Arenas del Mar, offers an idyllic Costa Rican resort experience. A bit of five star laid back luxury blends harmoniously within an ecologically restored private nature reserve coastal rainforest. Located in the Manuel Antonio area, Arenas del Mar is a perfect spot for a romantic honeymoon or couples retreat. Where once a plantain farm had pushed out native animal and plant species, now spacious suites with aquamarine ocean views sit amidst trees shared with exotic wildlife including howler, white-faced, and squirrel monkeys, two and three toed sloths, and exquisitely vibrant tropical birds.
A full resort experience awaits with full service restaurants, an intimate spa, access to a private white sand beach, and two salt-water swimming pools. With countless outdoor activities throughout the surrounding area, true eco adventures await for families as wells as for couples.
From the moment of our arrival we were made to feel special. Our taxi drove us along a meandering lane down into the jungle to arrive at a large, open air, thatched roof visitors Welcome Pavillion where beverages and soft lounge furniture made us feel right at home in this lovely, wild place. Since cars are not allowed on the property, all guests enter from this point where, in a few short moments, we were picked by one of the super friendly host staff in an electric cart. Immediately as we drove along through the forest, we began to be greeted by monkeys and birds, as if they too were part of the welcoming committee.
Our first stop was to the resort’s main Reception and Lounge. This is another grand, open air, thatched roof structure reminiscent of a jungle temple furnished with Architectural Digest worthy design details, housing a restaurant, spa, Tiendita (small gift store), and a large pool with spectacular cliff edge views of the ocean.. The concierge staff took a few minutes to fill us in on all the possibilities for adventure so they could arrange a hassle free, relaxing experience for us for the next few days.
Our room was a heavenly second floor Ocean View room with, as the name implies, wonderful views of the ocean framed by trees, along with the melody of forest birds singing to the rhythm of lapping waves. The room was decorated with pure white and natural materials accented by a large bird of paradise image. A 122 square foot covered balcony with an outdoor kitchenette and relaxing seating area, made a great place for morning tea and coffee. A spacious two person round shower was tiled with lovely ceramic mosaics. Super comfy, high quality bedding allowed us a great nights sleep while being serenaded by nature like we were out in the open.
As if all these amenities weren’t enough, unique to this room was a joyful surprise that awaited us that afternoon just as the first drops of the daily rain began to patter on the leaves. Being the last building on the end of the developed property, a large side window overlooked the rainforest. In restoring this rainforest, a corridor was created for the wildlife to access the ocean, and their highway ran right by our window! In the late afternoon, rush hour began and a band of monkeys came swinging by on their way back to the deep forest after a busy day along the oceanfront. To our delight, they would pause and chatter at us and each other, then move on towards their destination. And, like clockwork, rush hour came again the next morning just about 7 am.
We took our meals late morning by the pool at the Playitas Restaurant, and one late night romantic dinner at the 5 star El Mirador Restaurant. To our delight all of our meals where healthy, organically grown, creatively rendered nouveau versions of local Costa Rican offerings.
Of course we could spend all day at the pristine beaches or blissful saltwater swimming pools.
but other on-property fun included a walk along the Rain Forest Hawk Trail, a bird watching tour, an authentic tortilla making experience, and an “Easy Being Green” tour.
This last tour revealed to us exactly the behind the scenes look at the management’s commitment to sustainability that we were after. We visited the property’s native plant nursery, (they have an intensive reforestation program), and hydroponic vegetable gardens. At the recycling center we learned the management’s philosophy for reducing waste and eliminating chemical fertilizers. Organic wastes are used in the vermiculture and compost area. A state of the art treatment plant purifies water leaving the property so it will not affect the surrounding water sources. Energy conservation and carbon emission reduction is practiced with high efficiency lighting, solar powered hot water heaters, and all electric vehicles. Water management is handled with conserving low flow toilets and faucets, and the use of non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products. Building materials such as roof shingles and many furnishings were sourced from recycled or rapidly renewable natural materials.
The incredible array of activities that can be arranged by the Arenas del Mar concierge staff include tours of Manuel Antonio National Park, a Mountain Adventure tour, White Water Rafting, Kayaking, a Canopy zip line tour, Whale Watching tour, Butterflies Botanical Garden tour, Amphibians Aquatic Garden tour, and a tour of a certified organic/biodynamic vanilla farm. This is ecotourism at it’s best – nature activities and learning experiences that all, in some way, support sustainability and preserve the natural ecosystem.
With the help of the Arenas del Mar staff, Jon took advantage of the waves at the Manuel Antonio Playa Espidilla surf break a little south near a rock formation offshore. Later, after an informative group tour in the National Park, we broke off from the others and discovered a side trail that, after a humid, buggy (as to be expected), 1/2 mile hike in and out of a stream, found a wonderful, refreshing waterfall. One note of warning here; the monkeys in the park are truly “wild” in that they will come after your food, in or out of a backpack or bag, and will get rather furious with each other fighting over it. It happens time and again when animals have been fed by humans, that their behavior and eating patterns are affected so adversely. So, please don’t feed the animals wherever you may travel. It is better for all concerned that they stick to their natural diet.
Thanks to Arenas del Mar’s visionary owners Glenn and Teri Jampol, and the great management team at Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, Arenas del Mar excels over all other eco-lodging we have visited to date, surpassing only one other property also managed and owned by the same group. We offer our appreciation for their dedication and determination in continually restoring and preserving damaged ecosystems, and thoughtfully, eco-consciously creating the means for the rest of us to experience nature in beautiful, luxurious surroundings.