Arenas del Mar

Manuel Antonio, Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica Book from

In the heart of Manuel Antonio, on a blissful beach, a luxurious and sustainable resort hotel - one of our absolute favourites
It’s as if, where the jungle meets the sea, you discover a folly created by some eccentric explorer rising from midst of the trees: tall columns and curving stairways entwined with lianas and creepers, lights glowing mysteriously through glass bricks. The reception area is a soaring wooden palanque lined with woven palms, crimson walls, elegant armchairs and a circular bar. An organic swimming pool forms a natural oasis; the airy restaurant’s windows make paintings of the rainforest beyond. Yet just 5 minutes away is Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica’s most visited. Go with resident naturalist Eduardo and you’ll gain fascinating insights into the wildlife, then return to Arenas del Mar’s own beautiful stretch of secluded beach: just the waves, birdsong and silence.

Elegant, sophisticated interiors are filled with original paintings; the food is exquisite; a spa offers superb massages and organic treatments; and many of the rooms have ocean views from the beds or balcony hot tubs. And yet it’s all rigorously sustainable. A unique find.


  • Fabulous setting: nowhere in Manuel Antonio has beach like this
  • Gorgeous design: the suites are beautiful, the restaurant very elegant
  • It's a great way to see local rainforest: Eduardo is an excellent guide, and gives superb morning bird watching tours in the hotel’s own reserve too
  • Delicious food, inspired cocktails
  • Local staff greet you like friends and treat you like a king
  • This is one of Costa Rica’s most exemplary hotels for sustainability and minimal environmental impact


  • There are no rooms with twin beds, though friends or children can use the sofabed in the living room of the suites
  • It’s an uphill walk to the rooms from the beach, but an electric cart will be summoned at a moment’s notice
  • No lift, though 3 rooms on the ground floor are adapted for disabled guests, and you can be whisked around in the golf trolley

Best time to go

The hotel is open all year. The dry season is December to April, when it’s hot with no rain, so it's great for the beach. This is the rainforest though, so there has to be a rainy season, and it’s April to November. In September and October, the rain is very heavy, November is still lovely and Thanksgiving brings lots of US guests, who stay for the following week. January, February and March are the busiest months. It's far better to come in May, when the rain is supposed to start, but it’s still very pleasant. Even then it only rains in the afternoons. Book a year ahead for Christmas and New Year.

Our top tips

Three nights is the average stay, which will allow a day at Manuel Antonio National Park, another active day’s adventure, and then a final day to rest at the hotel, though 5 days would be perfect, as Arenas del Mar really does offer a complete experience.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 38
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


The 7 blocks of suites are spread out along a winding path which descends from the reception area down to the beach, with another swimming pool and bar; so you can choose to be nearer the beach, or nearer the restaurant. The architecture is remarkable, fitting so organically with the rainforest all around it. All of the blocks will be covered with plants, as if reclaimed by the forest.

Yet inside, the design is smart, sophisticated and carefully considered. The 38 rooms and suites are elegant and welcoming: neutral walls and polished wood floors; lavish fabrics in warm colours, and white Egyptian cotton sheets. Original paintings by celebrated Costa Rican artists are inspired by the natural world.

Ocean Breeze Suites have a bedroom with a balcony and a pretty tiled hot tub. Along a corridor, there’s a sitting room with a sofabed, and a separate bathroom. Ocean View Premium Suites are similar, but they have an extra bathroom and (as the name suggests) views of the ocean.

Superior Rooms are also divided into ocean breeze or ocean view categories. They all have an ensuite bathroom, but no sitting room or Jacuzzi, though they're still quite spacious. The Garden Rooms similar, but are set furthest away from the ocean.

The bathrooms are gorgeous: ochre tiles, period lamps and glass bricks bring a 1920s feel. Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion) are provided in big bottles, and to be used with confidence: they’re excellent quality, biodegradable and organic. There are bathrobes too, and a hairdryer; you also get a safe, an LCD cable television, an Ipod dock, a well-stocked minibar, air-conditioning above your bed and living rooms have a fan.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Microwave
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries


The El Mirador restaurant seems to merge seamlessly both with the more organic bar area and with the rainforest seen through its cinemascope windows. Yet it’s a chic, very stylish space.

Polished stone floors, dark hardwood high-backed chairs, well dressed tables, and contemporary fabrics come in pale olive green, and chocolate brown, with some splashes of warm colour. A series of interconnecting, open-sided rooms give guests a choice of atmosphere, all subtly-lit; and wildlife is ever present, with trees growing through the roof, as if the jungle might reclaim it at any moment. The sound of the ocean mingles with gentle Costa Rican music (you’ll want to buy it in the shop afterwards).

The dinner menu is quite exceptional for Costa Rica in remaining faithful to native ingredients and flavours, while cunningly introducing some international elements. Chef Olmos Dixon has created lots of surprises from his locally-sourced organic produce: a terrific Mangospacho soup; freshest tuna sashimi, and a divine Pacific lobster and cayote escabeche. Try the sea bass with garlic, ginger and chives, or the spice-encrusted pork tenderloin with a guava glaze. The wine list is excellent and well-chosen, with some superb Argentine and Chilean bottles. This is a truly relaxing and uplifting place to dine.

Light and delicious lunches are served in Playitas bar restaurant down by the beach and the lower pool. Open 10am to 5pm, it serves a different menu - more salads, wraps and sandwiches, and some hot dishes. There are great cocktails too, right on the beach.

Breakfast is a treat, starting with a good plate of tropical fruits, fresh juice, tea (in pots!) and excellent organic shade-grown coffee from sister hotel Finca Rosa Blanca. Follow this with a little basket of home baked breads and pastries, and a choice of hot dishes, including Costa Rican favourites and international staples. Our rice and beans with fried plantain and eggs was excellent. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, who take pride in welcoming you to this very Costa Rican restaurant.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Microwave
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • The highlight is obviously Manuel Antonio National Park - Costa Rica’s smallest, with lots to see if you know where to look. And Eduardo Valverde knows. He’s the hotel’s resident guide and naturalist, and extremely knowledgeable and personally fascinated (unlike so many guides operating in the park). He’ll find monkeys, 2 kinds of sloths, and the famous red-eyed tree frog - among a myriad of other species

  • Arenas del Mar has its own 5-acre nature reserve where Eduardo guides walks which enable you to see yet more species not seen in the National Park: porcupines, snakes, owls, more frogs, and monkeys at close quarters. The reserve is planted with native species to reproduce the forest that was originally here, and give a habitat to indigenous animals

  • Highly recommended is the 6am bird-watching tour around the hotel, when Eduardo manages to find an astonishing array of tanagers, robins, hummingbirds, flycatchers, woodpeckers, toucanets and hawks in his powerful scope. The night walk will convert even arachnophobes: you’ll see opossums, kinkajous, cats, snakes like boa constrictors, frogs and even - if you wish - tarantulas

  • Take a hike to Villa Nueva waterfall - 2 beautiful falls that converge at the same spot. You need to be in good shape but it's great for wildlife and birds

  • Take a trip to visit the local community: see schools and organic farms, have breakfast with the locals, milk a cow and generally get involved

  • Thrill-seekers will want to try the canopy tour for a birds-eye view of the trees, and follow magical trails through the forest. Breakfast or lunch is included

  • Kayak through mangrove swamps to see huge numbers of birds close up

  • Learn to surf, right on the beach. The fantastic teachers won’t make you feel like an idiot

  • Go white-water rafting for a day (you have a choice of rivers and grades)

  • Horse-riding through the jungle to waterfalls can also be organised

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Wildlife


Children of all ages will love it here. There is a separate pool close to the beach for children to swim in safely (sea swimming carries an occasional risk of rip tides). A snack bar by the beach will take care of lunch. Manuel Antonio National Park is magical for children, and it's one of the country’s most accessible. Plus the walks in the hotel grounds with Eduardo, the hotel’s guide, are fascinating.

Children under 6 years of age share parents' room for free, including breakfast. Children 6 years and older will be charged the full rate for room and meals.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Two of the room categories have pull out sofabeds: Ocean View Premium Suite and Ocean Breeze Suite. If you book a room near to the beach you will be able to watch your children play in the pool from your balcony.

Children's meals:

The restaurant is wonderfully accommodating if you have dietary requirements, and there are options for children.

Kid Friendly:

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