What is the best way to get to Arenas Del Mar in Manuel Antonio near Quepos, Costa Rica? What I want to do here is to identify all your options, and then provide the flavor and the pros and cons of each. You can also consult the hotel website.
If you’re coming from N. America or Europe, you will get to one of the cities that have direct flights into San Jose, CR (SJO)…. New York, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Baltimore, LA Panama City etc. From there most airline services are daily, but some are less frequent. Some services are seasonal only.
After you arrive in SJO, (and after using the bathroom facilities in the terminal!), there are three choices
Get a local airline
Sansa or Nature Air, and fly over the mountains to Quepos. Then get a taxi or the hotel transfer van from the Quepos airport to Arenas Del Mar.
- Usually the fastest (2 hours), but not by much. It depends on the connecting flight schedules.
- Great views
- More expensive unless just one person travelling.
- Sometimes a hassle changing terminals in SJO.
- More stringent baggage weight restrictions.
- Subject to weather delays.
Get a hotel transfer
- Easily organized during the hotel reservation process.
- Minimum hassle from baggage claim at the airport to a welcome cocktail at Arenas Del Mar.
- Luxury air conditioned van for up to 6 people (or more) with drinks and snacks provided.
- Midway on the trip, at the Tarcoles bridge, you can stop and see the 25 or so very large crocodiles lounging on the mudbanks of the river below. Fascinating!
- Knowledgeable drivers always willing to share an introduction to their country.
- An up close feel for the country as you drive over the mountains.
- 2 ½ – 3 hours.
Rent a vehicle.
- More necessary if you are visiting multiple places while in Costa Rica.
- Satisfies those who feel the need to be “in control”.
- CR road signage and lighting are both poor, and so GPS is essential.
- 2 ½ -3 hours (plus wrong turn detours!)
There are some other points to consider:
- Most flights arrive in SJO between 11 am and 1pm and then again late afternoon. Set an alarm early and get on the earlier flight. Don’t complain. Just do it. You will not regret it. That way you can arrive with a few hours of daylight left, get your welcome cocktail, admire the stunning views and explore the property all in day light. It’s like adding an extra day to your vacation.
- Do I need a car while staying at the hotel? The simple answer is not really, unless you’re planning to do a lot of local touring while you’re here. Taxis or the hotel van can get you in and out of town easily, and at a much lower cost than a daily car rental charge. Tour companies invariably provide their own transportation to and from the hotel.
- The last part of the drive, no matter who is at the wheel, is always challenging and amusing. There is a right turn from the Quepos to Manuel Antonio National Park Road down the hill towards Arenas Del Mar. The initial part is a normal small road with the first glimpses of the fabulous views that you will soon be enjoying every day, all day long. Then, quite unexpectedly, there is a left turn which momentarily gives you the feeling of driving over an edge. (It’s always fun to hear self drive couples later relate their conversations at this point!) After this turn, it’s a ½ mile down a steep winding road to the Welcome Center. You leave your vehicle, get an iced drink and some cold wet face cloths and are immediately transported by golf cart through the rainforest, back up a hill to the Hotel Reception.
Welcome to Arenas Del Mar. Pura Vida!