Last June, my family, including my in-laws, took an amazing trip to Manuel Antonio National Park, in Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio is on the Pacific coast and about a three-hour drive from San Jose, the capital. We flew direct to San Jose from Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines. Because of the distance, we decided to stay in San Jose on our first and last nights in Costa Rica and opted to stay at the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose. It was only ten minutes from the airport and absolutely perfect for our family. The hotel itself is gorgeous, with Spanish Colonial architecture and acres of beautiful tropical landscaping. The kids and I jumped into one of their two inviting pools as soon as we checked in. Taking in my surrounding from the shallow end, I let out a big breath and truly felt my vacation had begun. Since the hotel is in the suburbs of San Jose, we were anxious to actually check out the city. However, after having spent a bit of time driving through San Jose on our way back from Manuel Antonio, I would recommend passing up any hotels in the city or spending any significant time there. If you are flying into San Jose and have to stay in the area before moving on, stay at this beautiful Marriott.
The next day after breakfast, we arranged for a van to take us to Tulemar Resort in Manuel Antonio. On arrival, we were met by an employee of the hotel, Orlando, who we would get to know quite well during our week’s stay. He showed us to our two-story bungalow in the Buena Vista Casas. The first thing I noticed about the place was the views from the large balcony. We were perched slightly over the jungle canapé and had panoramic ocean views. It was so stunning it was enough to make anyone cry from happiness! Orlando truly made our stay outstanding. He took care of whatever we needed and would find me daily, whether I was at the beach, by the pool or back in my bungalow, to see how he could make our stay perfect. We planned excursions through him like zip-lining, trips to the farmer’s market, and the national park (the entrance was a five-minute drive away). He also made dinner reservations for us at the local restaurants. The kids especially loved him and would jump up and down yelling out “ORLANDO, ORLANDO” at the site of him.
Tulemar is build on the side of a steep hill, so getting to the beach or the resort entrance is a bit of a workout. That was all the daily exercise we needed. There were vans to take us around whenever we needed them. On one of our treks up to our bungalow from the beach, we met a very nice dreadlocked Frenchman. He told us he was one of the staff at the Sloth Institute located inside of Tulemar. Since he was a sloth expert, we had many questions for him. He was very kind and taught us a lot about these beautiful animals. We felt very fortunate to have run into him.
We spent a day in Manuel Antonio National Park. We hired a guide at the entrance after much negotiation over price. She carried a telescope which allowed us to see every detail of even a tiny insect up close. We couldn’t understand how she was able to find and point out insects, birds and other animals that were hidden in the jungle so well. The kids loved seeing the various types of spiders up close, including a tarantula. There were many hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty and lengths. The trails lead to different beaches. Because we had a four-year-old with us, we couldn’t do too much in the way of hiking. We ended up hiking to the first beach (which took 30 minutes) and letting our guide go. No one minded because the beach was wonderful. We did, however, have to be on continuous guard from the capuccin monkeys, who were fond of running off with people’s belongings. Both my children were thoroughly entertained by the utter cheekiness of these monkeys! All in all, we spent such a wonderful day here. If we had stayed in Manuel Antonio longer, I would have loved to go on more extensive hikes through the park and visit some of the other beaches.
My husband and I took my six-year-old son zip-lining with El Santuario Canopy Adventure Tour. I can’t adequately describe what an amazing experiance it was for all of us. This particular zip-lining company has the longest zip-line in Central America. It was all over the jungle canopy! I felt like a bird soaring above the tall trees. It was absolute heaven! I was nervous before the first zip-line, but wanted to go again as soon as possible afterwards. Of course, my six-year old was fearless as only a boy can be. He wanted to be the first one to try every line. The lunch this company provided was surprisingly delicious. Arroz con pollo with plantains were prepared by an old lady using a makeshift outdoor kitchen. I think it was one of my favorite meals of my entire trip. Once we got back to our bungalow and described the experience to my mother-in-law, she booked a zip-lining tour for the very next day. We all felt that soaring like a bird over the jungle was a one-in-a-lifetime thing.
We went during the rainy season, and were worried that we would be stuck inside our bungalow with the children. Fortunately, it was mostly beautiful and sunny during the day and would only intermittently rain in the evenings. This trip was perfectly suited for my six and four year-old. In fact, it contained the perfect ingredients to make a wonderful and memorable trip for all of us. The kids got to see and learn about the animals in the nature reserve, hike through the jungle, swim everyday, and go zip-lining. The adults got to experience all those things but also get a huge dose of relaxation and beautiful scenery. We spent so much time out in the balcony of our bungalow just lounging about with books or pointing out the various animals that we spotted in the trees like capuccin and squirrel monkeys, iguanas, macaws and all kinds of tropical birds. My children talk about this trip often, even six months later and want to return…..I do too!