1000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE CALENDAR
Tuesday 6 December 2016
Manuel Antonio National Park
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Of Costa Rica’s constellation of national parks, Manuel Antonio is a pocket-size gem. Though just 1,680 acres, it is one of the country’s most heavily visited parks, with idyllic, easily accessible white sand beaches that offer snorkeling and diving in rich coral reefs, surfing, and fishing, all in addition to access to rain forest–clad mountains. The park is one of the last remaining habitats for the red-backed squirrel monkey and home to 200 species of birds and 100 kinds of mammals, including sloths and bold, white-faced capuchin monkeys that love to pester beachgoers.
La Mariposa, one of the first hotels in the area, nabbed the best location—a dramatic aerie above the sea. Many of the rooms and the split-level Mediterranean-style villas have magnificent mountains-to-sea panoramas, which can also be enjoyed by nonguests who come for drinks or an alfresco meal at sunset.
The area’s most stylish hotel is Arenas Del Mar, newly built on a forested hillside sloping down to the ocean. The brainchild of Teri and Glenn Jampol, two of the leaders of Costa Rica’s sustainable tourism movement, the 38-room hotel offers spectacular beach and nature activities and the highest levels of comfort and sustainability—along with a small but perfect spa. Contemporary Costa Rican cuisine served at the open-air El Mirador restaurant might include spiced pumpkin soup, fresh snapper with green plantain and tomato sauce, and a rich coconut–macadamia nut tart. The Jampols’ first property is the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn, a half-hour drive north of the capital city of San José. The eccentric 13-room inn is surrounded by 30 acres of certified organic, shade-grown coffee; guests can tour the plantation and join in a catación—coffee-tasting—to learn more about the taste and quality of Costa Rican beans.
Where: 116 miles/180 km south of San José. Hotel La Mariposa: Tel 506/2777-0355; in the U.S., 800-549-0157. Cost: from $155 (off-peak), from $215 (peak). Arenas Del Mar: Tel 506/2777-2777. Cost: from $260 (off-peak), from $330 (peak). Finca Rosa Blanca: Tel 506/2269-9392; in the U.S., 305-395-3042. Cost: from $250 (off-peak), from $295 (peak). Best times: Dec–Mar and Jun–Aug are dry months.