Heist Monkeys & Breathtaking Beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

This small preserve along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast has been rated by Forbes as one of the world’s 12 Most Beautiful National Parks.

Absolutely teeming with wildlife, Manuel Antonio is GypsyNester heaven on earth!

And we felt that way before we saw the most spectacular sunset of our lives… CONTINUE READING >>

A HUGE gracias to Parador Resort and Spa for providing this exotic adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

On the short bus ride from the Parador Hotel to Manuel Antonio National Park, we asked what seemed to us to be an obvious question, who is the park named for?

Who is, or was, Manuel Antonio?

Our guide laughed as if we must be kidding. As far as he or anyone else in the area seemed to know… nobody knows.

Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

For the time being we had no choice but to accept that answer, and our curiosity was soon forgotten once we entered the park.

The small preserve along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast has been rated by Forbes as one of the world’s 12 Most Beautiful National Parks and is absolutely teeming with creatures, so our attention was directed elsewhere.

The Green Iguana of Costa Rica, spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park. GypsyNester.com

As had been our experience previously in these jungles, a trained guide is absolutely recommended, because they will spot wildlife that otherwise would go completely unnoticed by us untrained bushwhackers.

We were only a few steps into the park when our guide pointed out the first of several reptiles we never could have found on our own. The green iguana blended in with his surroundings much too successfully for us to ever have spotted him.

A tree frog spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. GypsyNester.com

A tree frog spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. GypsyNester.com

Next up, a couple of frogs that only the most skilled and eagle-eyed naturalist ever could have noticed. Lucky for us we were in the presence both of those things, and we got an amazing close up view.

Our guide’s skills were not limited to reptiles hiding close to the ground either; he was just as expert at finding the residents of the jungle tree tops.

Our wildlife spotting guide at Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Sloths were all around us, we just had to know where to look up…

A three-toed sloth with twins on the grounds of Parador Resort and Spa in Quepos, Costa Rica
A rare sighting: A mama sloth cuddles TWINS on her belly high in the trees

…as were many of the park’s nearly two hundred species of birds.

A slaty-tailed trogo spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

For our aviary observation pleasure, a slaty-tailed trogo, which was kind enough to stay still just long enough for us to get a good look at him through the telescope, then a real prize, at least it seemed that way to those of us who grew up on Froot Loops, a fiery-billed aracari.

What? Oh yeah, he’s much better known as a toucan.

A fiery-billed aracari spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

We didn’t catch his name, but we must assume it was Sam.

A giant banana spider spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. GypsyNester.com

We didn’t need any help when it came to spotting a giant banana spider.

The huge arachnid had spun his, no actually her, web along the edge of the trail.

On closer inspection we could also see her tiny mate hanging out nearby.

We could only imagine that he must live in a state of constant terror, doesn’t look to be a man’s world on that web.

A black spiny-tailed iguana spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Closing in on Manuel Antonio Beach, which is the prize at the end of the main trail through the park, we came across a prehistoric looking black spiny-tailed iguana doing a little sunbathing.

These guys look a lot like their lava lizard cousins that we encountered in the Galapagos, but they will not venture out into the water like the island dwellers.

No need, there’s plenty to eat without having to swim for it.

The rules for interacting with animals at Manuel Antonio National Park in Coasta Rica

A capuchin monkey spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

A capuchin monkey spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

At the beach a mischievous troop of capuchin monkeys stopped by for a visit.

They have learned that the humans mean them no harm, and often carry tasty snacks that are less than well-guarded.

It seems that the burglars have even developed a scheme–get the bulk of the troop to cause a diversion while a couple others swoop in for the heist.

A capuchin monkey spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Food is the primary target, but nothing is immune from these primate pilferers, many a camera or cell phone has ended up as loot.

Watch: 1 minute of capuchin monkey goodness!

Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Just across the narrow isthmus connecting Punta Catedral, Cathedral Point, to the mainland we stopped briefly at another beautiful beach, Playa Espadilla Sur.

Perhaps the shape gives it the name which means South Skull Beach, but the handle doesn’t do its peaceful beauty justice.

Snow cone stand at Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Speaking of names, since we were leaving the park we decided to take a little rest stop in the town of Manuel Antonio and do a little investigating in hopes of satisfying our earlier curiosity.

The town at Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. GypsyNester.com

Perhaps town gives the wrong impression.

It is more a collection of colorful, sun-washed craft shops next to a strip of shops, hotels, and restaurants along the beach.

But it is the perfect place to start, or finish, a day at the park. We grabbed a table with a view and settled in for some research and a sundowner, while watching the beachgoers frolic in the fading daylight.

Sunset at Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

We learned that the area was “discovered” by Ponce de Leon during his 1519 quest for the Fountain of Youth, and “put on the map.”

Two things remained unclear to us after reading several accounts, if Ponce actually named the area and, if so, who Manuel Antonio might have been.

Sunset at Beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

Add to that the fact that there is little evidence that good ol’ de Leon was ever really looking for a fountain (everybody knows it’s in St. Augustine anyway) , and our inquiry ended up basically a bust.

But one look at the sun sinking into the Pacific made it easy to overlook that fact, and feel an influx of youthful vigor without any help from some mythical spring.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A HUGE gracias to Parador Resort and Spa for providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

See all of our adventures in Costa Rica!

11 thoughts on “Heist Monkeys & Breathtaking Beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica”

  1. It’s a bit sad to hear how popular and crowded Manuel Antonio can get. I did a study abroad program with my high school back in 1996 and there was no one in the park. My oh my how times have changed.

  2. Great photos! But I have to say we were immensely disappointed with Manuel Antonio; http://bbqboy.net/manuel-antonio-coconut-filled-paradise-i-dont-think-so/. Maybe it was because of the time of year – but it was absolutely packed with tourists. It was honestly like going to the zoo.

    Goes to show that experiences can vary greatly depending on the season! Again, maybe better going off season…

    But enjoyed your photos – wish we had had the same experience!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  3. Loved the wildlife shots – the iguana was really special. But of course it’s the cheeky faces of the monkeys that made me go “Ahhhh” although I’m sure you don’t go “Ahhh” when they pinch your sunglasses or handbag as they do in Bali!

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