Five reasons to get a guide at Manuel Antonio National Park
We agreed to terms with a guide to take the two of us through Manuel Antonio National Park. The entrance fee was $16.00 and the guide was $15.00 a piece. The first question you might as is it worth it to get a guide.
Read the previous post Manuel Antonio guide hawkers
I highly recommend getting a guide. They might be a little annoying at first with their tactics in trying to sell you a more expensive experience and then coming down in price considerably the closer you get to the park. The cost is only $15-20, so if you can spare the cash, it is worth it for several reasons.
1. The guides are trained to spot wildlife, and they know where to look. Plus, they can also tell you the names of any exotic birds, bats, animals, or insects that you see.
2. They do several tours a day, so not only do they know where to look, they also know where to look on a certain day. Our guide had spotted a charming hummingbird on its nest earlier in the day and voila, he was still there when we ambled by.
3. They all work together to spot animals. If an interesting animal is spotted, they will share it with other guides. We had the good fortunate of seeing a potoo. These odd looking birds are related to the owl and are extremely rare to see since they are mainly nocturnal and are well camouflaged. They are very territorial, so when one is spotted on a favorite tree, it will stay there for weeks until it decides to finally move on. The guides spotted one way up on a distant tree several weeks before. It was an impressive find by someone since this one was far away and blended into the tree. The guides have been sharing this site with many visitors since. If you did not pay for a guide you would have missed out on this unique opportunity.
4. They carry telescopes. The potoo we saw could only be seen through the telescope. Whenever they spot something, they quickly mount the telescope and direct it towards the target. You can also use the telescope as your personal zoom lens. You can point your digital camera in the view finder and take pictures.
5. They are good company. Costa Ricans in general are very friendly and the guides at Manuel Antonio are no different. They need to be personable to entertain people for an hour and a half in between the animal sightings, and they do a good job of this. The guides are also great resources for other places to go in Costa Rica and things to do as they are very knowledgeable about their country.
Manuel Antonio wildlife
We came to see sloths and monkeys, and we were not disappointed. About 5 minutes into the walk we spotted both a three-toed and two-toed sloth. The first two were high up in a tree, and we probably would not have seen without a guide. Then we came across a three-toed variety calmly eating leaves only twenty feet from the ground over the trail. He had quite a crowd of paparazzi taking photos.
We then saw the potoo and the hummingbird as well as a few other birds and some bats. That was really about it. It is best to come to the park early to see more birds. We did not get there until around 11 a.m. The other highlight was the monkeys.
We saw scores of white-faced capuchins, a species I incredibly missed the last time I was here. We also heard the unmistakable call of the howler monkey and soon after the animal emitting such a barbaric yawp. After this we took a swim in the beautiful beach inside the park. Be sure to keep a watchful eye on all food as raccoons and monkeys will rob you blind.
We dried off and headed out of the parking thinking our wildlife viewing for the day was over. While enjoying a beer at an outdoor bar, a family of squirrel monkeys swept through and climbed on top of the bar and swung across the street on the power lines.
Many people eschew the guides in order to save money. If you are on a strict budget and saving money is your thing, then you can do the park on your own. The trails are well marked, and it would be almost impossible to get lost in the jungle by accidentally wandering off the trail. You do not need a guide for your safety here; however, you will miss seeing lot of wildlife if you go through the park on your own.
In my two times in Manuel Antonio, I only did the main trail. There are actually quite a few more miles of trails that go deeper into the park. Next time I find myself here, I will take more than one day to explore the park and get off the main trail.
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I agree that it is a good idea to go with a guide in this type of trip. I normally prefer “independent travel” but there’s certain things that pros just know better! I don’t think I’d see much in Corcovado NP if it weren’t for a guide, for example… you go this far, might as well do the full experience!!
Zara @ Backpack ME recently posted..Low-Cost Tips For Traveling in Lisbon
I had the worst guide ever in Corcovado. Good guide for seeing wildlife, but we agreed on a price for two days, and he ditched me after one day without refunding second day.
we’re not huuuge fans of guided tours, but def understand why it’s beneficial to have for something like this. buuut more importantly, did your tour guide wear a fanny pack?
the lazy travelers recently posted..#LTselects: gordon’s wine bar
No fanny pack that I can remember. I am sure I would have taken pictures if he did.
Ted, good reasons to get a guide. They apply to many types of destinations (ruins, etc.). In the same sphere as this example, and with less choice to do “solo,” guides in the Serengeti truly do make a difference because they DO know where to look on a certain day and know how to read how the other vehicles are moving as they (who may be further ahead) spot wildlife.
Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Essaouira: A Surprise on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco
Yes, I am sure this applies to Africa or wherever you are in the world.
The white-faced capuchins are my fave! So cute. And so are the sloths. Love their little faces! I managed to miss all the sloths when I was in Costa Rica, though; perhaps I should have had a guide?
Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Family travel to Vienna made fun and easy
That is the way it is with wildlife. It is never a guarantee, which makes it that much greater when you actually do see something cool.
Great tips, and I agree with #4 so much…it was so helpful to have a telescope to see the animals close.
I believe guides are often worth the $; I suspect most of us travelers best experiences spotting / appreciating wildlife or walking through ancient ruins was with a local guide, right?
stay guided, Craig
Craig Zabransky recently posted..Sunset Sunday, Seattle’s Space Needle at Sunset
I would have seen a couple of the sloths and the monkeys without the guide, but never the interesting potoo and hummingbird, so that was worth it just with those two sightings. There are people who travel halfway across the world to try and see a potoo and fail, so an extra $15.00 is nothing.
Definitely think guides can be a good thing. It can be annoying sometimes in how certain guides go about getting business, but everyone has to get business somehow. I wish I could sit somewhere that I could drink a beer and see a monkey hop out on the bar. I’m actually watching first season episode of “Friends” where Ross had a monkey that looks like that capuchin. That’s your random news for the day.
Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Elvis Presley Birthplace Honors the King
It was a somewhat rare squirrel monkey too. You always have to keep your eyes open in Costa Rica, even in the bars.
I’m like everyone else here and believe there is a time and place where tour guides are needed. With respect to a Rainforest, I would fork over the cash as I know very little about jungle wildlife. You also need to be aware of dangerous plants and animals, too, which is another reason to get a tour guide. Plus, I see it as a way in contributing back to the local economy, especially if the tour guides work for a non-profit organization. You know that your money is going back into maintaining the business and environment. Great photos, BTW!
Thank you Ray,
There are a lot of good reasons to get a guide, even if it is not truly necessary. At Manuel Antonio the guides all work together and if something cool is spotted they radio each other, so if you walk on your own, you miss out on this benefit.