For my fourth weekend in Costa Rica, 15 of us decided we’d go to Manuel Antonio! It’s only a three-hour bus ride away from San Jose, and they have tons of stuff to do so it was a perfect trip for the last weekend I had in Costa Rica.
There is a national park in Manuel Antonio, but not like national parks in the U.S…. This one basically included almost all of the area inside the park. It had 4 beaches inside, many different paths you could walk down to see specific animals (monkeys, birds, sloths, lizards, etc.), and lots of lookout points that you could hike up to for an awesome view.
On Saturday, two other girls and I decided to go to the park. Morgan, Jennifer and I arrived together around 7:30am and each paid our $16 to get in. Just a heads up: you can’t leave and come back in once you’re inside the park unless you pay again, which is helpful to know ahead of time because they don’t sell any food or drinks inside the park. We wanted to save the $30 each that they charge you if you want a tour guide, so we decided to explore it all ourselves. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad of a decision. We saw different types of monkeys swinging in the trees, butterflies fluttering through the flowers, birds chirping from their nests, frogs croaking on logs, and HUGE iguanas/lizards hanging out in the sand… I wasn’t too thrilled about the latter. The animals aren’t afraid to get close to you at all! Manuel Antonio happens to be known for their monkeys’ stealing habits. They’ll try to snatch a belonging or two off the beach and take off with it while the raccoons search through the rest of your things. It didn’t happen to us during our visit, but we made sure to have a stick ready just in case things got crazy. It sounds pretty funny though; it seems like the monkeys and raccoons have some sort of mutual agreement going on.
We ventured to all 4 beaches inside the park and rested for a little bit at each one, but the fourth was by far the most impressive. The first beach was Playa Manuel Antonio, second: Playa Espadilla, third: Playa Gemelas, and fourth: Playa Escondida. It was quite a hike to Playa Escondida, but I guess that’s the reason its name means the “hidden beach”. We finally reached it after walking down 142 steep stairs (yes; I counted them), but to our surprise, they had restricted beach access due to dangerously high tides that can trap people between the water and rocks if they don’t leave in time. Buuuuuut, after sweating buckets all the way there I wasn’t satisfied with the birds-eye view we got from the platform above the beach. So, naturally, I found a blocked-off ladder going down to the beach and decided I’d go on an adventure… that’s what you’re supposed to do when in Costa Rica right?
Still filled with adrenaline and satisfaction from the view, we climbed back up the 142 stairs we had previously hiked down, and let me tell you, it is A LOT more difficult going uphill. We headed to the park exit like there was no tomorrow because we were starving and parched. After we reached the exit and each bought a 2L water bottle, we realized it was past 2pm… We had been exploring in the park for over six and a half hours! Needless to say, we got our $16 worth of adventuring, and it is still my favorite memory from my study abroad experience in Costa Rica!