If you look on Tripadvisor you will see there is a lot of debate over whether or not you need a tour guide in Manuel Antonio park. To be honest I wasn’t sure we did when I read people’s views. If there are only one or two of you then it isn’t too expensive but having to fork out for a family of 5 in addition to the entry to the park, it makes you think twice before parting with your cash.
However, now I have been and we had a tour guide, I can tell you that you do not need a tour guide. However, I would totally recommend that you do. We chose to book with Jade Tours as they had the best reviews on Tripadvisor and Mario was often noted as being great with children.
Without a tour guide, you will see white capuchin monkeys, sloths, and iguana without even trying. Just by sitting on the beach. If you are an annoying person (trust me there were a lot of these) you will try and look through the telescopes of the people that have paid for guides and might get a glimpse of tiny bats, crabs, snakes and spiders before the tour guide moves you on.
But you won’t get their knowledge.
In my opinion, if you have paid to go to Costa Rica on holiday and want to see the wildlife you should pay for a guide. It will be a totally different experience than walking through the rainforest yourself. They are full of knowledge about the animals and plants. They will spot things that you would not. They have telescopes that they set up so you can see the animals up close. Like these little bats.
They will help you out by taking photos on your smart phone for you.
Our guide, Mario, was fantastic with the boys. He got down to their level and spoke with passion. They were always the first to see through his telescope. He did a great impression of a Howler monkey and as a parent I loved that he was keen to pass his interest onto them.
He even made a little video with middle man.
At the end of the rainforest walk you end up at the beach. (Don’t forget to bring your swimming stuff!) Once again our tour guide was able to help us by telling us the best beach for the children. There are a couple of beaches and one of the quieter ones had poisonous trees which he advised we stayed away from with little ones.
If you are going into the park, certain food is allowed in but it is restricted. You will also risk being mobbed by thieving raccoons and white faced cappucins! We decided that we would have a late lunch on our way out instead.
Manual Antonio National Park is absolutely stunning, the fact that you get to relax at the beach is a real bonus. If you are looking for a great guide I would recommend Mario and his team at Jade Tours. You will see and learn so much more.