Manuel Antonio National Park

Now it’s my turn to complain about the cold weather! OK, perhaps it’s not as cold as Freiburg at the moment, but it’s colder than I expected it to be in Greece. So to bring back a few warm (or perhaps I should say hot and humid) memories, I’ve decided to write about Costa Rica again.

When I was working at Arenas del Mar, I had the opportunity to learn about the local area by accompanying guests on some of their organised excursions. One such trip was to the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, a favourite for national and international tourists alike and consistently voted one of the world’s best national parks.

After a short bus ride we arrived at the park entrance. The first thing that struck me was just how many tourists were there. Thousands enter through the gates every day, which makes it a real challenge to ensure the animals and plantlife don’t suffer as a result. The clear signage and routes do a good job to prevent visitors from straying off the beaten track and causing unnecessary disruption though, and most visitors enter the park with guides, who ensure that their impact on the flora and fauna is as little as possible.

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica

Despite the beautiful scenery, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit stressed with the crowds of people around.

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Crowds

But luckily, Ersel, our guide extraordinaire, was able to take us off the beaten track and spot some really amazing reptiles – like this baby green iguana,

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Green Iguana

which will eventually turn into this monster:

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Green Iguana

We also saw a helmeted basilisk,

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Helmeted Basilisk

and this spinytail iguana,

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Spinytail iguana

as well as a couple of rather friendly slender brown anole lizards,

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Brown Anole Lizards

and probably the most impressive of them all – the jesus christ lizard (so called because they can run on water!)

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Jesus Christ Lizard

I also saw my first ever sloths, both the two-toed variety,

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Two-toed Sloth

which we were lucky enough to see moving (very slowly of course) through the treesManuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Three-toed slothand the very cheeky looking three-toed variety:

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Three-toed sloth

and the symbol of Costa Rica, the red-eyed leaf frog – taking a nap under this leaf.

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Red-Eyed Tree Frog

And my final first for the day was the sight of this amazing fiery billed aracari:

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Fiery Billed Aracari

After a couple of hours walking through the park we were all really hot and ready for a break. We changed direction and a few minutes later the Pacific Ocean started to appear through the trees

Pacific Ocean at Manuel Antonio National Park

and we arrived at this incredible beach:

Pacific Ocean Beach Manuel Antonio National Park

It was so nice to get into the water – the natural bay provides the perfect shelter from all the massive waves that hit the rest of the coastline. When I got back out I spent a while watching everyone take photos of the white faced capuchin monkeys, who as payment regularly steal people’s food, bags and anything else that takes their fancy.

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Capuchin Monkey

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica Capuchin Monkey

The whole experience of being guided around the park was interesting to see. The interaction between Ersel (pictured below) and the guests was great and something I’d really like to emulate in Greece. Beautiful places are great to visit, but it’s the people who show and explain these wonderful locations to you that make visiting them such an unforgettable experience!

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica