Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the most visited places in Costa Rica and we finally got there. We will no longer have people look at us and say in a shocked voice: "You've never been to Manuel Antonio?!?"
The beaches are incredibly scenic just like everyone says.
This is the Year of the Tinamou for us—the 2 Great Tinamous we saw in the park made it two species of tinamous we saw in the last month. They approached us were so closely that we didn't need binoculars to see them well. It was a magical birding moment. (OK, they look like large dull chickens, but they have an air of mystery because they are so hard to see.) In this photo, they were too close for Russ to get them all in the picture taken through his telescope.
We also saw a sleeping Common Potoo. They are called the pajaro estaca (stick bird) and are very hard to find because they look like a broken off tree branch during the day.
Manuel Antonio is a fairly small park with one entrance, and even in low season, we were certainly not visiting alone. The word hoards comes to mind. I think visiting even later in the rainy season would be better because usually it usually only rains in the afternoon. Unfortunately we didn't see the park's famous squirrel monkeys but we saw lots of howler monkeys and White-throated Capuchins.
I have a tradition of taking Russ places that are hot for vacation. I planned our first trip together via Joshua Tree National Monument and realized after we got there (in August) that it's in the Mojave Desert. Whoops. A psychologist friend told me it's called trauma bonding. It rained the first night we were in Manuel Antonio so the next day it was very humid and the locals said it was particularly hot. We both had to pour water on our heads while we were hiking to keep from keeling over. We're used to being in the mountains where it's cool.
Nittty gritty travel details
We liked where we stayed: Hotel los Almendros. It's only 50 meters from the park entrance so it's perfect for travelers without a car. The same family has owned it for 30 years; because it's an older place it has a big open area between the buildings with a lovely pool and some palm trees.
The rooms are simple but everything is well maintained, the bed was firm enough, the sheets and towels thick enough, the AC quiet and there was even a reading light.
To get to Manuel Antonio we took a Quality Transfers shuttle van, a company owned by friends in Monteverde. As usual, it was a comfortable and low-stress way to go. To get to the airport we took a local taxi arranged by the hotel.