This is where I tell you how to do a light hike in a nature preserve with a sick toddler strapped to your back. Good times, right?
Last year, Husband J, Baby C and I went to Costa Rica and decided to stay only in the Manuel Anotnion area on the Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Manuel Antonio is known for its beaches and its national park. Was it worth it to focus our trip on just one area of the country with its small national park? My real answer is “maybe”, but more about the Manuel Antonio National Park first.
The Manuel Antonio area’s main draws for tourists are its beautiful beaches along with the pretty and accessible Manuel Antonio National Park. If you’re looking for hard core hiking and such, you should probably go somewhere else. “Hiking” in Manuel Antonio isn’t really hiking. It’s more like “let’s walk on a semi-paved road and not trip while trying not to bump into a whole lotta other people who are staring upwards”. Almost anyone with any level of fitness can walk in this park and enjoy it, but I recommend some solid walking shoes or sandals because rocks will jump up out of nowhere and trip you up. No joke.
The parks consists of several paved trails with look out points, and it does get crowded.
Not really your dream isolated bit of nature, is it…?
Since we were in the area a little over one week and traveling with a kid who naps, we decided to split the park up into three different trips: Once for the beach; once with a guide to really see the animals and wildlife; and, finally, another time to just walk around the park itself on our own.
Husband J taking a better look. At what I don’t remember…?
When I say this Manuel Antonio Park is accesible, I really do mean it. Many of the paths are paved, and there are even stairs.
The pay off is a beautiful but not swimmable beach. Not bad for a pseudo-light hike.
One of the park’s beaches. Not swimmable but pretty. Baby C is half sleep because she’s sick.
The animals are everywhere in the park. They deserve their own post, but we were joined that morning by several, including this guy right here.
Guide or No Guide: One thing I do want to address is whether or not get a guide for a walk through Manuel Antonio Park. My answer: DO IT!! There is absolutely no way we would have seen a gosh darn thing without our guide. He knew what to look for in the mass of trees that is the park, and he had the best telescope-like device that allowed us to see some practically microscopic animals. Of course, there are lots of groups with a guide stopping and looking at things, but honestly, most of what we saw that day required binoculars or something like that to see much of anything. Yes, you can see the monkeys, but there’s so much more. The beauty of the wildife isn’t just the pretty birds and cheeky monkeys. It’s also the beautiful insects like this one:
I realize not everyone thinks spiders are cool…
The real prize for going the distance is the main beach. It is by far the most beautiful in the Manuel Antonio area, but it comes at a price: for one its the long walk, plus a good walk down and back up to the main path. Trust me when I say that walk back up was enough to make me think about going back down (but a very good workout, if you’re looking for one). Also there are no facilities besides a bathroom half way up the hill. Bring your own food, too. Lots of people do so you won’t be alone.
She looks so much younger here…(maybe because she is)
So while not the most exciting of Costa Rica’s parks, Manuel Antonio did the job for us. It allowed us to do some basic walking with Baby C while still being able to enjoy more of the area’s beaches.
Where is your favorite national park anywhere in the world?