For those who want fast access to both Manuel Antonio National Park and Manuel Antonio public beach, it doesn't get any closer than three-and-a-half pearl Hotel San Bada, built directly next to the park's entrance and a two-minute walk from the sand. The hotel is large enough to provide separate facilities for families and couples. There's a wonderful adult-only rooftop bar and small pool that provides a sunset happy hour and food service, and a family pool with a waterslide and swim-up bar. Rooms, though spacious and clean, are a bit of a letdown style-wise.
There's a large parking lot (a rarity in Manuel Antonio) in front of the indoor lobby (another rarity in Manuel Antonio) at this hotel. The lobby consists of two reception desks and patio-style furniture, and is more of a place to check in than hang out. Just behind the lobby is the outdoor family pool, with a cute foot bridge and white waterslide. Across a paved path is the all-day dining restaurant, Congo, and breakfast room. Guests can drive or walk to a second small parking lot in front of the six-story tower that houses the rooms, spa, fitness center, and rooftop pool. The property attracts a mix of families, groups, and couples -- most of them spend the day exploring the national park, returning in the evening for a swim and happy hour at Perezoso Bar ("perezoso" means sloth in Spanish) before dinner at Congo.
Directly next to the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park
Any car that makes it way towards Manuel Antonio National Park will be stopped by an official looking guide wearing a ranger's uniform. These guys are freelance tour guides, looking to take tourists through the park for a fee. Just let them know you're going to the hotel, and not to the park, and they may even clear the herd of pedestrians that clog the road leading up to the park's entrance, which is directly next to the hotel's entrance. The street near San Bada is lined with vendors selling beach gear, souvenirs, and bottled water. It's a two-minute walk to the beach via a public path. La Posada Casa and Jungle Bungalows is just across the street from Hotel San Bada. At night, the area becomes extremely quiet.
Standard, Superior, Deluxe, and Suites -- some with awesome ocean views
Standard Rooms are the most affordable, as these are located on the first three floors of the property and don't have the ocean views you'll find in the Superior and Deluxe categories on the fourth and fifth floors. Decor is a bit generic, with simple wooden furniture, tile floors, and white walls. Paintings of turtles and birds add a bit of color and ambience, as do elaborately folded swan towels topped with red flowers. An upgrade to a Deluxe room includes a king-size bed, balcony, larger flat-screen TV, tub with jets, and a docking station. Not all balconies are furnished, making them less than comfortable. The Mogote Suite is over-the-top, with an indoor hot tub and two furnished terraces with ocean views. All rooms come with free Wi-Fi, a mini-fridge, rainfall showerheads, and quiet air conditioners. Thin walls mean its easy to hear neighbors. Wood ceilings and dark wood furniture are attractive.
Two outdoor pools, full spa, Perezoso bar, Congo restaurant, and free breakfast
Hotel San Bada offers more features and freebies than its competitors and the buffet breakfast is one of the best we've seen in Manuel Antonio. It includes Western favorites like pancakes, bacon, made-to-order omelets, and cakes. Unfortunately, the breakfast room behind Congo Restaurant is dimly lit and has a basement feel, though it's not underground. The Congo Restaurant has tables topped with white cloths and serves a la carte lunch and dinner. Popular dishes include fish tacos and fresh salads. Adults can order lunch and cocktails all day at Perezoso Bar, on the sixth floor, next to the adult-only pool. At sunset, there's a happy hour with drink specials and amazing views of the ocean, but the space closes shortly after dark.
The Family Pool is large enough for little ones to enjoy the waterslide without splashing their parents at the nearby swim-up bar. The deck is lined with tables and sun loungers.
Sana Spa offers couples massages, mini-facials, and nail services, along with a steam room and sauna. There's a glassed-in atrium for relaxing in after treatments. Fitness centers aren't a common feature in this part of the world, but there's a basic facility with weights and cardio equipment on the fourth floor. Computers are available for guest use and there's a conference center on-site. Wi-Fi is free throughout the property.