Manuel Antonio National Park

Land Area: 1,953 ha
Marine area: 25,634 ha
Hours: 7 a.m. - 4 p.m

Manuel Antonio National Park

With a mere 682 ha. of land area, Manuel Antonio is one of the smallest of Costa Rica's national parks. However, with its idyllic beaches, excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, relative ease of access, and good surrounding infrastructure, this is one of the country's most visited parks.

Part of the park's scenic beauty is provided by Cathedral Point, a 72 meter-high point of land that is covered by rain forest. The point was formerly an island just off the mainland, but ocean currents caused the deposition of sand between the two until eventually they were connected, forming a geological feature known as a tombolo. The park's two most frequented beaches, Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur, are the sandy arcs on either side of the narrow strip of land that joins Cathedral Point with the mainland.

Due to the diminutive size of the park and the quantity of visitors it receives, much of the wildlife that can still be found here is quite accustomed to human presence. Animals will allow close approach, particularly the White-throated Capuchin Monkeys, Central American Squirrel Monkeys, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths, White-nosed Coatis, Central American Agoutis and Ctenosaur Lizards. [Note: These are still wild animals and should be respected and treated as such, enjoy the opportunity for a close look, but do not attempt to touch or feed them!]

This is one of the best places in Costa Rica to see Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths. These fascinating but slow-moving animals feed exclusively on plant material -- the low-energy diet results in their slow metabolism -- and though they are known to eat the leaves of more than 100 species of trees and vines, they are most easily seen when feeding (or resting) in Cecropia trees. Cecropias are common pioneer trees with large palmate leaves and ringed trunks that make them easy to recognize. The abundance of cecropias and other second growth species in the park is probably in part responsible for the high sloth population.

This is also one of only two areas in the country where the endangered Central American Squirrel Monkey is found. These are the smallest of the four monkey species in Costa Rica, and the only ones without a prehensile tail. They forage actively for insects and fruit in large groups of 30 or more individuals.

Butterflies, birds, and large colorful land crabs are more of the plentiful inhabitants that provide interest during a trail walk through the park. And if the waters are clear enough, a variety of marine life can be seen by snorkeling around the rocky ends of either beach.

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