Can you see much Wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica?

The short answer… yes. If you don’t mind the crowds. Manuel Antonio is one of the top beach towns in Costa Rica, and one of the most popular inexpensive warm winter destinations near the USA. The town attracts a lot of visitors, and most of them visit Manuel Antonio National Park.

The long answer…judge for yourself from our experience.

From the misty mountains of the continental divide, our Costa Rica wildlife watching itinerary took us to the sandy beaches of the Pacific Coast, where we spotted our first flock of Scarlet Macaws at the gorgeous Playa Hermosa (the one in Puntarenas Province, not in Guanacaste).

The beach was indeed very handsome so we decided to stay for lunch and go for a swim.

When we pulled into the driveway of our rental house, Villa Amanecer, we thought we must’ve gotten the address wrong. It was a gorgeous two-story mansion on top of a hill with uninterrupted bird’s eye views of the tropical rainforest cloaked in mist and framed by the distant mountains. Quite a change from our little cottage in Monteverde, and easily one of the best places to stay in Costa Rica in the mid-range category.

READ MORE: Unique Costa Rica Itinerary: 2-Week Wildlife Watching Road Trip

After finding the anteaters, Milenlli took us to a hollow tree that was home to a female Four-eyed Opossum and her young. Both were at home, snoozing peacefully inside their snug ‘nest’.

Most other wildlife sightings on the trip consisted of birds and reptiles, with the only other mammals being a slightly different-looking race of White-throated Capuchins.

Manuel Antonio National Park Wildlife

We spent the afternoon wildlife watching in Manuel Antonio National Park. Unfortunately, like most other popular and easily accessible national parks anywhere in the world, Manuel Antonio was overcrowded and overdeveloped. It did contain an impressive array of wildlife, though.

The most popular way to visit the park is with a guide, but we chose to explore independently. Haunted by the memories of the Kinkajou night walk in Monteverde, we ignored the countless groups of tourists clustered around their guides and staring intently into the canopy through a scope.

No doubt, a fair share of these sightings were crickets, spiders and iguanas, although a few had a sloth or an interesting bird in their sights.

READ MORE: 50 Outstanding Safari Holidays Destinations Outside of Africa

Manuel antonio wildlife - Iguana
crab-eating raccoon in Manuel Antonio
Crab-eating raccoon

We found a Three-toed sloth on our own, a few Crab-eating raccoons on the beach, and a troop of Squirrel monkeys on the way out of the park. The sloth was particularly special since, so far, we’ve only seen Hoffman’s two-toed sloths.

Raccoons, on the other hand, are one of the most menacing species of Manuel Antonio wildlife. They congregate around Manuel Antonio Beach and can get quite aggressive when they are focused on getting food scraps from the beachgoers.

Back at the house, we had a few frogs – a Masked tree frog and an aptly named nondescript Drab tree frog. We kept an eye out on the mango tree and even put some ripe mangos on the balcony’s edge, but the Kinkajou did not come out to play.

Manuel Antonio wildlife - masked tree frog
Masked tree frog

All in all, Manuel Antonio was a little disappointing in terms of wildlife watching experience. While the trip to Damas Island was a fantastic day in a gorgeous natural setting, the main National Park or at least the part open to tourists, felt more like a zoo. But between our mansion, Damas Island trip and a Kinkajour in our garden, we had a great time in Quepos.

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