My wife and I spent three nights at Arenas del Mar in one of the beachside units in an “Ocean Breeze” room (#102b). It’s a stunningly beautiful property with solid service, an amazing location and decent food.
The room: Our room was on the second floor with a view of the ocean from a small private balcony. I’d say it was on the smallish side for the price ($390), but it was clean and everything was up to date. The bed was great, as were the pillows and linens. There was a nice sitting area on the balcony as well as a counter, sink and small refrigerator.
The property: The jungle rises steeply from the beaches around Manuel Antonio. This property is basically carved into the side of an extremely steep hill that overlooks the ocean. The setting is breathtaking, with views of the Pacific all around. We chose this hotel because we wanted good beach access, and it didn’t disappoint. It was awesome to step out of our room and be on the beach in under a minute, with the lush jungle rising behind us. The walk from the beach (at the bottom of the hill) to reception (at the top of the hill) is probably just under 10 minutes. The hotel has a small fleet of golf carts that will ferry you up and down the steep climb, which can be long or short depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re going. We mostly walked but you can flag down anyone who works at the resort and they will call a cart for you, which generally seemed to arrive in just a couple of minutes. There are several buildings on the property, so where you are on the hill depends on which set of rooms you’re in. We were looking to spend some time on the beach after hiking in Arenal, so being in one of the buildings down by the ocean was great.
The service: The same service theme ran through a number of our experiences on this trip: a lot of little things got fumbled but when it really mattered the staff came through. There were some mix-ups about the tours we booked, though nothing that really made a difference in the end, and a few other things that could have been handled more seamlessly. However, when our car got a flat tire in the parking lot it was fixed before we even knew it was flat, and when my wife left her sweater behind in the closet, the manager had it shipped home to us free of charge.
The food: Breakfast was a la carte, a nice change of pace from the buffet situation you find at most resorts. And it was good. There were a couple of variations on local breakfast dishes (beans and rice, eggs and tortillas) that were definitely the best resort food we ate on the trip. The only dinner we ate at the resort was on our second night when there was special seating on the beach. The setting was great, but the food was just so-so. Dinner in the main restaurant might be better, but we didn’t get a chance to try it.
The location: This is where the property really shines. The grounds are amazing but you also have direct access to two beaches. The first, Playitas, is a wide sandy beach tucked into a small cove at the base of the resort. While technically a public beach, Arenas has more or less absorbed it. They have a bar on the beach, tons of lounge chairs (more than enough for all of the guests), hammocks and drink service. The swimming here was great, though the size of the waves and the potential for strong riptides might not make it the best for small children. This beach is separated from the next one to the south, Playa Espadilla, by a small rocky headland. It’s an easy scramble at low tide, but you can also take a trail down from reception to get to the beach. This is a much larger public beach that extends all the way to the Manuel Antonio national park. So, yes, you can walk to the park from the hotel (it’s about twenty minutes). Espadilla is another gorgeous beach with large rock outcroppings that form tide pools at low tide. There are surfboard rentals, a handful of low-key little restaurants and lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent. It’s a pretty lively scene during the day, but clears out pretty quickly after sunset. There are only a handful of resorts in the area (Tulemar and Parador, most notably) that have both a private resort setting and access to the beach. I didn’t visit the beach at those resorts so I can’t compare – they seem a little more “private” but also don’t’ allow you to walk to the national park or Espadilla. A lot of the nice resorts are further inland, and you’ll need a quick cab ride to get down to the beach. There are also some hotels that are walking distance to Espadilla, but based on my research none of them offer a resort experience. We really wanted to stay somewhere with a “beach resort” feel, and I think Arenas is the best option if you also want good access to Espadilla and Manuel Antonio. Note that the seclusion and proximity to the beach comes at the price of easy access to stuff in Quepos or on the road down to Manuel Antonio. If being within short walking distance lots of restaurants and shops is important to you, this might not be the best option (it’s quite a hike up to the main road and if you really want to go anywhere in town you’ll have to drive or call a cab).
Summary: Stay here if you want a secluded resort experience with direct access to a great beach, a beautiful jungle setting and the ability to walk to other beaches and the Manuel Antonio park. It might seem pricey on paper, but based on our experience you just can’t beat the location.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located within walking distance of Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenas Del Mar is an extraordinary beachfront and rainforest resort catering to travelers looking for more than the typical luxury hotel experience. Stunning, luxurious, and sustainable, this hotel has 38 rooms with exclusive beach and nature views as it is nestled in eleven acres of rainforest with private trails and two tree-shaded white sand beaches. Unique among the hotels in Manuel Antonio, our carbon neutral property offers sustainable, luxurious lodging—the first Costa Rican luxury hotel to be awarded the Five Sustainability Leaf Award and a Five Star Award. Arenas Del Mar is the perfect base for exploring on your Manuel Antonio vacation. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Arenas Del Mar Beachfront And Rainforest Resort, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Manuel Antonio National Park