To Spot a Monkey

Because our time in Costa Rica was short, we wanted to spend as much time exploring and less time riding the bus. Initially, the plan was to head over to Playa Samara, but as that would be at least a 5 hour bus ride, we opted for something closer to San Jose. After poring through 3 different travel guides, we finally decided to explore Manuel Antonio National Park, located on the Central Pacific side.

Less than a 25minute bus ride away from the town of Quepos, Manuel Antonio is home to beautiful picturesque beaches fringed by the tropical rainforests. Here, you can spot, among other things, herds of friendly White-faced capuchin monkeys, families of shy Agoutis, bats, sloths, colorful Toucans, and various different types of snakes including the deadly Fur-de-lance.

I would recommend that you stay in Quepos, which has more economic lodging and food options. The bus to Manuel Antonio costs .25 cents, and runs every 15 minutes, so getting to the park is no problem.

Entrance into the park is $10, however, I would advise you to hire a licensed tour guide, which usually costs around $20. These tour guides are quite easy to find. Once you get off at the last bus stop, about 10 km from the main entrance, you’ll most likely be approached by a local who will try and sell you a guide. Most of these guys are legit, but always ask for identification. They will walk  you to the entrance of the park where you’ll be paired with a tour guide. Make sure you ask the tour guide for identification proving that they are legit guides.

The trails themselves are quite easy to follow, so you could do the walk on your own, but the guides are very informative and knowledgeable and will be able to point out the different types of wildlife that you will probably miss. All of them carry high-powered telescopes which they use to spot toucans, howler monkeys, frogs, insects, etc. You can get pretty amazing shots through these telescopes as well.

The ticket is good for the entire day so my suggestion would be to make it a day trip. Take the guided tour, which lasts about 2 hours, and afterwards, explore the different trails on your own. The Cathedral hike, a looping trail, is highly worth it. Be mindful though, the trail can get quite slippery.

It was on this trail that we had a close, face to face encounter with 2 white-faced capuchin monkeys. We started the hike late in the afternoon, so we were the only ones on the trail. Midway through our hike, we spotted 2 capuchins sitting on a tree branch not too far from where we were.

We slowly backed away and took out a small bag of peanuts, which we left on the ground. I know you’re not supposed to feed them. One strike against my karma.

One of the monkeys, the ballsier one, climbed down the tree, and picked up a few peanuts before  jumping back onto the tree. Jon thought it’d be a good idea to leave his backpack on the ground in the hopes that the monkey might rummage through it looking for food.

The ballsy monkey crept back down, but ignoring the bag, went for a few more peanuts off the ground. The whole encounter lasted about 10 minutes, and was probably the highlight of that day.

White faced capuchin monkeys in this park are known to steal food out of bags left unattended on the benches. In fact, they are seen regularly preying on backpacks and bags left on the beach. The guide said that they usually come around 10 or 11AM in the morning and hang around the beaches all day hoping to steal a few things to nibble on.

There are several beaches within the National Park, all of which are gorgeous. The waves can be strong sometimes, so you might want to check with the guide or park officers to make sure they are safe to swim in.

Other tidbits:

The park is open from 7AM to 4PM and is closed on Mondays.

The town of Manuel Antonio is expensive. So if you can, buy your water beforehand in Quepos and pack your ownb lunch!

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About Panda Writer
Essay Panda here to help dispel myths and answer FAQs for International Students applying to Colleges in the US.

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