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“Not for a honeymoon...”
Review of Makanda by the Sea

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Makanda by the Sea
Ranked #16 of 46 Hotels in Manuel Antonio
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersPlatinum level
Reviewed February 7, 2009

We arrived at Makanda By The Sea on January 28, 2009 for the last week of our 2 week long Costa Rica honeymoon. After spending months planning our trip, we decided to spend a few days in the central and northern parts of Costa Rica (at the Arenal volcano and Los Angeles cloud forest) before relaxing for 1 week in luxury at the Manuel Antonio beach area. After very careful consideration, and mostly due to the high praise Makanda received from Fodors and other guide books, I booked a week at Makanda through Luxurylink.com. We LOVED the first 3 hotels we stayed at in Costa Rica (Costa Rica Marriott in San Jose, Lost Iguana in Arenal and Villa Blanca in San Ramon). These hotels averaged half the price of Makanda By The Sea - and all 3 were more updated, more luxurious and had more of what we were expecting for our honeymoon. I have traveled a lot - around the US as well as Latin America, and I know what quality I should expect from a $400/night hotel. Makanda is not there. It was a grave disappointment to me, as I wanted my honeymoon to be perfect. And for the amount of money we spent on our week at Makanda, it should have been perfect. I'll start a the beginning.
We were dropped off at the gate of the hotel from the Quepos airport shuttle ($5 per person, each way. No reservation needed. This is the best way to get to and from the airport. Just ask for the hotel shuttle at the Quepos airport.) We were told to check in at the reception. No one showed us the way, no signs indicated that we were walking towards the reception desk. The ground we were walking on was a very rocky driveway. We managed to find the reception desk - a small, dark room with one person sitting a desk. We checked in, and the receptionist showed us to our room. I had confirmed Villa 1 twice before our arrival. However, we were given Villa 6 with the explanation that someone else was staying in Villa 1. Disappointed, we checked into Villa 6. The good points: GREAT view of the ocean, as the hotel is on a hill overlooking the water. There is a terrace with a dining table and chairs, 2 wicker chairs with cushions, and a hammock. The monkeys sometimes played in the trees next to our terrace, and even stood on top the our terrace roof. Cool. You get to eat breakfast outside on your terrace, delivered to the room each morning. The room is rather large, and has a small kitchen with full size refrigerator, and even an oven (though we only used the kitchen for ice and keeping drinks cold). The staff at the hotel is very nice, as most Costa Rican people are. The people alone are reason enough to visit this beautiful country. We especially liked Marvin, the gentleman who delivered breakfast almost ever day, and Jason, our waiter at the pool. Finally, the best thing about this hotel is the infinity swimming pool. It's pretty big, very deep, clean, and the monkeys play in the trees overhead as you can look onto the ocean below. There's a (not so hot) hot tub. The chairs are comfy after Jason puts a cushion on the pool lounge chair for you.
Now, the parts we didn't like: The hotel room, described by the hotel as "contemporary" was contemporary is the 1980s. 80's turquiose sconces and 2 ceiling fans that shook and clinked when there were on were the major light sources for the room. No romantic lighting was possible - there were no lamps except for 2 small bedside reading lights. The couch was made out of: (ready?) CEMENT!!! It had cushions, but was not cozy. The king size bed was alright, and looked romantic with its canopy and mosquito nets - except that you needed the mosquito nets because there were no screens to the terrace doors. We had a bug in our room one night the size of a bird or bat. Scary. Instead of sliding glass doors to the terrace that you could easily open, there were doors made of 12 panels, and each panel had 2 locks that had to be individually locked (as the hotel recommeds for your safety). And there were NO CURTAINS!!! We awoke with the sun each morning between 6:30 and 7 am (happy honeymoon, right? Just what we wanted - to wake up early.) And at night, I was afraid to get dressed in the room because there were no curtains to maintain privacy. Yes, the villa stood alone, but no, I couldn't be sure no one could see in. It was a joke for the rest of the trip. We would see a cheap hotel on the beach advertising $50 per night, and state: "well, at least they have curtains!" The bathroom was completely outdated. There was one towel rack, and no place to hang hand towels. The only towel rack was coming unglued, and there were chips and cracks in the outdated 80s "retro" black and white cermaic tiles. No bathtub. No luxury in this bathroom. Mu husband got an electric shock plugging the hairdryer for me. My bathroom at home is nicer. The "closet" is a tiny, dark wooded room with a place for hanging clothes and some shelves. No drawers. So yes, you have to pile your clothes on shelves and then dig though them to get what you want. Not cool. The air conditioner worked 4 out of 7 nights. The TV worked 6 out of 7 nights. We lost power once for several hours before the (very loud) hotel generater kicked in. Breakfst in the morning does not include coffee. They leave a packet of coffee in the kitchen witha juicebox of milk on the counter, and you make your own coffee each morning. It's too bad because one of the best parts of most hotels in Costa Rica is the great Cafe con leche that you get with the breakfast buffett or in the lobby each day. Instead, we had to drink Mr. Coffee's finest American brew. When I told Melissa, the manager that I was unhappy with the hotel - that it was my honeymoon and I was disappointed in the lack of modern updates and amentites, and I wanted to change hotels, she told me I could not have a refund. I cried. She never addressed it with me again. Not even to check on us to see if things had improved. Not even to fix the broken air conditioner. What a huge disappointment for my honeymoon.
I had heard about the great restaurant at the hotel. I brought a pair of heels to wear, being my honeymoon and all, and wanting to look nice. Remember the rocky driveway? Unwalkable in heels, even for me, and I never miss a chance to dress up. As my husband and I love to walk and explore during the day, we had no trouble walking to the beach, though we learned after a few days that the hotel would take you in a golf cart down the rocky dirt road to the beach - you just have to walk up later.
There is no lobby. No bar. No gift shop. No chairs where you can sit and talk to other guests. No common space for the hotel except the pool. No lounge chairs or umbrellas on the hotel beach.
The rest of Manuel Antonio (the beach, the waves, the restaurants - esp. Kapi Kapi) is amazing. Despite our bad experience at Makanda, we had a great trip - we loved every second of being on the beach. Next time, I think we'll stay closer to the beach in a cheaper hotel. I think Fodors and Lonely Planet need to make another visit to Makanda - it's gone downhill since they last visited propabaly 10 years ago. Other guests at the hotel voiced similar complaints to mine. Maybe in 1989, it was a spectacular hotel. Now, in 2009, we want crazy things like screens, curtains, bathtubs and lamps. For your special trip, choose another hotel.

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled as a couple
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9  Thank Christina_9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
HotelMakanda, Jules McNichols-General Manager at Makanda by the Sea, responded to this reviewResponded February 13, 2009

Our guests comfort is important to us at Hotel Makanda, and it is with deep regrets that these honeymooners did not enjoy their stay with us.
Unfortunately, when booking through a third party auction site, our hotel can only guarantee the room type listed in the package, and cannot guarantee the exact room number for arriving guests. Although every effort is made to accommodate specific room requests, when this was not possible for this particular couple, it became obvious after numerous attempts by management to appease them, that they were not going to enjoy their stay at our beautiful property.
We genuinely regret that we were unable to meet their expectations and accept the fact that it is difficult to be the perfect property for every visitor 100% of the time, but we do hope that other Tripadvisor readers will choose to focus on the overwhelming number of positive reviews that our very popular property has received over a period of more than 20 years in Manuel Antonio.
For anyone considering a stay at Hotel Makanda by the Sea, we invite you to contact us directly with any questions or concerns, at which time you will personally experience the high level of customer service that we pride ourselves on offering.
Many happy travels to all!!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed January 26, 2009

We stayed at Makanda by the Sea in late November and early December and we had a wonderful time. The grounds are beautiful and are maintained. Our villa was very spacious and nicely decorated. A vase of fresh exotic flowers welcomed us. Several days we had monkeys swinging in the trees around the balcony of the villa. Our balcony was facing the ocean. We ate breakfast out on the balcony every morning. What a treat! The breakfasts are very good and the portion sizes are large.

The service was very good. There didn't seem to be many people staying there because the pool was never crowded. The restaurant is very good and there were only a few tables taken when we ate there each time. My husband and I both agreed that we had the best hamburger that we've ever had at the hotel's restaurant. A couple of days we would see monkeys in the trees when we were at the pool. Also, we saw a sloth in a tree by the driveway close to the entrance of the hotel.

There is a little grocery store once you turn left onto the main road. It's a short walk. However, it's kind of pricey. We're walkers so we would walk down to the beach at Manual Antonio. It's a hilly walk and it took us approximately 45 minutes to walk. We'd always be wet from perspiration. Manual Antonio - at least at the time of year we were there is very humid. We also walked down to the small public beach down the gravel road from our hotel. Personally, if I wanted to be at the beach I would go to the one at Manual Antonio. While exploring this beach, my husband discovered a gun that had been left in the sand.

We went to Barba Rojas one night for dinner. It has a great view of the sunset if you're lucky enough to view one. Another night we went to Kapi Kapi. The taxi here was about $4-5 US dollars We had the place to ourselves with the exception of one other couple. The food was great but I thought the menu was very limited. It's a very pretty place and romantic. Another night we went to Cafe Agua Azul. The food was good but pricey. But here you also have a great view of the sunset. You can basically walk here from the hotel. It's just on the right after you get to the main Road. Same with Barba Roja - you can easily walk to it - it's on the left after you get to the main road. Just be sure to take flash lights with you for the return trip. Also, you may get a little sweaty walking up because it's very hilly.

While we were staying here we took a guided tour of the Manual Antonio National Park. Our guide was Juan Brenes. His email is aguilatour@hotmail.com. I highly recommend him. He speaks very good English and is very knowledgeable and informative. He's also has a good sense of humour. We also took the mangrove tour with him.

The only complaint I have and unfortunately this isn't something that anybody can control is that we had a lot of rain while we were there. I am told that the amount of rain we experienced was unusual for this time of the year.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled with family
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2  Thank globetravelers_2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 22, 2009

My husband and I just returned from our 4-night stay at Makanda and we cannot say enough wonderful things about the hotel and the staff.

I booked our stay through email with Melissa and Leo. I must've emailed them more than 10 times with my questions and requests before I decided to stay there and they were very very patient with me and helped me immensely to reach my final decision.

We stayed in Villa 7 (a free upgrade!) and it was beautiful and spacious. We had a great clear view of the ocean through the jungle with a private balcony with a table and chairs. There's also a hammock in the room if you want to set it up on your balcony. Villa 7 is located below the pool but it wasn't noisy at all. I can't recall hearing or being bothered by any noise that came from the pool. The villa is down a few flights of stairs from the main path in the hotel property and it felt very secluded.

We ordered breakfast every morning, the first morning a continental breakfast because we had an early tour and the rest full breakfasts. Marvin delivered our breakfast to us each morning and he was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He not only is very polite and funny, but also eager to encourage you to try to eat the tico way and tells you a little bit about the culture while he's at it. He taught us how to eat the gallo pinto with the tortilla and even brought us a bottle of Lizano Salsa from his home when he found out that we liked things spicy!!! Just absolutely fantastic!

We received a lot of great suggestions on restaurants and tours in the area from Leo and Melissa, and they also helped us book our shuttle to the airport and contact one of the tours when the driver was late picking us up. They were both so sweet and we definitely had a much better vacation because of their help.

One of the favorite things we did while we were in Manuel Antonio was to go down to the hotel's private beach every day. Most days we had the beach to ourselves and in the end we called it our private beach instead of the hotel's private beach :) The beach isn't big, but it is beautiful and very quiet. The walk down to the beach really isn't that long or treacherous, nothing compared to the road to Makanda from the main road. The path is well paved with stairs and it takes maybe 3 minutes down and 4 minutes up. We were able to spread our towels to tan and read every day that we went down, even during high tide. One day when we were coming back up from the beach, we saw a group of 12 monkeys hanging out in the trees. It was a pleasant surprise.

We didn't eat at the restaurant because most of the days we ate at sodas and food stands, but we did have drinks at the hotel. The staff at the restaurant and bar was very friendly as well, although our drinks were very weak. The restaurant and bar had a very nice ambiance though.

The road from Makanda to the main road is treacherous, but the hotel has golf carts that will take you to the main road if you ask. Most of the time we felt bad making the front gate person drive us up there that we ended up walking anyway. It's not that bad, we enjoyed the exercise. Make sure you take a flashlight (provided in your room) if you plan to walk that road after sundown. There's a tiny stretch of maybe 30 meters on the road with no lighting at all. We kept forgetting to take ours and managed. Just walk very slowly.

Overall we are absolutely thrilled by our stay at Makanda. I just had a friend ask me about our accommodation in Costa Rica for their upcoming trip and I will no doubt suggest they call Makanda and make their reservation now!!

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank xlixx004
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 20, 2009

Highly recommend this hotel. We stayed in Villa #3 and had an amazing view of the ocean (the entire front wall was a window overlooking the jungle and beach). Staff was very friendly. Out of all the restaurants we hit, I still believe Makanda was the best (and priced very reasonably). Will definitely come back!

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank msknyc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 17, 2008

We were at Makanda for one week in Villa 5. I can't say enough about the wonderful staff at Makanda. Everyone there made us feel like family. Melissa and Junior are wonderful, Gloria also took great care of us and had a different animal with flowers arranged on our bed each day. It was a treat to see what she would come up with each day. Yes, the road to the hotel was a challenge, but nothing that would keep us from returning. The breakfast each day was amazing, set up on our balcony. It is not a large hotel, only 11 Villas, so at the beautiful pool there were only a couple of people each time we were there. The view from the pool and Sunspot resturant were amazing and staff there were the best. We were joined each day by Whitefaced and Titi monkeys which was great, but please don't feed the monkeys, it is not good for them. I just can't say enough about the incredible level of service we experienced while at Makanda. My husband and I have traveled extensively and found the people of Costa Rica to be the warmest and most friendly of anywhere we have visited. We never felt unsafe while in Costa Rica. Worth the trip up the road was Cafe Milagro for their great coffee and banana bread. They also have a great breakfast and lunch. The park tour is a must do, as well as the canopy tour with Canopy Safari, great ziplining. Staff at Makanda arranged our transportation to and from the airport as well as all of our activities. We look forward to staying at Makanda again.

  • Stayed: December 2008, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank lovehawaii37
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 27, 2008

I really can't say enough about Hotel Makanda, it is truly the all around finest place we have ever stayed at. We stayed for about a week in Villa 6, and it was fantastic from start to finish. The paths are well kept, but the real highlight is that the grounds are essentially entirely gorgeous rainforest. We spent probably hours worth of time on our terrace just taking in the view.

The staff was fantastic, helping us choose and book many tours, call cabs, etc. Maid service and room service was prompt, professional, and friendly. Chico, who waited on us at the restaurant a few times, was great, a real pleasure to have around. Other grounds staff always took time out to point out various animals in the trees.

Some specifc things to mention:

-Yes, the restaurant is overpriced, a burger was about $12 and that's just at lunch. The dinner menu is more expensive and somewhat limited. The food is fantastic though, really creative and well prepared. It's probably a good thing it was so expensive though, it made us have to go out in search of cheaper food. In the process we got out and explored a little more than we would have otherwise.

-The path to the beach is, as other people have said, a little strenuous, but honestly we loved it. It's a nice little hike, there are stairs most of the way, and it gives you a chance to see the forest a bit and get a little exercise. Plus the beach is pretty much deserted when you get there. As for the beach, it is a little rocky and you can only really enjoy it at low tide. But still, it was great as long as you have keens or some kind of water shoes on.

-Yes, you really do see monkeys there, they are all over the place. We saw the troop of white face monkeys every day, and a group of about 15 howler monkeys one day. Also saw a sloth on the grounds too. Resist the temptation to feed them though! It's tempting but bad for them.

-The side road off to Makanda is a rough, steep little bugger, so if you want to walk anywhere you are going to have a decent hike uphill to get to the main Manuel Antonio area. About half the time we walked it and half the time we called a cab.

Anyway, overall, I would HIGHLY recommend Makanda, it is heaven on Earth.

  • Stayed: October 2008, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank badams2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 18, 2008

We stayed at Makanda for one week last October (2007) in Villa 1. That villa is fantastic - utterly comfortable, spacious for 2, and an amazing view out to the ocean. The bathroom & shower are great, and the bed is very comfy. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful and isolated. The staff is very friendly and very helpful. Overall, it's very tranquil and peaceful - a great way to experience that part of the country. I encourage anybody who stays here to take an early morning walk down the path to the beach - I saw a ton of amazing wildlife (including some animals I've never even heard of) as I crept slowly through the forest before the day really got started. Sloths and monkeys are regular visitors to the grounds.

Slight drawbacks - the restaurant on site (Sunspot) while good, is pricey (even by U.S. standards) and - in my mind - overpriced. I would have eaten there more if it weren't as pricey. There are plenty of very good places to eat in the area outside the hotel. (Mar Y Luna comes to mind.)

Lastly - lock up everything of value in the safe in your room whenever you leave. I had a book of CDs and DVDs disappear during our stay. I was surprised that somebody would bother taking this (maybe I should be flattered that they liked my taste?), but it did happen. The Makanda staff was very responsive in addressing the issue when I brought it to their attention, but it never showed up. (I didn't ask for any compensation in return.) I got the sense the place is very secure, as they have guards on duty 24-7 who walk the grounds, etc. But disappointed that I lost about 25 cds and 10 dvds.

To be fair, the positive aspects of my stay at Makanda far outweighed my lost property, which can be replaced. Just need to lock it all up next time.

  • Stayed: October 2007, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Montana_Road
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Makanda by the Sea

Address: Main Road to Manuel Antonio Park | 800 meters from Plaza Vista, Manuel Antonio 60601, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Puntarenas > Manuel Antonio
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#4 Green Hotel in Manuel Antonio
#7 Luxury Hotel in Manuel Antonio
#10 On the Beach Hotel in Manuel Antonio
#10 Spa Hotel in Manuel Antonio
Price Range: $242 - $449 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Makanda by the Sea 4.5*
Number of rooms: 27
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Makanda By the Sea is 12 acres of wildlife sanctuary, 100 meters above the ocean. Our fully equipped Villas and Studios are carefully placed in rainforest gardens with spectacular views of the sixty mile coastline. Hotel Makanda is the ideal location for guests wishing to experience “romance in nature”, dazzling sunset views and our personalized boutique hotel ambiance. Offering gourmet cuisine, first class service, and close to Manuel Antonio Park, Spas, Restaurants, Tours and Beaches. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Makanda By The Sea Hotel Manuel Antonio National Park
Makanda By The Sea Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio

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