PN Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Little-Big National Park

surreal landing
One of several planes installed around the PN Manuel António to serve as accommodation or bar.
Tombolo and Punta Catedral
The tombolo isthmus that connects the coast to Ponta Catedral.
Playa Manuel Antonio
The ever lush Manuel António playa.
Cetacean recreation
Baleia submerges again, off the PN Manuel António.
couple in party
Passengers on a catamaran admire the Pacific Ocean off the PN Manuel António.
Frigates share the top of an islet off Playa Espadilla.
guide in action
PN Guide Manuel António focuses on one of the many animals in the park.
lazy dawn
Preguiça moves along a tree in PN Manuel António.
flight of pelicans
Pelicans fly at high altitude over PN Manuel António.
Isle of Espadilla
Bathers enjoy themselves by an islet off Playa Espadilla Sur.
capuchin monkey
White-faced monkey hangs out with the beachgoers at Playa Manuel António.
risky steps
Bather walks on the reef at Praia Manuel António.
Reading Time
Bather reads about the sandy beach of Playa Espadilla Sur.
Cove next to Punta Catedral
Cove in the continuation of Playa Manuel António.
Sunset over Pacific Ocean
Catamaran passengers admire the distant sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Pelicans' Landing
Pelicans share a tree on a cliff of Playa Espadilla Sur.
Nook of Playa Espadilla
Bathers in the shadow of a corner of Playa Espadilla, the longest on PN Manuel António.
Viewpoint Trio
Friends enjoy the view from a viewpoint over Manuel António Beach.
boat at sunset
Speedboat returns to Quepos, heading between Sunset and East.
The reasons for the under 28 are well known national parks Costa Ricans have become the most popular. The fauna and flora of PN Manuel António proliferate in a tiny and eccentric patch of jungle. As if that wasn't enough, it is limited to four of the best typical beaches.

It had not been two decades since we first traveled through Costa Rica.

“Look, it's not like here” assure us Glen and Rose Marie, an American couple who live part of the year in Montezuma, where we met them. “We were looking for a house there for a long time. It was all too expensive. Furthermore, the more we searched the more we realized how developed and urbanized it was becoming.”

Already at the time of our inaugural journey through typical lands, the PN Manuel António was revealed to be the unavoidable but debatable destination that it is today.

From Quepos – the city that serves as its gateway, to the peninsula in the shape of a whale's tail, which extends into the park – a myriad of lodges, resorts, bars, tour agencies and almost other businesses followed one another. all dedicated to welcoming and serving the hordes of visitors arriving, above all, from North America and Europe.

Between the Christmas and New Year's Eve 2020, for the more than obvious reason for the Covid 19 pandemic, foreigners were sorely missed.

In compensation, in those days, the ticos flocked to the park and the beaches around it in droves.

At the Door of the Always Competitive Manuel António National Park

We installed half walls with the park. Whenever we got up, we came across a growing line, starting at the portico and extending to the right of the La Posada and Jungle who welcomed us.

Even though controlled by SINAC, the Costa Rican National System of Conservation Areas, the successive sold out places dictated that we postpone admission.

Thus, we give priority to the mangrove swamped with animals that surrounds the island of Damas, in the middle of the estuary of the Cotos river. And we strolled along the outer beaches, highlighting the long and crowded Espadilla, full of vacationers determined to make the last vacation of the year memorable.

Delivered to bathing picnics, lively conversations and the different radical and marine activities that local operators impose on them.

At its southeastern tip, Espadilla beach borders the bobbin lace of these parts.

It is a tongue of sand formed by the accumulation of currents. In addition to the jungle, it is surrounded by a natural fortification of rocks, a small lagoon fed by a stream and a discouraging barrier of tropical vegetation.

In this green and shady corner, we find a marginal community that enjoys, at the same time, a privileged isolation and the invigorating energy of the place.

Vendors from slush and snacks.

As for the surf, a few curious adventurers climb rocks above bet to move to the southern extension of Playa Espadilla, already an integral part of PN Manuel António and, as such, supposedly safe from such intrusions.

We arrived on Monday, the day the park closes for the rest of Nature and maintenance and restoration work on the tracks and infrastructure.

Finally, Entry into the Lush Jungle of PN Manuel António

Already tired of waiting, on Tuesday, as soon as we could, we made the entry.

In a few moments, we are dazzled by what makes PN Manuel António worthwhile despite the excessive civilization that surrounds him.

We were instructed to join the group led by Sylvia van Baekel, a Dutch woman living in Costa Rica for sixteen years.

In the frenzy of access, we get confused and join another guide. It didn't matter. The guides at PN Manuel António have the good habit of sharing their findings with each other.

Okay, when at last Sylvia sees us pass and claims us to her core of followers, on a few hundred meters of trail, we've already spotted and appreciated two sloths, a basilisk lizard, and an elusive flock of howler monkeys.

Sloth, Manuel António National Park, Costa Rica

Preguiça moves along a tree in PN Manuel António.

We were just getting started.

PN Manuel António is in fact tiny. Covers an area of ​​16 km2, while the PN Corcovado, which we would explore a few days later, covers 425 km2.

PN Manuel António. Tiny but Exuberant and Crammed with Animals

In its apparent insignificance, Manuel António concentrates a good part of Costa Rica's characteristic wild species: three species of monkeys, the howler, the capuchin and the spider monkey and, from a total of 109 species of mammals, it also hosts coatis, peccaries , armadillos and, offshore, dolphins and whales.

Among the 184 species of birds we find toucans, woodpeckers, parakeets, different hawks and red-headed vultures. Reptiles, we saw iguanas and snakes.

The end of the El Perezoso Vehicular trail passes by a bar/restaurant with its terrace. Right there, as we sat down to make up for the already problematic lack of breakfast, we spotted two sloths in the treetops above.

From there, towards the sea, the trail leads to the entrance to the bobbin lace well signposted by a fluttering Costa Rican flag and an observation tower overlooking the jungle.

The park's community of guides is used to freeing their groups there and catching up on the fauna found and other current topics. Whoever receives the release order soon finds himself in a kind of Costa Rican Eden.

A few steps take us from the sultry shadow of the jungle to the white, curved sands of Playa Manuel António to the east.

Even only accessible through the park, with a ticket that can be considered expensive, this cove of lush vegetation and gentle sea also welcomes more people than we expected.

Nor does the relative overcrowding diminish its verdant beauty, even more valuable if we take into account that the PN Manuel António was established in 1972 by the government as a resolution of a lasting conflict.

The Dispute That Aroused the Establishment of the PN Manuel António

The dispute arose when, under the United Fruit Company and its banana plantations, Noel Thomas Langham acquired the area between Espadilla Sur and Manuel António beaches and there decided to install a gate that prevented access to the sands that, at that time, visitors to the capital San José they had become accustomed to attending.

Intimidated by the unexpected opposition, Langham sold the property to Arthur Aimé Bergeron, an American-born French Canadian. The latter regained Langham's position even more uncompromisingly.

Visitors to San José were joined by young people from Quepos, who also love the disputed beaches, united in a nucleus of contestation and social justice, meanwhile called Grupo Pro-Parque, in keeping with the newly blossomed idea that that coastline becomes should become a state park.

Arthur Aimé Bergeron nurtured a dream of creating a tourist hub there that would enrich him. Accordingly, he fenced off the lands and defended them with aggressive dogs.

Unreconciled, the young men of Quepos destroyed everything that impeded their passage. For this crime, some of them were imprisoned. Now, it is known that the leader of the protest movement was called Manuel António Ramirez Muñoz (1940-1998) better known as Balu, descendant of one of the pioneer families in the area of ​​the park, who arrived in 1948, in the midst of the United Fruit Company . the own municipality de Quepos ratified the role of Balu. He honored him with a bust.

However, the authorities were sensitive to the reasons for ticos of Quepos and San José. Some time later, when Bergeron refused a mediation meeting, they decided to expropriate the property and turn it into the desired national park.

of the unusual Tombolo to Ponta Catedral

We continue along it, along the seashore, to the left end of the whale's tail that encloses the tombolo In those parts, a couple entertains themselves with selfies and more selfies produced in a fragile balance on the top of an isolated cliff.

Other bathers use the staircase which, in a period of normality, begins the trail to Ponta Catedral, millennia ago, an island that silting joined the peninsula in front.

Only just after the rainy season in Costa Rica. Similar to what it did in much of Central America, hurricane ETA caused damage in several areas of the Pacific coast, including the tracks, viewpoints and walkways, which used to be almost mandatory in this section of the park.

At the time of our visit, these same wooden steps were left to the inaugural viewpoint of the route.

At its base, a bunch of Capuchin monkeys, the most ruffians in Costa Rica, approached the bathers in search of deals.

Photo here, photo there, a member of your gang identifies a careless backpack. In a flash, add it to the branch of a tree. Only toss it down again, after searching the interior and concluding that it contained no human treats.

From the viewpoint, we can enjoy the bay to the east of the bobbin lace and the density of the tropical forest that underlies it. Back on the sand, we cross the jungle core to the more open, long and vacant sand of Espadilla Sur beach, overlooking the main Espadilla, the adjoining forest and the civilization that sprinkles it, raised by the extrapolated fame, more than justified from the Manuel António National Park.

Sunset over the Pacific, Manuel António National Park, Costa Rica

Catamaran passengers admire the distant sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Article written with the support of:


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