Our third stop on the great Costa Rican tour was Manuel Antonio. After spending a few days in the chilly Cloud Forest of Monteverde, the beachy Manuel Antonio was definitely a welcome change.
We chose to stay at Gaia Hotel & Reserve in Manuel Antonio and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The hotel was on top of a massive hill surrounded by a nature reserve funded by the hotel owner. To get to the hotel, you have to take a golf cart up the hill. The hotel rooms are all around the outside of a few different buildings on different levels. In the center there is a magnificent infinity pool and an open air restaurant with a fantastic view (see above). At night, the sunset was so beautiful. Unfortunately my crap camera never did capture its full beauty, but I tried every night about 100 times.
Gaia Hotel made exploring Manuel Antonio very easy. Since parking near the beach was pretty difficult, they offered a free shuttle down to the beach and an attendant at the beach that brought out chairs and stored our stuff for us when we went out to explore. I will warn, our day at the beach was pretty overcast, so I wasn’t as prudent with sun screen as I should have been. The result was probably the worst sun burn I’ve ever had. Even with cloud cover, Costa Rican sunshine is no joke.
Around the beach, there are a few cute beach restaurants, but mostly, I recommend enjoying the less populated sections of the beach. Just beyond the restaurants is the Manuel Antonio National Park. Walking through the park, you’ll come across sloths, monkeys, and lizards. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll be forced by your weird travel companion to watch one lizard eat another lizard for 20 minutes while he records it on his phone….
If you walk passed the most populated beach areas in the park, you’ll come to some huge open beaches rarely frequented by tourists. The path unfortunately dead ends on the beach. You have to loop back around (we learned this the hard way), but there are probably worse experiences out there than doing a beautiful walk through a rain forest twice.
Being that Gaia Hotel offered such a fantastic experience, we spent a lot of time on the Reserve, particularly after my sunburn from the beach. The hotel offers hikes with guides to explain the wildlife, a discount at the spa, and I really never did get over that view towards the ocean.