While hiking through Manuel Antonio National Park, we learned about the history of the park. The land was originally bought by a Canadian family who intended to keep it private and even put up gated entrances. Due to the law in Costa Rica, that land within 50 km of the beach must have public access; they were asked to allow public access to their land. In fact, the Costa Ricans were so angered that the family tried to keep them out with the gated entrances that they campaigned for the government to step in and turn the property into a national park. Thus, Manuel Antonia National Park was established in 1972.
The park consists of over 7,000 hectares and is responsible for preserving many species. Thanks to our terrific tour guides, Stella and Roy, we were able to see quite a few of these species. We started the tour by seeing several rare lizards through a telescope. Roy was also able to catch a small lizard off a nearby leaf so that he could show us his “colors.” We also saw a sloth carrying its baby up a tree. We saw a few very colorful crabs through the telescope, which were very different than the Maryland crabs that we are used to. Thanks to the 200 bird sounds that Roy had saved on his cell phone, we were also able to see quite a few unique birds that were attracted to the calls that came out of his phone.
As we got closer to the beautiful beaches located within the park, we were amazed to see approximately 35 monkeys running, climbing and swinging throughout the trees. We were told that they are often referred to as the “Monkey Mafia” as they are known to steal any food they can get their hands on. In fact, while we were there we say a monkey in the trees with a visitor´s bag of food. He shared it briefly and then rolled up the bag presumably to save for later. It was amazing how close they were willing to get to us. We even saw one monkey jump on a nearby trashcan and pull the handle to try to get it open. When he could not get it open, he began jumping on it in hopes to loosen the bungee cord that pulled it closed.
After marveling at the monkeys, we headed to the beaches within the park. They are known as some of the best beaches in the area and we know understand why. The beaches offered privacy, white sand and crystal blue water that was refreshingly warm and welcoming.