Manuel Antonio National Park
Located only 25 miles north of Punta Dominical near Quepos, this park
is relatively small in area (only 1,687 acres), but it is rich in inhabitants.
Over 100 species of animals and nearly 200 species of birds live in the
park. All three species of monkeys found in Costa Rica reside in the park
- the white-throated capuchin monkeys, the endangered squirrel monkeys,
and the white-faced monkeys. In addition to monkeys, you can expect to
see colorful birds, iguanas, sloths, and other animals. Because the number
of visitors is limited, it is best to visit the park in the morning and
during the week, if possible. The park is closed on Mondays.
Just off the beaches of Manual Antonio lies another world worth exploring.
Snorkeling reveals bright, florescent colored fish swimming among the
corals. Further out, the park encompasses twelve islets just off the coast
where it is possible to see dolphins and migrating whales.
Ballena National Marine Park
Only 10 minutes south of Dominical by car, is the 13,344 acres (including
11,120 acres of ocean) Ballena National Marine Park. The park extends
along 13 kilometers of sandy shores and rocky coast and is the home of
the Pacific coast’s largest coral reef.
There is excellent snorkeling close to shore at low tide. You can also
reach the island at the tip of Punta Uvita to discover corals, sponges,
and sea anemones. Make sure you take time to explore the caves here as
well. Isla Ballena and the rocks known as Las Tres Hermanas (The Three
Sisters) are a haven for frigate birds and boobies as well as pelicans
and even ibises.
Whales tend to congregate near Las Tres Hermanas. Olive Ridley and Hawksbill
turtles nest on these beaches during May to November.
Corcovado National Park
Looking south from Punta Dominical to the Osa Peninsula, this park, comprising
134,771 acres on land and 5,930 acres of sea, is home to the country’s
largest tract of virgin forest. Within a one hour boat ride of Punta Dominical,
Corcovado is widely regarded as one of the world’s most biologically
diverse regions. The park is home to at least 400 species of birds, 140
of mammals, 116 of amphibians and reptiles, 500 of trees, and 6,000 of
insects. The park’s six distinct ecosystems shelter scarlet macaws,
jaguars, pumas, tapirs, poison-dart and golden frogs, the harpy eagle,
and other endangered species. Punta Dominical actively supports the efforts
to conserve this unique natural resource. See www.osacampaign.org for
Chirripó National Park
Approximately one hour east of Punta Dominical by car, near San Isidro,
is Chirripo National Park, which boasts the country’s highest peak
(3,820 meters/12,530 feet). No technical climbing is required to hike
Chirripo, but altitude and a rugged trail make for a strenuous trek. The
hike to Los Crestones base camp takes six to 12 hours, half that time
coming down. Most hikers allow two to three days to make the entire trip.
Los Crestones base camp shelter is the only permitted lodging in the park
(no camping allowed). Once at the shelter, day hikes to the peak, lakes,
and high altitude meadowlands are available. Call at least a month in
advance to reserve a bed at the shelter. Chirripo treks are most popular
during December to May.
Caño Island Biological Reserve
Located about an hour’s boat ride from Dominical, this uninhabited
island is known as an excellent diving spot – rated as being one
of the best underwater diving spots in the world.
Trails on the island lead to a pre-Columbian cemetery and several of Costa
Rica’s mysterious stone spheres. Mystery shrouds the history of
these hand carved and perfectly rounded spheres, which measure from one
to two and a half meters in diameter and are found mainly in the Palmar
region and on Cano Island.
Wilson Botanical Gardens
Located approximately an hour’s drive south of Dominical, near San
Vito, these gardens, cover 25 acres. They have a vast collection of bromeliads,
orchids, and more than 700 species of palms. Recognized as the most important
tropical gardens in Central America, the gardens provide overnight lodging
for a limited number of visitors and scientists.
Antonio National Park
Marine National Park