Step into what at times seems to be another planet in the stunning Nature Reserve of Manuel Antonio. Situated over 1700 acres of land mass and 135,906 acres of marine reserve, this national park, while the smallest in Costa Rica, is by far one of the most impressive. Home to a combination of natural primary and secondary forests, abundant wildlife and spectacular beaches it is no wonder why this beautiful sanctuary is a favorite among visitors.
Manuel Antonio offers visitors a series of quaint half-moon beaches and bays that are surrounded by lush and verdant tropical forest. The nature reserve is known for Cathedral Point, which was once an island, but today is connected by a thin strip of island. This area demonstrates the impressiveness of Mother Nature, boasting sharp forest lined cliffs. Playas Espadilla Norte & Sur, Playa Puerto Escondido, Playa Playitas and Playa Manuel Antonio are among the best for great diving and swimming. The park is also home to some 12 islands, which lie just off the coast and from where one can witness dolphins and depending on the time of year migrating whales.
Manuel Antonio was declared a nature reserve as a result of its abundant fauna and flora, and even more important, because of it status as the last remaining habitat of the squirrel monkey. Other wildlife can be seen within the bounds of the park as well, including two and three-toed sloths, both white faced and howler monkeys, iguanas and raccoons. Birds are also in abundance while strolling through the reserve. Here one can expect to encounter brown pelicans, green kingfishers, “tucancillos” (Fiery-billed Aracary), laughing falcons and northern jacanas.
In Manuel Antonio it is common to forget that you are in fact not thousands of miles away from civilization. Stick your bare feet in the sand and delight in the earth’s splendors in this Costa Rican favorite.
Getting to the Nature Reserve is very simple. Buses leave from Quepos’ main terminal every half hour, starting at 5:00 am and running until 10:00 pm. The bus fare is less than $0.40 and you can get on and off anywhere along the road to the town of Manuel Antonio. Once at the Manuel Antonio Park entrance the fee is 10 USD per person, with children under the age of 12 for free. The park is open from 7 am until 4 pm and is closed on Mondays.
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