Days 93 – 98: The Beaches and Jungles of Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

If we’re being completely honest, the main reason we visited the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica was because we’d enrolled the kids in a nearby school for the week and we were all keen to have a little time and space. The scenery and wildlife were just icing on the cake.

The area immediately outside the park is occupied by a moderately touristy strip of pricey restaurants and fancy hotels that we occasionally find a bit tiresome after three months of travel. However, we were pleasantly surprised by MA NP  (that’s Manuel Antonio National Park), the quality and variety of the food, and the fact that we could walk or bus all over town. Driving a big truck through tiny streets gets exhausting after a while.

Besides, these little white-faced capuchin monkeys were everywhere. What’s not to like about a place inhabited by cool wildlife?

I spent a few days here 16 years ago as a university student on my study abroad program. I remember it as a pretty but dusty little place with a nice beach and bioluminescence that lit the water at night like a spectacular starry sky.

You guys, Central America kills it in the cool bugs department. That said, those aforementioned bugs adore me as well. I am covered head to toe in bites while Chris has nary a one. Drives me nuts. If there is one person that comes down with dengue, malaria, or yellow fever, it’s going to be me. 

Ben and I have done a few little outings together but this way by far our best: A jungle night walk!


This is a basilisk, also called the Jesus Christ lizard because it runs across the surface of the water to escape predators.

I will admit to being slightly startled by the number of snakes we saw on a 60-minute walk: 5. This little cat-eyed snake had just consumed a lizard (you can see the tail still sticking out of its mouth).

Fun fact: scorpions glow like nobody’s business when lit up with a black light. 

A red eyed tree frog (forgive the fuzzy pics – these were shot through a scope with a camera that was struggling with the lighting conditions)

Points to you for spotting the coral snake that is lazily winding its way through the dead leaves. Ben was thrilled to get a venomous snake onto our species list.

Another interesting fellow: The giant and somewhat ominously named Horse Killing Spider. Full disclosure: not my favorite creature of the night. It was about the size of my hand. And they weren’t kidding about the horse killing part. 

With the kids in school Chris and I were able to get in some good hikes in the national park. It’s a great little park, especially if you take some of the smaller trails to the outer viewpoints. It tends to feel a bit circus-like close the entrance, thanks to the large number of visitors on guided hikes. 

But we did manage to find ourselves a nice empty beach for lunch. 

This was our only sighting of a a squirrel monkey. This brings our primate count to three for Costa Rica: howler, white-faced capuchin, and squirrel monkeys. Howlers are by far my favorite, simply because they’re small primates with enormously crazy calls. 

The national park was also overrun by raccoons that boldly opened backpacks. We saw one  brazen animal rip a plastic bag from the hands of a startled tourist, which promptly resulted in a  fierce battle of tug-of-war. 

We also spotted this timid agouti, which is roughly the size of a cat. Or a rat on steroids. 

Another capuchin hanging out near the beach. 

We also saw a sloth, which was a total hoot. This one was happily eating leaves some 30 feet above the ground and we paused for a while to watch her progress. This is the 3-toed variety, which is the species that always appears to be smiling. Indeed, she looked pretty content, although I mentioned to Chris that her branch didn’t appear to be particularity sturdy.

Not five seconds later her branch snapped and she did a slow motion dive into the vegetation below. Being a sloth, it was probably her greatest speed to date.  We weren’t able to see where she landed but hopefully there were plenty of bushes to break her fall. 



Manuel Antonio Resources

(all highly recommended)


School: Project Life Education

Food: Express Burrito

Food: Falafel Bar

Night walk (amazing!): Brian of Jungle Night Tours Manuel Antonio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *