Tight on Time? Here’s Where to Experience the Essence of Costa Rica

Compact in size it might be, but Costa Rica is home to enough wonders to keep you exploring and inspired for a lifetime. And with so much to discover, it’s no surprise that the country has famously become a multi-stop destination. But that’s not to say you can’t experience the essence of Costa Rica in one single destination. 

Sometimes seeing it all in one trip is not an option. You might be tight on time or in need of an easy trip, especially if you’re traveling with kids. That’s why we advise our guests, if you can’t see it all, just visit Manuel Antonio. And if you can experience it the Cayuga Way, you’ll almost certainly come back someday for more.

So why Manuel Antonio?

Aside from being easy to reach (20-min domestic flight or 2½-hour drive from San José), Manuel Antonio offers almost everything you could ever ask for from a trip to Costa Rica. And everything else – including cloud forests and volcanoes – is just an easy day trip excursion away.

Nature & Wildlife

Located right where the rainforest meets the ocean on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio’s nature and biodiversity is impressive. And it’s accessible too. Here you don’t have to hike to the depths of the jungle to experience its magic. You can discover it all at Manuel Antonio National Park – Costa Rica’s most popular – or equally, stay put at your resort soaking up the nature and letting some of our most iconic wildlife come to you.

At our Cayuga Collection property in Manuel Antonio, Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort, it’s not uncommon for guests to see sloths from their terraces, monkeys in the nearby trees while they enjoy breakfast and all manner of other wildlife including iguanas and tree frogs on their walks through the hotel down to the beach.

Beach & Ocean

What makes Manuel Antonio even more of a tropical paradise is that it’s not just rainforest. Here the rainforest spills out directly onto the beach where the sands are sprawling and the waters are warm.  If you’re all about your chilled beach time, you’ll appreciate the area’s secluded Playitas Beach, accessible exclusively to guests of Arenas Del Mar (the only beachfront hotel in town). If you’re more about the water sports, neighboring Espadilla Beach makes a great location to learn to surf, while Biesanz Beach provides a peaceful setting to paddleboard and snorkel. An hour south and you’ll find some world-class whale watching too from June through October.

Tropical Adventures

Often referred to as Costa Rica’s adventure capital, in Manuel Antonio you’ll find enough to do for every day of the month. True to its reputation, a stay in Manuel Antonio can be an adventure-fuelled few days if you choose it to be – think zip lining, horseback riding, mountain biking, rafting, surfing, coasteering, hikes, night walks, waterfalls and everything in between. There’s no need to hop around the country when it’s all here.

You can discover some Manuel Antonio adventure favorites here.

Pura Vida “Pure Life” Culture

In Costa Rica, pura vida is a lifestyle. It’s our laidback way of going about our day-to-day, of being thankful for our beautiful surroundings, and open with the people around us. Unsurprisingly, it’s amplified in the beachfront paradise that is Manuel Antonio. Without mingling with the locals it might be hard to experience, but choose a Manuel Antonio resort such as Arenas Del Mar that puts service at the heart of what they do, and you’ll feel the legendary pura vida reflected in every element of your stay.

Costa Rican Cuisine

You don’t have to travel all over the country to get an authentic taste of Tico cuisine. But you do have to choose somewhere with an appreciation for Costa Rica’s bounty. In Manuel Antonio, you’ll find endless culinary variety, plenty of exotic dishes, and being by the ocean, you can expect some of our best seafood too.

If food is an important element of your travel experience you’ll want to dine somewhere that pushes the boundaries so you’re not just eating rice and beans. You might also need to consider dietary requirements. Whether you’re a guest or not, the two restaurants at Arenas Del Mar will give you the best taste of national cuisine that you can find. Using responsibly sourced products from close to home such as fish caught through the Dock to Dish program, food here doesn’t get more delicious. And with beachfront themed nights including street food and barbecues, it’s playful and memorable too.


Ready to experience everything Costa Rica without having to go far? Our Travel Advisors can help you plan your ideal Manuel Antonio itinerary, including rainforest adventures and plenty of beach time. Chat to us or drop us an email at reservations@arenasdelmar.com to start planning!

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Hans Pfister

Co-owner & President