We left the Monteverde area and began the long trip to Manuel Antonio and the Arenas Del Mar Hotel. (This was a November Anniversary trip for my wife and I and included stays in San Jose, Tortuguero, La Fortuna (Arenal), Monteverde and Manual Antonio, before returning back to San Jose and our flight back to reality. You can find reviews of all of our stays by clicking on my profile and searching these out.) (what a trip!)
I used a local Tour company for all arrangements (hotels and excursions) in advance and for all transportation throughout Costa Rica. “CostaNica Tours” – We were very pleased with their service and drivers. The entire trip went like clockwork – no surprises or disappointments. Highly recommended.
Our driver transported us and provided much insight along the way – including a stop at the bridge over the Tarcoles where you can view dozens of crocodiles lying along the beach and in the river – pretty creepy. We also stopped in a couple of towns along the way and picked up some groceries too – a great idea considering we had a fridge at the Arenas Del Mar and were able to enjoy our own choices for beer, etc.
We arrived at the Arenas Del Mar in the evening so it was difficult at first to appreciate both the location of the hotel on the hills overlooking the Ocean, or of the grounds themselves. We were immediately impressed with the service and our room however, as we were whisked from the entry point to the top of the resort and a refreshing cold beverage served with a bamboo straw (more on that later) while completing the check-in process.
Our room was stunning – separate air conditioned bedroom, large sitting room with fridge, coffee maker, etc and a gorgeous wraparound balcony including a hot tub that overlooked the property and the crashing waves of the ocean below.
We had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant that night and breakfast was included in the restaurant each morning. This was the nicest breakfast we had while in Costa Rica – lots of egg/pancake choices off the menu as well as fresh juices, cereals, fresh baked goods, etc. We enjoyed having our breakfast poolside, while watching the sloth in the tree above.
We went on a guided tour of Manuel Antonio Park through Iguana Tours and we would highly recommend it. The guides know their stuff and come equipped with a telescope that they can quickly set up to show you incredible detail of bats, snakes, crabs, monkeys, sloths, etc within seconds. They will even take your handheld digital camera and take some photos through their telescope so you can bring home some pictures you would otherwise have missed of that pit viper that kills in 2 hours, or the face of a sloth, etc., etc.
We used the same tour company for an Ocean Kayak and snorkelling tour that was our one real “miss” of our entire trip. Aside from the longer story of almost having our kayak sink and requiring a mid-ocean change of kayaks with our 2 guides, the bigger issue was simply it was way too much paddling for very little snorkelling return. In hindsight, another morning spend at the hotel and walking the beach would have been a much better use of scarce time.
The hotel itself has direct access to the main Manuel Antonio Beach – you cannot understate the value of this feature. Yes, they also have a lovely private beach that you can take advantage of, but for us, we love walking the beach – and this provided access to a 30-40 min walk into the main beach area/town and back again. It’s one way to walk off the fancy drinks and meals – and enjoy the sun, sand and surf.
Another real redeeming feature of this property is its commitment to sustainability. Given the attraction of the environment in bringing tourists to the country, it was very impressive to learn of the lengths this resort goes to in order to create a sustainable model within this delicate ecosystem. We took the sustainability tour offered by the hotel – at no charge – and saw ‘behind the scenes’ at the hotel. Everything from the use of locally produced meats and produce to partnerships with local schools, the use of farmed bamboo for the straws in their drinks, solar-heated water, recyclable water bottles and cups (will break down), hydroponic gardens, electric golf carts for transport – the list goes on and on. It made us realize how much more we could/should be doing at home.
There is a main pool near the check-in and main restaurant but don’t miss the second pool down near the private beach. There is another bar/restaurant there as well – and it offers beautiful infinity views towards the ocean. The resort is located on the side of some very steep hills – the golf carts are at your beck and call – but we walked the resort to fight off some of the vacation bulge. My wife also took advantage of the on-site spa and thoroughly enjoyed a massage with the attentive staff.
The monkeys and sloths seem to be onsite daily – in fact, I got to watch a Cappuccino monkey show with a group of 6 monkeys right outside our balcony while enjoying a hot tub. They jumped and climbed and ate fruit not 10-15 feet away from me – it was an amazing site. Not everyone may get treated to that show, but my wife and I also saw a family of squirrel monkeys pass overhead while walking back from the beach – again, we took dozens of photos as they played nearby. Apparently the spider monkeys can be quite ‘testy’ at times – purposely throwing their fruit at people below them......We didn’t see that during our visit. You will be greeted at regular intervals by some of the very regal Iguanas on site – the staff have even named some of them.
We did enjoy one dinner off the resort at Agua Azul – this open-air restaurant overlooks the ocean and serves nachos to die for.
If there were to be a criticism of this hotel (my favourite of our entire trip) it would simply be that it is difficult to get off the resort. It means taking a cab to a restaurant that is only mins away because of the difficult walk in and out of the property. During daylight, this walk is fine, but at night, it simply can’t be done – there are no lights of any kind and the road is narrow and turning. The staff declined our request to drive us to the property’s edge in the golf carts – they use them only to get you within the confines of the resort......
But a VERY small complaint to what is otherwise a true 5 star resort. My only wish – we’d stayed there even longer.
- 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, our hotel has 38 rooms with exclusive beach and nature views, 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. As well, we are proud to be the first Costa Rican luxury hotel to have been awarded the Five Sustainability Leaf Award and a Five Star Award. With this stunning location and a myriad of personalized services, on-property activities and land and water-based tours catered for honeymooning couples and families alike, 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 & Rainforest Resort Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio National Park