by Stephen Jermanok
When you picture Costa Rica, you imagine a rainforest overflowing with ripe foliage, silky sand beaches that serve as a welcome mat to the pounding surf, and a landscape abundant with wildlife viewing opportunities. A hummingbird would be nice, but even more exciting is something with fur, like a monkey or a sloth. Well, on the outskirts of Manuel Antonio National Park, located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, there’s a resort called Arenas del Mar that offers all the above. Indeed, the boutique property is as close to tropical paradise as one can get in a Central America family vacation.
Spacious suites are nestled into the rugged cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Walk onto your outdoor deck in the morning and you will see the waves crashing against the rocks and spewing its foamy spray on the beach. You may also find a white-faced monkey popping his head out of a branch to greet you, or discover a sloth sleeping under the shade of a large banana leaf.
If the surf is mellow, you can swim in the ocean after a day of touring Manuel Antonio. There are also two pools, one near the beach and one off the main lobby at the resort. High up the hillside, morning breakfast is served around the lobby pool, with stupendous vistas of the Pacific and the nearby islands and golf carts will carry families around the resort with ease.
At first glance, you might assume that this type of property caters only to honeymooners or romantic couples. Yet, the resort is equally split between families and couples, with many kids swimming in the pool. The front desk staff goes out of its way to arrange off-property activities for families, such as a local zipline tour or a naturalist-led hike at Manuel Antonio. At Arenas del Mar, you can relax as they cater to your every whim.
Our Editor Loves
- Mix of rainforest and Pacific Ocean beach
- Opportunity to see monkeys and sloths on property
- Large balconies with ocean vistas
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All of the guestrooms feature air conditioning, a television, DVD players upon request and jungle or ocean views. Adjoining rooms (a superior room plus a suite) are the best option for big families, as they accommodate up to five people. A stocked mini-fridge with rotating snacks and drinks is also included in your rate.
The Ocean View Premium Suite houses up to four people and features a spacious deck with a private hot tub. The suites feature a bedroom and separate living area with a sleeper sofa, a kitchenette with a stocked mini-fridge and dining table for four. Two bathrooms can also be found in some of the suites.
These guestrooms feature an outdoor sitting area on the covered deck. A kitchenette can also be found on the deck. These guestrooms are most suitable for couples but can adjoin to a suite.
by Jenine M
The hotel is in the perfect location of the beach and the rainforest. The resort was eco friendly. We went in September and the weather was perfect. The staff was amazing and made our visit extra special. The rooms were amazing with amazing views. We loved eating on the beach and afterwards jumping the waves. We loved sitting on the beach looking at the wildlife and talking with the staff.
The hotel it's just amazing. The staff provides everything you need to make your stay unforgettable.
The room was as expected and the views amazing. The restaurant in Playitas beach a plus.
Can't wait to have the chance to come back.
Families will love the two outdoor pool, which overlook the Pacific Ocean. Lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas surround the pool decks.
Within Manual Antonio National Park are a series of beaches but the park and the beach close at 4 p.m. Public beaches can also be found nearby.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Arenas del Mar employs their own knowledgeable naturalist who will escort you around Manuel Antonio National Park. The joy of walking with a naturalist, especially one with a scope, is that you can see that rare green lizard, tarantula or large grasshopper hiding in the bush. Most people simply zip by these intriguing critters on their way to the beach. There's a good chance you'll also spot white-faced and/or howler monkeys, sloths and even the occasional toucan.
The resort is happy to set up tours like ziplining, hiking, night wildlife tours and so much more for your family. Two onsite tours -- Making Tortillas and Easy Being Green -- are included in rates.
El Mirador Restaurant & Bar
Wake up in the morning and catch a golf cart to the lobby for an al fresco breakfast overlooking the Pacific. Start with fresh papaya, pineapple and cantaloupe, served with freshly baked pastries. Because the hotel is in Costa Rica, the coffee is rich and strong. Next, move on to the main breakfast offerings, such as the kid-favorite banana-cashew French toast, blackberry almond pancakes, eggs benedict and huevos rancheros. Breakfast is included in your rate.
El Mirador also serves dinner. Children will enjoy the Tico spaghetti, served in a tomato base with local farmers' cheese. Other entrees include a grilled steak with onions, tamarind-glazed half chicken and a tender panko-encrusted salmon.
Playitas Restaurant and Bar
For lunch, head to Playitas Restaurant, adjacent to the pool and beach. Family-friendly options include pizza, a grilled caprese sandwich, grilled chicken over a house salad and hamburgers. Afterward, you can stroll to the hammock and nap.
Gluten free options are available as well as in-room dining.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The hotel service was exceptional, from the front desk staff that helped book tours and restaurant reservations to the friendly waiters at both restaurants to the golf cart drivers who were waiting for you as soon as you called for a ride. It's the type of place that as soon as you arrive, they'll take care of all your worries and needs.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season rates apply from December through April, the dry season months on the Pacific Coast and time of year when the majority of North Americans want to travel to a warm-weather climate. If you can wait until the shoulder season months of May and June, the price will drop. In July and August, rates are further reduced since this is the "green season," the rainiest time of year. However, most of the rain usually comes in the late afternoon and evening, leaving you a day on the premises at a bargain price.
The resort is about three hours from San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport in the town of Quepos. Daniel Oduber QuirÃ³s in the Guanacaste region is more than four hours away. For a fee, an airport shuttle can be arranged with the hotel.
The resort is on such a steep incline that your only walk will be from your room to the beach. Otherwise, golf carts will pick you up to drop you off at the main lobby or other areas of the resort. You simply call the front desk and a golf cart will escort the family to and from your room. The cart drivers will stop and show the children monkeys and sloths if they spotted an animal.
For Mom and Dad
Treat yourself to a hot stone or couples massage, a soothing wrap or a facial, courtesy of the resort's spa, Las Brisas. Many of the treatments are done on a private section of the beach, where you'll relax to the sound of waves as they wash ashore. Who needs soothing music on a CD when you have the genuine sound?