If you are staying in Manuel Antonio or Quepos you absolutely have to do a Manuel Antonio National Park nature tour. There are over 100 tour guides but you must find Edwin. I will post his info here – Edwin Castillo Blanco – firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that when booking a nature tour you don’t exactly go to a location and then start the tour at a specific place. They will give you the GPS coordinates to the front gate of the park and say “Meet Edwin here”.
This is extremely important. If you are driving your own car there are going to be locals dressed as if they work for the park. They will pull you over and ask you if you are going to the park. If you say yes, they will say, park right here. You DO NOT have to park there. In fact, if you have a 7:15 am tour, drive as close to the front gate as you can before parking. Do not park in the parking lot on the right as soon as you get to the bottom of the hill. This is about a 25 minute walk just to the front gate of the park. You can actually park literate steps from the front gate if you keep going. Don’t let the parking attendants fool you at the beach.
When you start the nature tour you will be told that you cannot bring any food. Do not pack your backpacks or Camelbaks with food and expect to get it in. If you bring it to the gate you will have to rent a locker to put it in, take it all the way back to your car or give it to a local. Just keep your backpacks free of food. You can bring in a water bottle but no food.
You can buy your day pass online or get it once you get into the park. There is no reason to buy it early as there are kiosks that are touch screens that will allow you to buy a pass with your credit card. I think my pass was around $40 but I am not sure.
After you get into the park your guide will ask you what you are hoping to see. I was fortunate enough to meet Susan outside the gate and we went on the same tour with Edwin. Note that Edwin is a private guide and he asked us if we were OK to go together since we already met and we agreed. If either Susan or I wanted a private tour he said he would get another guide so we could be one on one.
Susan wanted to see Sloths and Monkeys. Edwin said this would be no problem. The first thing I noticed about the guided Manuel Antonio National Park nature tours is all the guides have a tripod with a telescope on it. Edwin had an attachment that allowed him to hook up his iPhone and we could “watch” like we were watching TV. This was very effective. As soon as we started the tour I realized Edwin was one of the best. All the other tour guides followed him and allowed him to spot the different species of birds, lizards, frogs, sloths and monkeys.
We stopped at a creek near the opening gate and got to see a “Jesus Lizard” actually run on water. Edwin said this happened about 10% of the time. It was amazing to see. Edwin looked very hard for a poisonous snake but was unable to spot it. We moved on to see a bunch of monkeys on the “Waterfall trail”. We returned to the main trail to see a number of different sloths. They really focus on the difference of the two toed and three toed sloths. If they “show their face” this is considered a big deal.
Edwin was able to catch a few different sloths that were showing their faces. It was interesting to see how they moved their necks and ate. Toward the end of the tour we got to see a two toed sloth with its baby.
The highlight of the nature tour was getting to see a crown wood nymph hummingbird spread its wings. Google it. It is amazing. Edwin actually got a really good video of it with his scope. If you are into birding and want to add about 100 new species of birds to eBird you should definitely ask for a guide that specializes in birds. Edwin mentioned that one particular guide has spotted almost 800 species of birds in Costa Rica.
I am trying to take birding very lightly so it was not my main focus but I always love to see a rare bird or two. On a birding tour of the Outer Banks in North Carolina I was a Rough Legged Hawk which is extremely rare for that part of the world.
As we approached the souvenir and food area it was around 10:00 am. We started around 7:30 am and Edwin finished up around 10:00 am. He asked if we wanted to continue to “explore” down by the beach or hike some of the other trails. I was told I had to hike to the top of the Mirador trail for the view. I asked Edwin how long it would take and he said anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. I decided to eat some fruit and drink water before my hike.
I set my timer on my phone and started up the trial. When hiking up the Mirador Trail always stay to the left if you want to go to the top. After about 10 minutes there is a viewing area that is absolutely gorgeous. This is a great spot for a picture. This is that picture:
I hiked about another five minutes and I was at the top. I was shocked when it only took 15 minutes. I expected a very difficult hike. While it is not exactly easy, it is also not that difficult. I was sweating quite a bit when I got to the top but it only took 15 minutes. The view is absolutely gorgeous. This is what it looks like:
Do not leave the park without making this hike if you are physically capable. After coming back down I decided to go down to the beach. This is what it looks like:
There were a lot of people that bought the day pass just to go to the beach. I am certain a lot of Instagram “influencers” do this. In fact, there is a handicap accessible path that is a wooden walkway that goes basically straight to the beach. This isn’t the only beach in Manuel Antonio but it is definitely more beautiful and not as busy.
After that I decided to get some ice cream. Their ice cream is really good and hits the spot after sweating from the hike to the top of the Mirador Trail.
On the way out I decided to do the hike back to the waterfall. I was disappointed. It was about the same distance as the Mirador trial and this is the view:
After seeing some amazing waterfalls with Lorenzo, this was lacking. After that I headed out of the park around 11:15 am.
If you get the 7:15 am tour and you hike up to Mirador and get some pictures you can be back to the bottom and out of the park by 11:00 am unless you spend a lot of time at the beach. As with all activities in Manuel Antonio, I would never suggest booking two different activities in one day. You are going to be very exhausted because of the heat, humidity and all the hiking.
Once again, ask for Edwin when you book your tour. He is on AirBNB adventures if you want to find him, I think his private tour is $39 a person.