Located along Costa Rica's central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is the smallest of the nation's 34 national parks and reserves. However the small size, just over 1,600 acres, belies the wealth of activity and biodiversity in the area.
Carved out of a rapidly developing area in 1972, the park features 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. While hiking through the park it is easy to spot sloths, monkeys, toucans, coatamundis, and iguanas. Several guides and park personal have spotting scopes (small telescopes on a mono-pod) for finding the wildlife up in the trees. Be aware that if the howler monkeys start grunting then it's their signal that it's time for you to move along.
The hiking trails start at the park entrance and make their way to one of the four beaches. If you ever seen a postcard of the perfect Pacific beach then you'll know what these beaches look like; soft gray white sand surrounded by lush forests and outcroppings of rocks. Because the beaches are all in coves, swimming in the ocean is a delight.
Manuel Antonio could be the perfect national park. Small enough to walk around, with plenty of wildlife, wilderness, and beaches.