The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon searched the New World in vain for the legendary Fountain of Youth, but he was credited in 1519 for discovering and charting what is today one of Costa Rica's greatest natural treasures - the Manuel Antonio wilderness area near the present day sport-fishing community of Quepos.
Originally occupied in ancient times by the coastal-dwelling Quepoa Indians, whose name means "welcome," the region is revered worldwide by lovers of nature and wildlife for its verdant beaches, diverse fauna and hospitable tropical environment. With annual rainfall of 150 inches and average temperatures of between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, days are consistently warm and pleasant in both the dry and green seasons.
Afternoon and evening seasonal rains enliven the jungle from June through October, giving way to the dryer days of November through May. Because Costa Rica lies within the neutral latitudes of 10 degrees from the equator, hurricanes and severe tropical storms rarely, if ever, disturb the Manuel Antonio region.
The Manuel Antonio National Park was established as a nature reserve in 1972, encompassing 1,700 acres of rainforest and 136,000 acres of protected marine habitat. It features the most recognized natural landmark in Costa Rica, a striking geological formation called a 'tómbolo.' Originally a towering island, the tómbalo became joined to the mainland over millennia by the formation of a sandy isthmus, creating the unmistakable profile of a majestic cathedral-shaped peninsula, the summit of which offers spectacular views of the surrounding coastal region. Today Punta Catederal symbolizes the natural beauty of both the national park and Costa Rica.
Wildlife abounds throughout Manuel Antonio, a community keenly intent on preserving the local natural habitat. Visitors are frequently delighted to encounter white-nosed coati mundi, iguanas, agoutis, three -toed sloths (with baby on board) plus white-faced capuchin, squirrel and the vociferous Congo monkeys. Colorful birds such as the chestnut-mandibled toucan, fiery-billed acari, orange-fronted parakeet, snowy egret, red-lored parrot, Cherrie's Tanager and green kingfishers can also be seen throughout the day.
The Carara Natural Reserve, located 20 miles northwest along the coast, offers nature trails winding through ancient three-canopy forests that resonate with the unmistakable call of the Scarlet Macaw.