We began the drive to Manuel Antonio early in the morning as we knew it would take us around 6-7 hours. The first part of our journey was along good roads through the Costa Rican mountains towards the Gulf of Nicoya where we arrived at the Paquera ferry terminal. We paid for our tickets to cross the gulf, parked up on the ferry and found a good spot on board to sit and read for the 90 minute crossing. On the other side we arrived in Puntarenas and began the further 2:45h drive to our hostel – Hostel Plinio – in Manuel Antonio. That evening we went into the nearest town Quepos to do our shop for dinner and found some Thai paste to cook a vegetarian curry for the next two nights.
Waking up early we grabbed our free breakfast – scrambled eggs, bread, coffee – then packed our bags for our day at the national park. We read an article online that mentioned there was free parking if you drove straight past all of the people standing and waving in the middle of the road to get you to park in their unofficial parking lots. We drove around for a while getting bombarded by men trying to pull us into different parking and eventually decided on the street parking where a few other cars were parked. We bought our tickets getting bombarded again with tour operators trying to sell us their tour which we ignored. Upon entering the park we were surrounded by big tours which was very different to all other national parks we have been to on our travels, this put us off for while but we eventually found paths that were less busy.
The first path we walked along – Camino Vehicular – we saw a few white-faced monkeys high in the tree but we mainly just walked quickly along to get to the sloth trail ‘Sendero Paraleio’ where we were lucky enough to see one high in the trees. As you can imagine we were stood there awhile waiting for movement that didn’t happen. This trail takes you a bit deeper into the forest so is quite hard to spot sloths and other animals. We joined the next path ‘Sendero Playas Gemeias’ where the sound of howler and white-faced monkeys could be heard high in the trees. From there we joined the ‘Sendero Mirador’ which was quiet due to the fact it was a harder hike up to different viewpoints. The majority of the path is made up of wooden steps leading up further into the forest where eventually you come to the first opening that offers a beautiful view of the surrounding ocean. After catching our breath we continued our walk up to the second view point which shows the rigged coastline of that area and the glistening blue water. The rain had started by this point so our view although still incredible wasn’t as good as the sunny days.
We began the walk to our first beach of the day where we just wanted to look rather than sit in the rain like the majority of locals and tourists were doing. We arrived at Playa Manuel Antonio beach where we were greeted by the noise of tourists but also the sound of 20 white-faced monkeys meters away from us. The monkeys were jumping from tree to ground, stealing tourists food and playing with each other. We found a wooden observation tower with only two others in where a group of baby monkeys were playing, at one point a baby came up to Niamh’s trainer and started playing with the laces. This shows how used they now are to the flocks of tourists coming in each day.
We ended the park by walking down ‘Sendero Espadillar Sur’ and saw a huge lizard hiding in a tree and racoons up to no good.
The park itself is beautiful and has some of the prettiest beaches in Costa Rica, however we both agree that it isn’t our favourite park so far simply because of the crowds and noise which means you don’t get to see as many birds and other animals that would otherwise show themselves.