Manuel Antonio has become Latin America’s number one tourist destination with more than 700,000 visitors annually. Manuel Antonio is perfectly located in the heart of the Pacific Coast and acts as a starting point for virtually every tourist visiting Costa Rica.
The primary attraction is Manuel Antonio, National Park. The Park itself encompasses nearly 140,000 acres, most of which are maritime acres. It receives approximately 151 inches of rainfall annually and enjoys balmy year-round temperatures averaging between 81 and 86 degrees.
The Park’s two white sandy beaches, Espadilla Sur and Manuel Antonio, stand out as its main attractions. Just offshore are twelve islands, most of them without vegetation, but excellent seabird sanctuaries nonetheless. Punta Catedral was an island at one time, an accumulation of the sediments joined to the land with a sandy belt named Tombolo, a prized nesting site for the brown booby. You’ll see dolphins here, and once in a while a pod of migratory whales.
Manuel Antonio is the most visited National Park in Costa Rica. Trees such as black locust (an endangered timber-yielding tree), balsa, monkey comb, bastard cedar, wild plantain, Manzanillo (a tree that oozes a milky substance and bears poison fruit) and Mayflower, are common.
There are more than one hundred mammal species and one hundred and eighty species of birds here, including the rare white ibis. Squirrel monkeys (another endangered species) play in the trees above the trails in the Park. Here, too, are two-toed sloths, raccoons, white-nosed coatis, howler and white-faced monkeys, and squirrels.
Take your pick of any one of several short trails that meander through the park, passing scenic overlooks and white-sand beaches (the second beach is one of Costa Rica’s safest swimming beaches, and is also a good place for snorkeling). The most popular trail is the small loop that takes you around Punta Cathedral and pays off with a wonderful view of the Pacific. El Perezoso takes you to Playa Blanca. El Puerto Escondido and El Mirador trails take you through the dense humid tropical forests to Playa Puerto Escondido. The road between the town of Quepos and Manuel Antonio is lined with hotels and restaurants.
PLAYA ESPADILLA SUR
The first beach within the Park, on the south side of Punta Catedral. Surfing can be challenging.
This is the best beach for swimming. It’s deep, protected bay makes it feel like a swimming pool.
PLAYA PUERTO ESCONDIDO
This is a wide, horseshoe-shaped beach. It can be reached along the Puerto Escondido trail.
The town of Manuel Antonio is growing at an exponential pace with high-end hotel/restaurants springing up everywhere offering the tourist all of the comforts they would expect for their dollar.
There is also an abundance of activities that are operated out of Manuel Antonio. World Class sport-fishing is one of the most popular activities in the area with more than 45 world-class bill fishing boats running charters out of the Quepos port. In addition to the fishing, the list of activities which tourists can enjoy in the immediate area is extensive.
Whitewater rafting on a selection of rivers offer class III, IV, and V rapids, horseback riding tours through the jungle or on the beach, sea kayaking tours, dolphin and whale watching, jet ski tours, mangrove tours, National Park hiking tours, a selection of jungle canopy tours, ATV adventures, in-room massage and spa services, surf lessons and tours, para-plane rides, rainmaker suspension bridge and nature tour, secluded hot springs, and much more.
With the natural beauty and activities being the obvious draws to the area, perhaps the biggest reason for Manuel Antonio’s popularity and more importantly, its longevity, is the number of services available here. Countless international restaurants, a full service hospital, 8 daily commuter flights to San Jose, four car rental agencies, high speed internet connections, solid infrastructure both with the community and the roads leading to it, cellular phone service, spa facilities, a selection of banks, atm’s, shops, art galleries, and other stores which make this place an exotic, yet comfortable place to visit or live.