Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Lonely Planet review

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was declared a national park in 1972, preserving it (with just minutes to spare) from being bulldozed and razed to make room for a coastal development project. Although Manuel Antonio was enlarged to its present-day size of 16 sq km in 2000, it is still the country’s second-smallest national park. Space remains a premium, and as this is one of Central America’s top tourist destinations, you’re going to have to break free from the camera-clicking tour groups and actively seek out your own idyllic spot of sand.

That said, Manuel Antonio is absolutely stunning, and on a good day, at the right time, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ve died and gone to a coconut-filled paradise. The park’s clearly marked trail system winds through rainforest-backed tropical beaches and rocky headlands, and the views across the bay to the pristine outer islands are unforgettable. As if this wasn’t enough of a hard sell, add to the mix iguanas, howlers, capuchins, sloths and squirrel monkeys.