South of Manuel Antonio almost to Panama, the Corcovado area, one of the most remote and untouched places in Costa Rica, is home to the few remaining old growth wet forests in the world. Among its 13 major ecosystems are lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, mangrove swamps, along with coastal marine and beach habitats.
White-faced monkeys swing from the trees while toucans and scarlet macaws circle overhead. Several other species of monkeys, plus jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, anteaters, peccaries and crocodiles also survive in their natural habitats surrounding the small coves, 21 miles of beaches and fresh-water lagoons. Miles of hiking trails wind through the rainforest.
Whales and dolphins can be seen at the nearby Marino Ballena National Park with the largest coral reef on the Central American Pacific Coast around three small islands, with Ballena island at the center. The park extends from the southern end of Playa Hermosa to the northern end of Playa Piñuela, and about 9 miles (15 km) into the ocean.
Corcovado Adventures provides tour services, scuba and snorkeling, whale watches, and an informative website about the area. Their Tent Camp offers private and affordable comforts under canvas set on elevated wooden platforms, with electricity and internet access. Two to six-day packages include taxi and boat rides, tours, three meals each day and the use of water sports and fishing gear. Groups of 6-16 get a 10-20% discount per person.
The Copa De Arbol Beach & Rainforest Resort is a 70-acre luxury beachfront eco-resort set in pristine rainforest in “Caletas” (small coves) on the Osa Peninsula between Drake Bay and the Corcovado National Park. Accessible only by private boat, it's the perfect spot to enjoy an eco-adventure, or simply to relax all day. With a staff of 30 for a maximum of 24 guests, they offer exceptional customer service and attention. Amenities include a beachfront 4-level infinity pool and Jacuzzi, plus a beachfront open air bar and restaurant. No car, motorcycle, or party noises from town will disturb you in your air conditioned cabina, a stone’s throw from the beach. Daily package rates include: lodging, three delicious meals, fresh juices, coffee, tea and purified water, a welcome cocktail and the use of kayaks and stand up paddle boards. See their website for details.
In the coastal Central Pacific Conservation Area just south of the resorts of Manuel Antonio and Quepos, this is the smallest of the national parks in Costa Rica - just three square miles. Listed among the world's top dozen by Forbes Magazine, it has lush tropical mountain forrests, coves, coral reefs, white sand beaches, and hiking trails.
Beaches include: Manuel Antonio separated from Espadilla Sur by a "tombolo" of sand; plus Teloro, and Playita. A hike of one hour takes one from Espadilla to the top of Punta Catedral high ground. Both Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur beaches have tidal pools for snorkeling. There is a visitor center here, plus many more trails, waterfalls, rest areas, and scenic overlooks.
The wildlife includes monkeys, sloths, ignuanas, lizards, snakes, dolphins, whales, and bats, plus 184 types of birds (toucans, woodpeckers, potoos, motmots, tanagers, Turkey Vultures, parakeets and hawks). Scuba diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, mountain biking, surfing, and hiking are other popular activities that attract around 150,000 visitors each year.
From Manuel Antonio it's just a one hour drive to the Villa Los Aires/ Las Aguas tropical lodge in Dominical / San Isidro by way of the Costanera Highway, for an adventure in the jungle in the rugged mountains of Costa Rica's Southern Pacific Zone. Follow up with a cool splash in nearby falls, and enjoy all the amenities of a resort hotel.
Adjacent to the lodge there are twin 40-foot-high waterfalls and a tropical forest reserve of rivers, cascades, a natural water slide and swimming holes. The main lodge has deluxe accommodations, a café/bar, nightly movies and WiFi access. Their pool, spa and 24-hour workout area are set in tropical gardens, and there are waterfall adventures, horseback tours, canopy zip lines, ocean kayaking/snorkelling, and white water rafting to enjoy nearby.