Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region is not just another tropical getaway. The beaches are stunning and the rocky coastline is home to a plethora of wildlife. And that’s just the beginning.
By Jennifer Rea
From San Jose, the city of Manuel Antonio is a three-hour drive toward the coast. The landscape slowly turns from urban freeways to palm plantations and then lush greenery with winding roads that make you feel like you’re making your way up to a private estate. The city has a small urban center adjacent to the waterfront, but the real treasures of Manuel Antonio lie up these narrow roads.
Nearby, Arenas del Mar is a boutique hotel with only 38 rooms. It’s nestled into the side of a cliff with access to two pristine beaches. Pulling up to the hotel, the driver will leave you at a small outdoor sitting area where you’ll relax until a golf cart arrives to take you up to the main hotel. A refreshing, smoothie-like elixir is part of your welcome, as is a tour of the grounds. Try not to be sidetracked by the sweeping ocean views. There is a lot to take in.
There are no roads on the property so walking or taking a cart is the only way to get around. Even if your itinerary involves mostly relaxing, you’ll still get a workout. Everything in this city feels like it’s uphill.
Set in 11 acres of nature, the entire hotel was built with the environment in mind. Some of the trees jutting through the roof were here long before any of the walls. The cuisine served in the main restaurant, El Mirador, is crafted from locally sourced seafood and produce, and features traditional Costa Rican entrées. The wine list is exquisite, as are the cocktails. And if you have any sort of dietary requirements, the chef and staff can and will accommodate anything.
As a honeymoon location, Arenas del Mar offers the best of both worlds. Relax on the beach in a hammock shaded by the canopy with a Pura Vida cocktail, or start your marriage off with an adventure like zip lining, white-water rafting or surfing lessons. The concierge will take care of reservations and transportation. Plus, the hotel also has its own guides on staff for park tours and bird watching.
A guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park is a must. Trained guides know the places the wildlife hide so you’re guaranteed to see sloths, frogs, monkeys, and other animals that hide during the heat of the day. The guides are walking encyclopedias on wildlife, and they also travel with telescopes for a better close-up view.
Round out your stay at Arenas del Mar with a visit to the spa or a relaxing soak in your room’s outdoor hot tub. Your fridge is even stocked with complimentary Costa Rican snacks, and a cocktail is just a room service call away.
Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
WHAT TO BRING
Packing light is an art form. Here’s how to maximize the precious space in your suitcase.
- Sundresses and sandals: Perfect for casual evening dinners.
- Swimsuits: Bring several suitable for both sunbathing and hiking to secluded waterfalls.
- Sunscreen, and lots of it! The Costa Rican sun is stronger and hard to avoid with so many great outdoor activities.
- iPhone: Hard to believe but taking shots through your guide’s telescope with your iPhone creates amazing photos.
- Cross-body bag: Having your hands free while hiking over hanging bridges is essential, and a cross-body still looks chic.
WHAT TO BRING BACK
It’s hard to leave paradise. Take home a few keepsakes to live the Pura Vida lifestyle in your new married home.
- Coffee: Costa Rica is famous for its coffee; Café Milagro is a local favorite.
- Cinnamon and vanilla beans: Spices grown in the rainforest at the Villa Vanilla Farm are full of healing properties. rainforestspices.com
- Woven hammock: When hung under a shaded tree, you just might think you’re back under the canopy.
- Lizano salsa: This Costa Rican salsa is a mainstay on restaurant tables. Pack a bottle and bring the flavor home.
- Bamboo straws: Costa Rica is all about sustainability. Reusable bamboo straws are the perfect complement to a piña colada.