Six-minute drive to Manuel Antonio National Park and walking distance to a grocery store
Free Wi-Fi throughout, even at the beach
Personal concierge service in all units
Strict homeowner's association keeps gardens, units, and public areas looking pristine
Regular wildlife sightings and on-site hiking trails
Private chef, yoga classes, spa services, and photography lessons can be provided (for a fee)
Prices for the Villas are high and some don't allow kids under age 10 for safety reasons
Breakfast not included
Bungalows look a bit dated with tube-style TVs
Hilly location may be difficult for some to traverse
Not within walking distance of Manuel Antonio National Park
Ongoing construction can cause some noise
Tulemar Bungalow & Villas manages to combine the privacy of bungalow living and the convenience of full hotel services, without any sense of pretension. There are 45 luxury residences spread out on a 33-acre resort that includes private access to Tulemar Beach, which has one of the only beach-facing restaurants in Manuel Antonio. Rooms range from homey, but older, Bungalows with floor-to-ceiling windows to over-the-top Casa Las Nubes with gasp-inducing architecture and a semi-indoor infinity-edge pool. All units come with free Wi-Fi and a personal concierge. Buena Vista del Sol serves up food and drinks near one of the four infinity-edge pools, but breakfast isn't included with the price of a room. There's an air of seclusion on the property, but it's still conveniently located near a grocery store and laundromat. This is one of the best, and most popular, options in the area.
In terms of size, amenities, and quality, there's no place quite like Tulemar in Manuel Antonio. From the street, and even the reception area, it's difficult to get a sense of how beautiful and pristine the property is. Guests must check in with a security guard before they approach the semi-outdoor reception desk. Friendly, bilingual staff checks guests in and then a shuttle van can be called (for those without a car) to bring them to their Bungalow or Villa. The majority of the units here are individually owned and rented out, but a strict homeowner's association and small army of full-time staff ensure that every nook and cranny is maintained and up-to-snuff. The resort is spread out on 33 hilly acres and offers everything from two hiking trails to four swimming pools and a beach. Garden grounds are incredibly lush and incorporate actual rain forest. Even at full capacity, there's still an air of seclusion and crowds are rarely a problem. For those who don't want to attempt the hills, there's an on-call van service, but nature-lovers will like meandering the roads and searching for monkeys, sloths, butterflies, and birds in the trees. There isn't a party vibe, and quiet hours are enforced after 10. Guests range from groups of friends, to families, to couples on their honeymoon. Expect a feeling of neighborly camaraderie.
There are lots for sale around the grounds and an ongoing construction project slated to be completed in 2016. On the upside, a private neighbor with a helipad has agreed to let Tulemar use it for emergencies. It's never actually happened, but nervous parents will appreciate that medical help can be summoned via air.
Those looking for a luxury bungalows and villas with lush rain forest surrounds can't do better than Tulemar. Arenas del Mar does have direct access to a nicer beach (though its rates tend to be steeper), while Karahe Hotel is closer to Manuel Antonio National Park and provides private access to a busier beach with rougher, but still swimmable, water (but its accommodations aren't nearly as nice). Buena Vista Luxury Villas shares all of the facilities with Tulemar -- it's essentially just a different rental company for the units.
Main entrance is off of busy Route 618 -- but the 33-acre resort feels a world away
Tulemar Bungalows & Villas is sandwiched between busy Route 618 and peaceful Tulemar Beach, the only property with access to the technically public stretch of sand. Route 618 is the winding, paved road that dead ends at Manuel Antonio National Park -- about a six-minute drive from the hotel's front gate. It would take a solid 45 minutes to walk to the park's front entrance. Taxi and bus service are easily available. Just across the street is a laundry service, handful of restaurants, and a local grocery store that sells beer, wine, beach gear, and snacks. Parking stalls are scattered throughout the property, so there's no concern about finding a free spot near your room. Quepos is a six-minute drive. Plan on a two-and-a-half hour drive to the international airport in San Jose over paved and tolled roads.
Private Bungalows or Villas with rain forest and ocean views
There are 45 individual residences at Tulemar Bungalows & Villas, ranging from three-pearl Bungalows to five-pearl Villas. Built 25 years ago, the one-bedroom Bungalows are the oldest rooms on the property, but they also have the best ocean views and are well-maintained. Each is a standalone unit that looks almost like a tree fort. They're a good choice for families with one bedroom and two beds, plus a futon in the living room. Kitchenettes include a mini-fridge, microwave, coffeemaker and coffee, hot plate, sink, and cooking gear. Floor-to-ceiling, almost panoramic, windows overlook the ocean and grounds. One flaw: There is no outdoor space. Air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, and ceiling fans are standard.
Privately owned Villas are also available to rent. These range from one to five bedrooms and can include ocean views, private swimming pools, and jaw-dropping architecture. Casa Las Nubes (cloud house) is simply stunning. The design style incorporates Asian and Californian elements with outdoor living: The entryway is sunken stepping stones in an indoor/outdoor infinity-edge pool that divide the living room with a soaring ceiling and modern kitchen. Two bedrooms and bathrooms are downstairs, while the master bedroom and bathroom are upstairs. Families should note that some Villas don't accept kids under the age of 10 for safety reasons, such as a lack of handrails on stairs and guardrails around the pools.
The various bungalow and suite options can sleep from two to 14 guests. All rooms come with a personal concierge who can arrange everything from restaurant reservations to yoga classes to a private chef. Daily housekeeping is included, and room service is available.
Outdoor swimming pools, Buena Vista del Sol restaurant, and free Wi-Fi
Features at Tulemar Bungalows & Villas are designed with convenience and luxury in mind. There are four outdoor swimming pools that vary in size and depth; each is scattered throughout the property so all guests have relatively fast access to at least one. The pool adjacent to Buena Vista Del Sol restaurant has geometric tile on the bottom and an infinity edge. The Family Pool includes gorgeous ocean views and a fun waterfall feature. Guests can order room service, or go to the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The other dining option is on the beach, which has a full restaurant and bar. In-room massages or spa services can be arranged with the concierge. Wi-Fi is free and fast throughout the property. A free shuttle van is on-call to drive guests around the property if they don't feel like walking.
Technically, Tulemar Beach is a public beach, but the only way to get there via land is at the hotel -- meaning that it's almost impossible to access the beach unless you're a hotel guest or have a boat. Two levels of sun loungers and umbrellas are spread out on the sand, with some secluded chairs for privacy. The natural cove setting means that waves don't get too rough (watch the flags for changing water conditions) and both ends of the beach are flanked by lush tropical rain forest. Dedicated staff provide free kayaks and boogie boards, plus full drinks and food service. Amazingly, there's fast and free Wi-Fi service. Clean bathrooms are provided up a hill and there's ample parking for those with cars. A beach shuttle is on call for those who don't want to walk.
Since direct beach access is so rare in Manuel Antonio, this feature a major draw -- but it is worth noting that the sand isn't as fine as at some of the beaches in the National Park.
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