The Saturday City: Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is located on Costa Rica’s west coast and draws in tourists with its beaches, bars, and monkey-filled national park. Though just a little beach resort, Manuel Antonio has grown steadily more touristy over the years. Much of the reason for this is because the city sits next to Manual Antonio National Park. This national park, which helps keep development down because of zoning laws, is also the real reason to come here.

The town just south of the city of Quepos, Manuel Antonio is mostly hotels, bars, tour agencies, and restaurants. It’s also famous for being a gay-friendly area. As Costa Rica becomes a popular retirement destination, Manuel Antonio’s popularity with the older crowd has also increased. Luckily, this area has been spared the gross over-development that places like Tamarindo or Jaco have seen.

Manuel Antonio National Park sits right on the ocean and is teeming with natural wonders. It was established in 1972 and sees about 150,000 visitors annually. Here you can find lush tropical forest, three types of monkeys, land crabs, dolphins, and plenty of sea life. The monkeys are all over the park, and you are bound to come across at least one species. I was lucky to get to see all three. The howls of the howler monkey constantly fill the air, and land crabs scurry away as you stomp down on the ground. During low tide, remains of an ancient turtle trap can be seen. It’s a truly stunning and wonderful place and is just teeming with beauty. Work up a sweat with a few hikes, and then head back to the beach for a relaxing mid-day swim.

But be careful when coming back. High tide covers the walkway with water, and crocodiles come down to play from an adjoining river. It’s not safe to go through when the tide is very high. Luckily, for a few colones, a local will take you across on his boat.

After a long day in the park, pull up a chair and watch the sunset while you sip on a nice tropical drink. There’s no better way to end your day than by looking at this: