I highly recommend stopping in Manuel Antonio if you’re visiting Costa Rica. This seaside jewel offers a verdant rainforest teeming with wildlife and hiking trails adjoining a picturesque beach.
It’s worthwhile to hire one of the guides that hang out around the entrance to the forest. My guide seemed to have a sixth sense in detecting a sloth or howler monkey I never would have seen on my own. He brought a telescope that I was able to focus my digital camera on to get some wonderful shots. I could even see the expressions on the faces of the animals.
After the trek through the forest, I walked along the beach and enjoyed the sunset. The beach along the rainforest was virtually uninhabited. Walking further north away from the forest, I encountered a mixture of tourists and locals, but it was still relatively uncrowded. A soccer game was in lively progress on the sand, and families sat in quiet appreciation of the magnificence of the setting sun off the Pacific. A tremendous rain fell that night, signaling that we were indeed in the tropics.
It struck me that Costa Rica — and Manuel Antonio in particular — is a place to let the burdens that life throws at you melt away, at least for a few days. I subsequently visited the cloud forests of Monteverde and the lazy, tranquil seaside village of Montezuma. Manuel Antonio, however, stood out as a slice of Costa Rican paradise.