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Makanda by the Sea 4.5

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Nestled into a beautiful wildlife sanctuary 100 feet above the Pacific Ocean
  • No kids allowed provides for a calm and sexy atmosphere (a con for some)
  • Golf cart service to the Playa Biesanz down below the hotel
  • Two stunning ocean-view infinity pools with hot tubs and drink service 
  • Designer rooms with flat-screen TVs, stocked minibars, and ocean-view balconies
  • Villas upgrade to kitchenettes, luxurious bathrooms, and private plunge pools
  • Gourmet, water-view restaurant with room service and free breakfast
  • Swim-up pool bar for sushi; with stunning sunset views
  • Chic spa features a luxe sauna with rain forest views; group yoga classes available
  • Fast, free Wi-Fi in every room and common area
  • Free, secure off-street parking

Cons

  • No kids allowed (a pro for some)
  • Hilly property could be difficult for travelers with mobility issues
  • Arduous, 20-minute walk to beach (golf cart service is available)
  • 15 minutes by car to Manuel Antonio National Park

Bottom Line

Everything about the four-and-a-half pearl Makanda by the Sea offers a wow-factor that eclipses almost any other hotel in Manuel Antonio. The lush rain forest surroundings and prime location high above the Pacific Ocean create the feeling of sleeping in a luxurious treehouse village. All 27 rooms are chic and spacious. They come with premium minibars, flat-screen TVs, and panoramic balconies. Villas upgrade to kitchenettes and ocean-view plunge pools. Guests are spoiled with a well-reviewed gourmet poolside restaurant, a swim-up sushi bar, and an intimate spa. Although, the 20-minute walk to Playa Biesanz, sky-high restaurant prices, and hilly grounds could dissuade some. Overall, the Makanda is the kind of place that's going to attract celebrities and influencers -- no kids allowed. While it lacks the same panache, The Preserve at Los Altos offers similar amenities and a kid-friendly atmosphere for around the same rates.

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Scene

Sleek, adult-only boutique hotel suitable for celebrities and honeymooners

Set high above the Pacific Ocean amid a 12-acre wildlife sanctuary, the hotel feels intimate and exclusive. The elevated location creates a sense of floating amid the treetops. The fact that every acre is surrounded by hibiscus, heliconias, and lush tropical vegetation with subtle peeks of the distant ocean only adds to the seclusion. While strolling the hilly property, guests are met with only the sounds of macaws, monkeys, and the soft din of spa-inspired music wafting from both poolside restaurants. Indoors, the decor is a chic blend of organic elements: dark wood, live edge counters, and living walls mixed with modern, industrial materials like frosted glass, polished concrete decking, and faux leather seating. As an adult-only (16+) property, the vibe is quiet, reserved, and ideally suited to celebrities and well-heeled honeymooners seeking a hidden vacation retreat.

Location

On a lush, ocean-view wildlife sanctuary three minutes from downtown Manuel Antonio

The winding, hilly road that connects the hotel to the town of Manuel Antonio is loosely dotted with small homes and boutique hotels. The location feels more secluded than it actually is. Dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars are within a 15-minute walk, albeit on a busy narrow road with few sidewalks. Accessing the hotel’s exclusive-use beach at Playa Biesanz requires a steep, 20-minute trek each way, though free golf cart service is available. Manuel Antonio National Park  is reachable in under an hour on foot (not recommended), or 15 minutes by car. The nearest airport, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), is almost three hours away by car. Pricing for the hotel’s paid shuttle service is expensive but on par with local taxi rates.

Rooms

Swanky, spacious rooms with luxury amenities and private ocean-view balconies

Like every common area, the rooms deftly blend traditional Costa Rican elements with contemporary accents for an overall look that's straight out of a design magazine. Locally sourced teak, frosted glass, polished marble, and Mid-century modern furniture often occupy the same space. Every room is spacious and individually decorated with a sprawling floor plan and private ocean-view balcony. A long list of technology and comfort amenities: large, flat-screen TVs, laptop-size wall safes, Britt espresso machines, and premium minibars (fee) -- are standard. Villas upgrade to larger floor plans with additional appointments like kitchens and completely private ocean-view whirlpools or pools. The crisp bathrooms are spacious and luxuriously adorned with marble and glass -- one of the Villas has a shower with full windows overlooking the rain forest (there are privacy blinds for the modest). Molton Brown bath amenities, dual sinks, and glass shower stalls are standard, while some rooms add soaking tubs. The rooms feel secluded and private, and many of them have unparalleled rain forest and ocean views. 

Features

Two ocean-view infinity pools, a swim-up sushi bar, and an intimate spa, but a long trek to the beach

There are few indoor common spaces on the hotel’s grounds. However, all are befitting of a boutique luxury hotel. The two infinity-edge pools offer beautiful rain forest-meets-ocean views and built-in hot tubs. The terrace surrounding each is carved into distinct spaces with lounge chairs, “cocoon-style” wicker beds, and plenty of umbrellas to while away an entire day in shaded peace.

The hotel’s relaxed all-day Sunspot Restaurant adjacent the main pool is one of the area’s priciest and best. The menu is heavily inspired by local seafood like seafood risotto and mahi steaks, although basic fare like flatbreads and burgers are also available. A free gourmet buffet breakfast is provided each day, plus optional a la carte selections. Room service is available for a fee. The swim-up sushi bar at the Sunset Pool is the most popular spot on the property to catch the sunset while enjoying a few plates of sashimi.

The tiny spa feels equal parts treehouse and jungle cave. All-natural materials like live-edge wood, shells, river pebble-adorned walls, and leather seating define the intimate, upscale atmosphere. The private space is bookable only by a single guest, couple, or group (up to six) at a time. Massage treatments are conducted in the single-room space or on the outdoor patio overlooking the ocean. Even the sauna is thoughtfully designed, with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the rain forest and hot rocks gathered in a curved metal case running down the wall. In good weather, group outdoor yoga classes are offered as well.

The hotel’s beach is reachable via an arduous, hilly walk or golf cart service. While small, the private stretch of sand on Playa Biesanz is quiet, relaxed, and beautiful. Wi-Fi is free in every common area and in the rooms. There's a parking lot for secure, off-street parking. 

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Address

Main Road to Manuel Antonio Park, 800 meters from Plaza Vista, Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica

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