“Every sunset is an opportunity to reset”. – Richie Norton

Exhausted and achy after 13 hours of travel, we finally arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio. It had been an extremely long day, especially for the kids, but we were all in high spirits to finally arrive at our much-awaited destination. I had been wanting to go to Manuel Antonio ever since I first visited Costa Rica in 2011 on a volunteer trip. A group of fellow volunteers had went for a weekend but as a mother of young children, I could not afford to be gone any longer than a week. I had to go home despite a deep unfilled wish of seeing it.

Fast forward 6 years, in the midst of planning our 9 day family adventure in Costa Rica that long seeded desire to visit Manual Antonio National Park arose from hibernation and a little voice kept telling me I had to finally go see it even if it would require a significant amount of time spent in the car driving. As I mentioned in my past post, we flew into Liberia Airport in the north of the country and to reach Manuel Antonio required a long five hour drive down a one-way highway snaking in and out of little beach towns. Yet I had my heart set on seeing Manuel Antonio so the plan was made to get the long drive out of the way immediately on the front end of our trip. I can thank my husband for his wise thinking.

Our route

The entire drive down to Manuel Antonio I secretly wondered if I would truly be satisfied by visiting. I had just spent a week in the remote, undeveloped Osa Peninsula in January and literally had the place to myself. Its raw, untouched beauty and lack of mass tourism made it a paradise on earth and supported my mission to travel responsibly by engaging in sustainable, ethical travel. Manuel Antonio would be quite different as it is known as the first ecotourism destination in Costa Rica so the area has suffered over the years with mass tourism, overdevelopment, and unsustainable practices that have negatively impacted the culture, environment and wildlife of this magical place. A complicated feeling of guilt mixed with pleasure swirled around inside my head.

When we arrived in Quepos, the bustling town located right outside of the park, it was clear that it was nothing at all like Puerto Jimenez in the Osa Peninsula. Street after street was packed with souvenir shops, restaurants and an overwhelmingly amount of tourists. My stomach dropped in initial disappointment yet I should not have been surprised based on all I had read.

We drove the 4 1/2 miles (7 km) through town, constantly avoiding cars and people, climbing up the lush green rain forested hills of Manuel Antonio. Resort after resort dotted the tiny road with gates and security guards and pristine landscaping. I confess it was beautiful yet a stark difference between the tiny town of Drake Bay in the Osa whose sweeping views of rainforest and jungle are unobstructed.

We pulled into the gates of our resort and were relieved to finally be there. After much research and careful consideration, we decided to stay at one of the best resorts in town, Tulemar Vacation Rentals. It would be a far cry from my cheap, local lodging in the Osa and would not exactly follow my mission of staying and supporting local travel. Yet it would have some clear advantages over some of the other choices in the area. First, we would have our own private villa with one large bedroom, a large balcony and a kitchen. Second, we would be in walking distance to all the restaurants so we did not need to rent a car. And lastly and perhaps the most essential is that the resort has its own private beach and park reserve. Unfortunately the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio are very small, overcrowded with hardly a place to relax. Having our own beach away from all the crowds to relax and unwind sounded amazing. I just had to fight with that little voice inside my head reminding me I was staying at a gated compound instead of at a locally-owned ecolodge. (Side note: After thinking about this issue extensively, I contacted Tulemar via email with a list of questions about their sustainability practices. I got some excellent information which I will share in my next post on Tulemar). 

We checked in, and loaded our luggage into one of Tulemar’s vans to bring us to our Villa. I naively thought we could walk but the complex is huge and the roads throughout it are extremely steep. So steep that my calves ached walking to and from the beach (you can of course take the van but I preferred to walk). It is also quite large with lots of different accommodations and even a few privately owned homes. I hadn’t expected it to be so big! There are even a few different pools within the complex depending on your need (a family, adults only, and the sunset pool).

We reached our villa just as the sun was beginning to make its initial descent. We walked out on the large balcony and were rewarded with an astounding view of the jungle and sea below. It made our long day of travel completely worth the effort.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals

The view from our balcony

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The balcony is huge with a couch, dining table and best of all a hammock with an unbelievably gorgeous view.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The view

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

My favorite place of all – the hammock

Inside, we had a full kitchen, living area with a sleepable couch, and a beautiful bedroom with two queen beds and bathroom. It would be perfect for our family of four.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The living space

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The bedroom

As the sun cast its beautiful hues of pinks, oranges and golds, I popped open a bottle of red wine and watched the sunset with my family. The birds were singing, and a pair of nesting scarlet macaws flew overhead. In that moment, I knew we were off to an incredible  adventure in Costa Rica. Our first big family trip was going to be amazing.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Stay tuned….the next morning was an early rise to take a small guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with a highly recommended naturalist (who ranks in the top five “things to do on TripAdvisor” in Manuel Antonio National Park!).


  1. Brings back great memories, Nicole, and makes me calves ache in remembrance. 🙂 We had a hire car/van from the airport to Quepos, but walked almost everywhere else. When we did the horseback ride, the father of the young man who owns the horses drove us there in his taxi and helped his wife fix us a wonderful lunch. The trip to the spice plantation included a ride with the owner. Oh, I do wish to be sitting at Care Milagros again! 🙂


    1. I bet you had such a wonderful time Janet. Yes that Cafe Miagro was so wonderful. Loved that place and loved the beaches. The spice plantation sounds fascinating.

      1. It was. I found out about in online and my daughter said later that she didn’t think it would be very interesting, but it was.

      2. So good that you gave it a try. I always am amazed by some of the unique experiences and tours you can find while traveling.

  2. What an incredible view — I suspect you would say it was worth the drive, and the sore calves? I’m also eager to hear your impressions of Manuel Antonio National Park. Has it been well-preserved by careful and sustainable ecotourism? Or like so many formerly pristine places, has it been loved to death? I’ll stay tuned to find out! In the meantime, MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS for the beautiful photos, and for taking us along.

    1. Thank you so much! I haven’t gotten around to part 2 yet but yes everything was worth it. It was really a great trip. As for the park, I will answer that in the next post. Will have to keep you waiting! 🙂

      1. Suspense is a wonderful thing …
        I will try to be patient! 🙂

      2. Finally better and just in time as I’m in Haiti now. Thank goodness I am no longer so sick. Almost had to cancel the trip!

  3. Sounds wonderful, Nicole! We had a very memorable time in Manual Antonio years ago with our kids also. Although we drove from a different airport, I remember that day 1 drive just as you describe yours – long and slow and bumpy! We stayed at one of the first eco-resorts (no A/C and lots of other sustainable features) and loved our time in the park with an amazing guide. Your post brought back good memories!

    1. I can’t wait to write my next post and see how the park is now compared to what it was like. I’m thinking it was much less crowded! 🙂

      1. I do think we hit Costa Rica before it became super popular, so we had fewer crowds. But it was just waiting to happen because it’s very kid-friendly, close, and stable! Look forward to your post.

      2. Yes so incredibly lucky! I bet Manuel Antonio was like it is now in the Osa Peninsula. Very few tourists and not very developed.

  4. Hello Nicole,
    Firstly, such beautiful captures. It really conveys the serenity you describe in this lovely post. The accommodation still looks like it’s been placed in the middle of the jungle.
    Reading and learning about a place so far removed from anything I know is such a treat. I can only imagine what it’s like to be witnessing this in person 🙋🏻🌟🌟

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the post Di! Means a lot. I loved it there. Costa Rica is so magical. You are lucky to have jungle and rainforest in Australia. It truly is a magical environment.

      1. Hi Nicole, yes it’s an amazing environment. I’m sure you were able to visit some perhaps in Queensland when you came. And now you have a new adventure 🌍🌟🌟

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