We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with our guide, Juan Brenes. We were with our 4 year old daughter and were happy to find 2 other families with young children on our tour. Within 5 minutes, my daughter and one of the other girls were holding hands and walking through the park. It made for a much more pleasant experience for the adults because the kids had each other to interact with.
Juan was great with the kids, taking the time to show them the animals through the binoculars and pointing to things up in the trees. He explained about the different animals and plants in the park and he captured the kid's attention. My daughter was not bored and never complained once about the walk.
I would definitely recommend hiring Juan, or one of his guides, to take you through the park. You can do it on your own, but you would really miss so much. These guides are great at finding small animals that are camouflaged in the trees and plants, and you would certainly miss them if you didn't know where to look. In addition, you will learn so much about the the animals, flora and fauna in the country.
Yes, the park is crowded and often there are 3-4 different groups of people crammed into a small area trying to look at an animal, but it's one of the most popular national parks in the country, so that's to be expected. Try to avoid it on the weekends b/c lots of locals come to visit the park. Also, try to get there when they open to avoid the crowds.
You can also pack a lunch and bring a towel and have a nice picnic and swim in the ocean at the end of your tour. The beaches in the park are stunning!
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