Updated: Feb 8, 2021
Summary. Manuel Antonio National Park is located within a conservation area and filled with monkeys, sloths, birds, impressive insects, and other wildlife. We highly recommend hiring a private guide as we basically would have missed everything without the trained eye of our tour guide Henry from HP Tours. The visit to the Park with Henry includes transportation, entrance fee, a walking tour of the Park with Henry's impressive naturalist skills, and time on the beach within the Park. Afterwards we spent the later part of the day at Playa Biesanz at Henry's recommendation.
Manuel Antonio Park. Henry picked us up at the bottom of the hill where our Air BnB was located. If you stay here, navigating the hill can be difficult for some cars so we agreed to walk down to the bottom. From there Henry drove us to the Park, where he paid for the entrance fees and led us into the park.
From here, the fun began, as they say. Henry was remarkable. Honestly, we would have missed everything if it weren't for him. We could look at the wooded area with our eyes and see nothing. Henry would then point us in the specific direction and magically there was a critter of some sort to see.
Henry was also funny, engaging, and of course, very informative on all things, e.g. animals, plants, history, etc. We highly recommend using him specifically. We could be partial, but eavesdropping on other tour guides, we felt that he was the best.
In the Park, the trail winds through rainforest habitats where there are many critters to see. Monkeys - multiple species - reside here, along with our favorite resident, the sloth. True to form, Sloths were found sleeping throughout the Park. We never did see them move but we did get to admire several of them from the trail.
Eventually the trail leads to the beach where monkeys are hanging out waiting for tourists to drop food. These entertaining little guys shouldn't be fed but they are fun to watch.
As we were at the Park in the morning, the beach was quite. We did not stay long though, primarily because we understood that it would get very busy before too long. Instead, Henry recommended that we visit Playa Biesanz.
On the walk back to the car, we did in fact see large crowds beginning to arrive. For this reason, we recommend coming to the Park when it opens.
Henry returned us to our AirBnB, at which time we packed a picnic and headed out to Playa Biesanz. This quiet beach seemed to us to be inhabited primarily by locals. We found it to be PEFECT. A couple recommendations: (1) Per Henry, pay the gentlemen that "watches" your car, where it is parked on the road ($5); and (2) If you like shade, depending on what time you go, the area to left (when facing the water) is shaded all the way to the water. The water is great here. We enjoyed lots of swimming time in this protected cove, including getting a workout in by doing "laps" across the cove and back. Another bonus, while the beach had people but it was never crowded.