Just Follow the Yellow Brick Road

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.

Which way to go!?

Which way to go!?

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!)
  • Expensive.

    The trip is worth it 100X over!

    The trip is worth it 100X over!


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!


Top notch service in Manuel Antonio

Why is service at Arenas Del Mar so good?

If you take sometime and Read the Trip Advisor comments on Arenas Del Mar in Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, it becomes clear that our visitors appreciate the level of service which Costa Ricans (“Ticos) strive to provide.

Excellent service is a minimum standard goal, and that is instilled in all of us at Arenas Del Mar. My own business career has spanned 40 plus years across a few different industries and around the globe. I have never witnessed such goal congruence between staff, management and owners.  It is a source of great pride.

How was this achieved?  Here are a few reasons:

100% of our employees are Ticos or long time legal residents. That’s a rule. Always has been: always will.

  • We have 107 full-time employees for just a 38 room hotel.
  • The hotel management company is the boutique Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, formed, and still operated by 2 Locals who studied Hotel Management at the preeminent Cornell School of Hotel Management in Ithaca, New York (…on Cayuga Lake!). They control all recruitment and training, even of senior management and the management team demand the highest standards from everyone at all times.
  • Arenas del Mar is widely recognized as the top employer in the region. Many employees that have left for various resaons often reapply and want to come back. Ptograms such as career paths and ongoing cross training at other Cayuga properties are highly valued by the staff.
  • Our salaries and benefits are top. We have a waiting list for almost all jobs, members of this community want to work here.
  • Some examples:
    • More than a third of our staff live on-site
    • The tough workout regimen at 6.45am most days is voluntarily attended by many. Guests are always invited to join in; it is a thrill for guests and staff alike.
    • During the green season, all staff with a certain longevity of employment are invited once a year to stay at the hotel with their families, in the best available room. Their coworkers invariably treat them as Kings and Queens.
    • We close the hotel one night a year for staff training, recognition and motivation exercises.

A quote from a young front desk concierge who was complimented by a guest. His reply was:

“You’re not staying at the hotel where I work. You’re staying with my family in ours”

(His points of emphasis, not mine.)

Staff members pose with a pleased guest

The staff is what makes all the difference to guests at Arenas Del Mar.

This list could go on and on, but let me close with one special reason. Manuel Antonio is home to one of the world’s Top 20 Beaches of the World (Travel and Leisure). Just before the hotel opened in 2007, the view along our beach and across the bay towards Cathedral Point was listed in the book “One thousand things to do before you die”.

A waiter said to me, early one morning, when he was setting the outside dining room tables for breakfast: “When I arrive here each morning, I always walk out here, take in the view, and realize how very lucky I am to work….in paradise”.

When you come to stay, you also will understand why.

Where to go in Costa Rica?

The Costa Rican Traveller’s Dilemma

If North Americans and Europeans go to the Caribbean for vacation, they invariably choose one small island and stay there for 1-2 weeks. But Costa Rica is different because there are so many wonderful and varied things to do.

So visitors to this country are tempted to say: “This is my first, and perhaps only, time that I will be in Costa Rica, so I want to do it all.” OK, please, pause for one moment……

There is a continuum among our guests from activity junkies at one end to sloth-like beach lovers at the other end. You can probably easily place yourself on this continuum. Happily married couples are frequently way apart in their positioning, which has some intriguing implications.

With so much to see on vacation it's easy to forget to relax

With so much to see on vacation it’s easy to forget to relax

The activity junkies have to overcome some challenges. Costa Rica is not an easy country to get around. The transportation infrastructure is not as good as it should be. And this doesn´t make the less activity oriented traveller very happy.
The dilemma is this. Both positions are equally valid. But sometimes guests do not find the right balance for themselves and their loved ones. Sometimes I want to change my title at Arenas Del Mar from Hotel Partner to ´´Vice-President in charge of persuading guests to do less.

Collage of guests zip lining

Going to mid world adventures, right around the corner from Arenas Del Mar

A frequent comment that I hear from the guests at Arenas Del Mar is this: We´ve been in Costa Rica for a week. We´ve done so much stuff. It was great, but we are exhausted. This i sour last stop. It´s beautiful. It´s close to perfection. Why didn´t we plan to spend more time here? Way more than 50% of honeymooners in particular seem to express this regret.

Spend your time enjoying yourself!

Spend your time enjoying yourself!

So I want to make two challenges to those of you contemplating a trip to Costa Rica.
You don´t have to do it all on one trip. Visitors find Costa Rica to be such a fabulous vacation destination that more and more guests are repeat visitors. So decide what you really want to do. At Arenas Del Mar you have the possibility to do everything except visit the volcanoes and hot springs at Arenal.
• Secondly, and this is good advice for couples where one is an activity junkie and the other is seeking a relaxing and restorative vacation, please consider the lunch time rule! There is a lot of time between sunrise and lunchtime for the activity junkies to do almost everything that Costa Rica has to offer. But please get back for lunch on our private beach at Playitas. The beach is exquisite. The beauty is awe-inspiring. The ´´Monkey Business´´ is a very popular cocktail. The ocean is warm whether you want to swim, play in the waves or just dip your toes in. Those couples adopting the lunchtime rule will discover how wonderful and restful it is, and how romance just seems to flourish!

A culinary renaissance in Costa Rica | Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica has never been known for world-class cuisine, despite so many awesome, local, fresh ingredients. ¨Rice, beans and overcooked chicken¨ was all too frequently served. Yet recently the international magazine, Latin American Luxury, had a long article entitled ¨Costa Rica is waking up from its Culinary Slumber!” The article featured the Mirador restaurant at Arenas Del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort.

Fresh salsa with homemade tortilla!

Fresh salsa with homemade tortilla

This is the story of what happened:

Two of the hotel owners lived in Philadelphia, a serious foodie city. They themselves are also serious foodies. They challenged a dozen top Philly chefs to help create a great restaurant at Arenas Del Mar. The chefs accepted the challenge. One in particular, Chip Roman, agreed to lead the project. Chip has four restaurants in Philly, one of which, Blackfish, was previously named Top Restaurant by Philly Magazine.

Our hydroponic garden where we grow some of our ingredients!

Our hydroponic garden where we grow some of our ingredients!

Nobody realized it at the time, but the Project became an awesome and really fun example of cooperation between the two countries.

The deal was simple. No cash changed hands. Kitchen expertise was traded for a free luxury vacation for each chef and their loved one.

No stone was left unturned:

·         The chefs upgraded the equipment and the workflow of the kitchen.

·         They examined each vendor and recruited new ones. The 20 mile radius rule was adopted wherever feasible.

·         A new Costa Rican head chef, Adrian Cerdas, was hired and his exclusively Tico team began intensive training.

·         The menu was redesigned. It was brought up to international standards, without losing its Tico flavor.

·         The dining room was upgraded. And the waitstaff received extensive training.

·         The list of wines and cocktails was also upgraded.

·         The restaurant became the first in Central and South America to be certified by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness as having an excellent gluten-free capability.

A rare steak at El Mirador Restaurant

A rare steak at El Mirador Restaurant


Where are we now, almost two years later?

The Philly chefs have not only trained, but also inspired, everyone in the kitchen and dining room. The Tico team at the restaurant, working under the direction of Chip and Adrian, have risen to the challenge. The team is committed and is having a blast. Almost every week they Skype with Philadelphia to discuss certain dishes.

The excellence that has been learned has now also been transferred to Playitas, the hotel´s more casual restaurant on the beach.

The Philly chefs deserve our heartfelt thanks.

Four quotes sum up the great experience:

·         From Chip Roman:  “I would take this whole kitchen team and put them in any of my restaurants in Philadelphia”.


·         From a sous-chef: “Even though there is no great cooking school in Costa Rica, I feel as though I have studied at one of the best in the US.”


·         From the cocktail guy in the bar: “I have stolen her imagination”.


·         From the customers: “Wow!” or some variation thereof.

A selection of fruit for a light breakfast and cappuccino .

A selection of fruit for a light breakfast and cappuccino .


Your table awaits you in Manuel Antonio!

Culinary Experiences at Arenas del Mar

World class chefs bring culinary expertise to Costa Rica

Foodies take note! When you combine world class chefs with world class ingredients incredible things happen.

You won’t go hungry at Arenas del Mar.

We have so many different options at the resort for you and your family while staying with us, there is something for every mood and certainly something for every palate and dietary needs.

We are also socially and environmentally conscious when creating our food and we buy most of our food locally and whenever possible we buy organic. We have a hydroponic garden on our property that provides some of the greens on our menu. We use only grass-fed beef. We buy seafood from Costa Rican fisheries (that fish responsibly and avoid endangered species). We serve only South American, mostly organic or biodynamic, wines. We even use bamboo straws made by a local company.

Our Restaurants are :


A breathtaking  view that lets you down easy into a relaxation state while you eat. El Mirador overlooks Espadilla Beach, the Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean.

El Mirador restaurant serves breakfast and dinner using fresh, local ingredients. Start your day with our complimentary breakfast: fresh fruits, homemade granola, warm muffins and breads, eggs, pancakes and of course, Costa Rican coffee. Our dinner menu includes highlights such as locally caught fish and other delicacies at this authentic full-service Costa Rican restaurant.

So, what about lunch?

Well, we have created the Playitas Restaurant and Bar just for this time of the day!

Right next to our hidden  Playitas Beach on the lower part of our property, Playitas Restaurant serves a delicious lunch in an unforgettable setting. Sink your feet into the sand while you enjoy a fresh fruit smoothie and seared Pacific tuna salad. Choose a poolside table for a snack or sit in the shade of our restaurant.

You can also order room service or make arrangements for a private dinner in the property,  we are aware that food is a very important for an excellent holiday experience and we are here to create the perfect pairing of ambience and food available.

Celebrating wedding anniversaries in Manuel Antonio

The Greatest Family Vacation of the World!

Family vacation in Costa Rica

The Greatest Green Family Vacation of the World!

Arenas del Mar and its sister hotels in the Cayuga Collection are inviting you to come down south and help us create the greatest green and sustainable family vacation in the world! You an apply through the Cayuga Collection website to help us with this vision.

Only during a family vacation at Arenas del Mar would you be able to experience the wide eyes of children as they see their first live three toed sloth, or dolphin and then have a relaxing evening with delicious dinner in our restaurant El Mirador.

Arenas del Mar offers so many activities that bored kids will never be an issue, a few things you could do while staying with us are:

  1. Spend a day at the beach playing in the surf with your family.
  2. See wildlife up close at Manuel Antonio with one of our experienced local guides.
  3. Plant a tree in the nearby volunteer rainforest project to celebrate biodiversity and wildlife conservation.
  4. Take a break from the beach with an al-fresco lunch at Playitas Restaurant.
  5. Zoom through the forest on a canopy tour high above the treetops.
  6. Try horseback riding on the beach.


Hanging out with a Sloth in Manuel Antonio

Hanging out with a Sloth in Manuel Antonio

Furthermore, we at the Cayuga Collection, have seen first hand how a sustainable family vacation can leave a lasting impact on participants and we want your help to show others how green we can be.

Our participating properties are:
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula: Literally in the middle of the rainforest, surrounded by nature and wildlife, a true tropical Costa Rican experience.
Harmony Hotel Nosara: Laid back with yoga and spa for mum, amazing beach and surfing for everyone else, and the juice bar and sushi bar are not to be missed!
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Inn: Amazing culinary tours, birding, volcanoes, cloud forests and zip lines close at hand.
Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio: The best of both worlds, with rainforests and ocean on either side, full service spa, and outstanding food.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Lake Nicaragua: Choose a lake experience, with swimming, kayaking volcano explorations, exploring the streets of nearby Granada and Baseball with the local kids.
Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa: Family Surf Vacation or some horseback riding along the beach. Staying in your own private casita has many perks.
Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose: Exploring the vibrant capital city of Costa Rica, colonial charm with museums, theater and great restaurants close by.
You can apply here and deadline is May 17th.


Merry World Wild Life Day Everyone!!

Costa Rica is renowned internationally for its commitment to its natural parks and protected areas for the conservation and betterment of the native ecosystems and the natural capital. In the pacific region, where Arenas del Mar is located, you can visit a myriad of interesting and beautiful sites and our local guides will help you explore them and also inform you on the best ways and practices to preserve this treasure.

Howler monkey at Manuel Antonio

Howler monkey at Manuel Antonio

As an effort towards preservation around the globe On 20 December 2013, the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as World Wildlife Day, to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora.

You can find out more of this day at: http://www.wildlifeday.org/

In honor of this special day these are some of our suggestions towards preservation of the Wild Life that surrounds us:

Two White Faced Monkeys relaxing near Arenas Del Mar

Two White Faced Monkeys relaxing near Arenas Del Mar

  • Do not buy products derived from endangered flora or fauna species (i.e. fur, turtle eggs, turtle products, leather, ornamental plants, medicinal plants, etc).
  • Do not extract any products from any forest.
  • Protect nature, and report it to the proper authorities if you notice any illegal poaching (of flora or fauna).
  • Do not buy live flora or fauna that are endangered.

Manuel Antonio | Best Beaches in the World

Manuel Antonio is known for many things. Our pristine park, incredible wildlife viewing, delicious culinary delights, and also one of the 2015 Best Beaches In The World! TripAdvisor.com puts together a yearly roundup of the best beaches across the world and to our delight Manuel Antonio is number 17.

The rich coast view from Arenas Del Mar

The rich coast view from Arenas Del Mar

It should come as no surprise to anybody who has visited the area that our beach at Manuel Antonio is receiving world wide attention. The pristine sand, varied coastline, and warm water makes our beach an ideal spot for vacationing.

Arenas Del Mar is situated right on the beach which gives our guests the unique opportunity to enjoy the “Playita” as well which is a semi-private section of Manuel Antonio that most visitors never get to see due to the tide rising up over the point. Arenas Del Mar is the only hotel with access to the Playita at high tide.

Wading in the warm water of Manuel Antonio

Wading in the warm water of Manuel Antonio

Thanks to TripAdvisor for recognizing Manuel Antonio as one of the world’s greatest beaches!

Eco-Friendly Honey Moon for Valentine’s Day

A couple of our guests getting into the tico spirit.

We love Love at Arenas del Mar and the resort is specially fond of newly-wed couples,  the resort is not only designed with all the amenities for you and your other half to enjoy a relaxing experience after the stressful period of wedding planning, but it is also blessed with the most majestic natural beauty. Together, design and nature create a gorgeous backdrop for a perfect first chapter of your personal love story.

Also, if you have not tied the knot yet but are in the process of planning your big day Arenas del Mar can host your eco-friendly wedding. Weddings, as you may know,  have a big ecological footprint and if you are one that cares about our planet and its future you can live the organization of your ceremony and party to us.

We make sure that through our sustainable practices you have a wedding to remember with the less ecological impact possible. The facilities at Arenas Del Mar are best for small weddings of up to 25 guests, but we are happy to hold a very private ceremony just for you and your partner.

Furthermore, your honeymoon starts here, right after the ceremony, no need to move anymore, the fun begins as soon as you say I do.

The list of romantic activities you can have while at Arenas del Mar is a long one but here are a few examples:


  • Have lunch at Playitas Beach while enjoying the sound of the waves and the sea breezes.
  • Walk hand-in-hand along Espadilla Beach as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean.
  • Unwind in your suite’s Jacuzzi while looking out into the rainforest and enjoying spectacular Pacific sunsets.
  • Enjoy one of our famous Tico Sours at the Mirador Bar.
  • Be lulled by the sounds of the sea with a massage on the beach

    The beautiful beach of Manuel Antonio

    The beautiful beach of Manuel Antonio




Wildlife in Manuel Antonio, a guide by Arenas del Mar

Collage of tit monkey in the wild

The Manuel Antonio Region in Costa Rica hosts one of the most famous national parks in the Nation. The biodiversity in our own backyard is overwhelming and we have been featuring a few of our friendly neighbors over the last few months on this blog.

When you visit Arenas del Mar you can expect to be surrounded by birds, monkey, sloths, reptiles, all very friendly and interesting. We love our neighbors and coexist with them in the most respectful manner. Over the years we have been putting a guide of most of the plants and animals you can find in the region for you to enjoy and look at while you are at the resort, but you can also look at it before coming to see what you can expect from Manuel Antonio in terms of flora and fauna.

A bananaquit on top of a plant

So, take a look at the guide and familiarize yourself with our friends and neighbors, they enjoy having you here and every morning their chatter will be the signal that it is time to start a new day full of adventure at Arenas del Mar.

Here is the link to our very complete guide of plants and Animals: