is it that one out of every four tourists who come to Costa Rica
visits Manuel Antonio
National Park and its surroundings? Is it because of the
breathtaking landscapes that combine bright greens with deep blues?
Is it because of the sportfishing, the kayaking, the sailing, the
horseback-riding and many other fun-filled activities? Or is it
perhaps because of the exuberant flora and fauna? The answer: all
of the above.
a relatively small corner of Costa Rica, tourists
can find the excitement and adventure of a vacation in the tropical
forest, surrounded by one of the country’s most beautiful natural
environments, without sacrificing life’s modern conveniences. There’s
a magic to Manuel Antonio that is hard to explain. One thing, however,
is absolutely certain: once you’ve been here you’ll want to come
Manuel Antonio, with its 1700 acres of land mass and 135,906 acres
of marine reserve, is the smallest of the 20 national parks Costa
Rica has put aside for total protection. Even so, it is the country’s
second most visited conservation area, after the Poas Volcano.
Last year alone, 143,520 tourists visited the park. Conservation
officials have fixed the park’s carrying capacity at 600 people
per day from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 800 on Saturdays, Sundays
and holidays. On Mondays the park is closed to the public. “If there
are already 600 visitors at 10 a.m., we close it right then”, said
Javier Herrera, in charge of environmental education at the park,
which is usually open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
100 miles south of San José on the Pacific Coast (a pleasant three-hour
drive, or a short 20 minutes by plane), Manuel Antonio, which was
declared a national park in 1972, is the natural habitat of species
such as the endangered squirrel monkey (endemic to the area), white
faced capuchin monkey, raccoons, three and two-toed sloths, white-nosed
coaties, brown pelicans, black-collared hawks and green kingfishers.
They share the space with primary and secondary forests, bursting
with cedars, bully trees, locust “surás”, black locusts and silk
cotton trees. A mangrove swamp covers about 44.5 acres, adding to
the biodiversity of the region. Three different species: red mangrove,
buttonwood mangrove and white mangrove - abound.
After a day of hiking in the
park or sunbathing on one of the surrounding beaches, like Espadilla
Sur or Playa Escondida, travelers can find a wide range of restaurants
and hotels to enjoy a bit of night-life. A lot about the attractions
of the area where to stay, and what to do, can be found at www.manuelantonio.com.
Among our choices for lodging
in Manuel Antonio are:
and the Best Western
Kamuk, all of which feature one or more swimming pools and restaurants.
Currently, one of the hottest after-dark spots is “La Cantina” bar,
right across from Costa Verde Hotel, which offers e-mail and Internet
service during the day, and at night features the popular afrocaribbean
music of the “Jungle Boys”.
We also suggest “El Gran Escape” (pronounced es-cap-ay), in downtown
Quepos, across from the beach, for freshly caught seafood cuisine.
There the menu starts with “the hook”: taquitos, super nachos, chicken
fingers and 100% Costa Rican ceviche - raw fish marinated in lemon
juice, onions and herbs, decidedly delicious. The specialties are
the “Catch of the Day” and the popular “Escape Burgers”, which you
can wash down with one (or many) of the exotic drinks offered at
the Bar Tab: names like Guaro Sour, Monkey Punch or Dirty Banana.
“El Gran Escape” is open from Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If Italian cuisine is what tickles your palate, “El Gato Negro”
offers a wide variety of pasta, accompanied by your favorite wine
in luxurious surroundings.
Other dining spots you’ll certainly not want to miss are “Mar y
Sombra”, right on the beach, near to the entrance to the park; and
“Barba Roja”, perched on a cliff, which offers breakfast, lunch
and cold drinks at affordable prices. When you’re ready to enjoy
another day in Manuel Antonio, you can choose from the varied list
of excursions most hotels will arrange.
Some of the most popular are Sunset Sails - an adventure aboard
a classic yacht sailing down the scenic coast at sunset, where dolphins
can usually be spotted. Other favorites are the Rainmaker tour -
a trip through the forest canopy and waterfalls; and river rafting
on Río Naranjo, on the border of the park.
If sportfishing is on your agenda, be sure to check out “Fishing
on the Mangrove” (offered by the Parador tour desk), while thrilling
blue water excursions can be arranged on the many boats out of Quepos.
To ensure that visitors to Manuel Antonio fish with professional,
experienced captains and well maintained boats, www.fishcostarica.com
organizes sportfishing charters for blue marlin, sailfish, tuna
and a host of other fish with the area’s best captains and boats.
Whatever your tastes and interests, Manuel Antonio is certain to
have something for you.
this Page to a friend!