and flora, seemingly impenetrable jungles, lush waterfalls and towering volcanoes and mountains. We spent a total of 24 days in Costa Rica and decided to do a mix of everything.
How to Spend an Awesome Day at Manuel Antonio National Park
If you research the best national parks of Costa Rica you will undoubtedly come across Manuel Antonio. This national park is famous for its sloths. We planned from the beginning of our trip to visit Manuel Antonio.
We spent a day at Manuel Antonio National Park. It makes total sense to go exploring early in the morning. This way you will be exploring nature in quietness. Moreover, the tours don’t start early in the morning and you can enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of nature mostly to yourself.
Once the tours have begun, then you can choose to discover the more remote and distant regions of the park. You will meet fewer people and can enjoy animal sightings all to yourself. The beaches inside the park are also a good place to take a break in the shade and enjoy the sound of the sea.
Favourite Experiences at the Park
The entire national park was beautiful. So I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a favourite location. However, I do have a few favourite experiences that I will cherish. Besides the sleeping sloths (they are good at sleeping) which are shown by the guides, we had the chance to see a sloth move from tree to tree. This is a rare sight and one that I captured with my camera!
Another awesome experience was watching the young capuchin monkeys play. The young ones are particularly cheeky and they tease each other while playing. But these animals have immense strength, so be careful – especially when there is a broken coconut on the ground that they want.
At the same time, these animals displayed almost human-like behaviour. I thought to myself: “Was I like that with my brother in the past?” I managed to take a photo where one of the monkeys stuck his tongue out at its relative after stealing food! As mentioned before, it’s worth walking along all the paths in the park. This way you will have the monkeys all to yourself.
Exploring Manuel Antonio National Park without a Tour Guide
Just before we arrived at Manuel Antonio we came from a two day trekking tour of Corcovado National Park with an overnight stay under the open sky inside the park which wouldn’t have been possible without a guide. So we decided to visit Manuel Antonio National Park on our own.
The park is well developed, has paths and is safe. Guides have a trained eye and find animals with their field glasses. As an individual visitor, however, you also notice quite well when groups spot something and then you catch a glimpse. Since we got good info about the animals and wanted to be independent of a group, individual exploration was the better option for us.
Seeing sloths is certainly at the top of the list when it comes to sightings in the park. As well as sloths, we also saw capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, coatis, black iguanas, agouti, red-eyed tree frogs, parrots and one blue-crowned motmot. At the top of my list was the fiery-billed aracari but unfortunately we didn’t see it. This gives us a reason to come back!
Where to Stay at Manuel Antonio National Park
I didn’t find the immediate surroundings of the national park that inviting. Sure, people rely on tourism there. However, this was also quite exhausting at times. We spent the night in a simple bed and breakfast not too far from the park but not in the centre. It’s called Blue Morpho House. We received a warm welcome and enjoyed eating at the nearby restaurant, Soda Angel.
Need to Know Before you Go
I think it’s important to know about the flora and fauna of Manuel Antonio National Park before you go. You will notice much more in the park and become more sensitive and interested in your surroundings. I also think it’s important to follow the rules of the park, let the animals go their peaceful way, don’t get too close and generally keep quiet.
To spot animals better, binoculars are an advantage. Also, the early morning is the most beautiful time. With a bit of luck, the animals are more active than during the warm midday heat. Tickets can be purchased on site the day before. This prevents long wait times at the ticket office.
Seeing wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park is a matter of patience. So take your time and cross your fingers a day before that you will have luck on your side and see one or two amazing animal encounters! Enjoy 🙂