Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

A Villa of our own at Tulemar in Manuel Antonio

“Family: Like branches in a tree we all grow in different directions but our roots remain as one.” – Unknown

After a fabulous morning exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, it was time to head back to our villa at Tulemar, a thirty-three acre residential resort located right in the heart of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.  After thorough research of all the options of where to stay with a family of four near the park, we chose to rent a villa on the Tulemar property and we could not have been more pleased. The beautiful property is home to its own private reserve of all sorts of wildlife, has its own private beach, several pools and a wide variety of accommodation choices depending upon your needs. It is the perfect place to create beloved family memories for our first big adventure abroad.

We selected a two-room villa that was perched high above the jungle overlooking the ocean below and not a far walk from the beach. It was a cozy home away from home and perhaps one of the most lovely accommodations we have ever stayed at. My kids were going to get a little spoiled having the best accommodations first however each place we stayed at during our week in Costa Rica proved to be special and unique.

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The Tulemar resort is so large that they offer a free shuttle service to get around and as much as I love to walk, the paved roads are very steep so we appreciated the van service. Thankfully we were not a very far walk from the best place of all on the property, the beach. Having a private beach was one of the main reasons why we chose to stay here. The beaches at Manuel Antonio are quite crowded and after our three hour morning tour, we were so hungry and tired that the last thing we wanted to do was hang out at the beach. Instead, we grabbed lunch at a local restaurant and then went back to relax a bit at Tulemar. We could visit the beach on our own time and best of all, watch the sunset there each night.

There are three ways to get to the beach. You can either take the shuttle, walk down the paved road or else explore the jungle trail that leads down to the beach. Dressed in our swim suits, sun hats and flip-flops, me and my daughter Sophia of course chose the more scenic, adventurous route. We didn’t see any of the resident monkeys or sloths but we heard lots of birds and kept our eyes out for snakes.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Taking the scenic trail down to the beach

The property has its own reserve where monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife live within the high canopy of the trees. In June of 2015, the Board of Directors of Tulemar approved a partnership with the Sloth Institute of Costa Rica (TSI), a non-profit organization based in town whose mission is to enhance the well-being and conservation of wild and captive sloths through research and education. TSI staff live on the grounds of Tulemar where they work with injured or orphaned sloths on a rescue, release and research program. Since the onset of the program, Tulemar has seen a healthy increase in its sloth population and guests can sign up for a one-hour sloth walk throughout the property. We did the sloth walk and saw over 10 sloths!

However, you don’t need to do the sloth walk to see them in the wild. All you need to do is keep alert and look up in the trees and you may find a surprise like we did: A mama and baby sloth literally only ten feet above me resting in a tree right on the beach!

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Mama and baby sloth only a few feet up above in the tree on the beach

They were only there for a day so we were so lucky to see them. I couldn’t resist taking a short video of the mama and baby sloth resting near the beach.

As a conscious and sustainable traveler, I was a little concerned about how the property manages to coexist with the wildlife. I contacted a member of the Tulemar Board of Directors who told me that the resort follows very strict building guidelines and consults with wildlife, forestry and other groups to help with conservation of the property. Manuel Antonio and the surrounding town of Quepos has exploded with growth and development over the past 20 years and resorts like Tulemar are working hard to maintain a good balance between growth and conservation. Only time will tell if their efforts pay off.

By far, the beach was one of my favorite things about Tulemar. The jungle literally tumbles down the hill to the edge of the sea. There are monkeys, sloths, scarlet macaws and tons of hermit crabs to see moving slowly across the sand. Guests have access to all sorts of water toys such as paddleboards, kayaks and boogie boards.  There is also a bar and small restaurant if you want to grab a bite to eat.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaTulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

My son riding a wave

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Off to a Great Adventure: Arriving in Manuel Antonio at Sunset

“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

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