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This is a guest post from Ross Loehr, a traveling father of 2.

My daughter “Junebug” loves animals.  We do nature walks all the time at the parks near our home in Jacksonville, Florida.  Anytime we take her on a trip she always asks, “Are there different animals here than at home?”  Luckily, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, we were able to give a resounding yes to her oft asked question.

Costa Rica is an amazing country for families to visit and offers tons of outdoor activities.  One of our most memorable days from our Costa Rican adventure was a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park.  The park is one of the most visited in the country.  Manuel Antonio National Park was established in 1972 and while it spans only three-square miles, there are over 100 different mammal species and nearly 200 different types of birds.

a girl walking on a bridge

What You Should Know about Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park is open from 7:00AM to 4:00PM Tuesday thru Sunday and closed on Mondays year-round.  The cost of a ticket is USD$16 for tourists and ₡1,600 (colones) for Costa Ricans and residents. Free admission is available to children under 12.  Guides may be hired for an additional fee and they will provide great information about the park and typically help you spot more animals than you would see on your own.  Tickets may be purchased about 50 meters from the entrance on the left side of the road or you can buy tickets in Quepos or San Jose before heading to the park.  A valuable tip is to drive as far as you can and THEN turn around to find parking.  We had people trying to wave us in to parking spots that were at least a half a mile from the park entrance and if we had left the car that far away we would have had one tired and cranky toddler to deal with on the walk back to the car!

(SEE ALSO: Visiting Irazu Volcano in Costa Rica)

a girl looking at a monkey in the woods

Don’t Lose Your Lunch!

As a warning, if you have a kiddo who loves snacks as much as my daughter, then you need to plan accordingly when visiting Manuel Antonio.  The park is strict about what is and is not allowed foodwise.  They actually emptied our bags to check!  Sandwiches, crackers, cookies and prepared or cut fruit that are wrapped in paper bags or plastic containers will pass the test.  Tin foil is a big no-no!  You can bring recyclable plastic bottles that can be refilled with potable water at several stations throughout the park. Chip bags of any kind, aluminum cans, food in plastic or aluminum bags, alcoholic beverages, nuts, seeds or cigarettes are all strictly prohibited.

a girl sitting on a swing under a tree on a beach

Animal Kingdom

On the day we visited Manuel Antonio, my daughter was entranced as we entered the rainforest canopy.  Over the next few hours we saw iguanas, sloths, spiders, colorful frogs, lots of insects, multiple types of birds, several types of monkeys and little mangrove crabs.  We ate lunch on the beach, played in the waves and jumped off some rocks into the water before heading back on the return trail. Junebug was in awe of all the wildlife that she had seen throughout the day.  On the way back to the car, she excitedly relived her favorite parts of the day which were seeing the white-faced monkeys who were playing by us on the beach and the “crab treasure hunt” which consisted of her pointing out every crab she saw from the platform (for the record, it was no less than several hundred).  On the way back to the car we stopped at a fruit stand for a snack and Junebug happily stated, “That was the best zoo I’ve ever seen!”

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