Our second home away from home in Costa Rica is called The Beach House. Now, there are plenty of resorts in this neck of the jungle that attach the name ‘beach’ to their title as often as they do ‘spa’. Some may well have a spa, but most are generally not on the beach.
The Beach House couldn’t get closer to the beach unless it was on the sand. Most accommodation in Manuel Antonio is located up the hill from the beach, like our first stunning holiday rental, Casa Elsa. But if you can’t walk to the beach without breaking into a sweat, or more to the point, breaking out in a sweat on the way back up the hill, well you’re not really staying at a beach resort.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s humid in Costa Rica. And it’s hot. The locals stay as cool as cucumbers by, well, doing things as slowly as possible. Sure, you can hire a car to get around, but unless you’re really set on getting out and about and exploring Costa Rica independently, you really don’t need one.
The local bus is frequent and cheap, and if you sign up for a tour, you’ll more than likely be picked up and dropped off. Most resorts and holiday rental sites recommend that you hire a 4WD to get around because there are a lot of dirt roads that turn to mud after the rain, and even the sealed roads can be challenging after a heavy downpour. I agree it’s a good idea if you’re going to do some road trips, but it’s a hefty expense if you become besotted with the beach as we did and don’t end up getting very far.
What we were relieved to learn when we arrived at our new home is that The Beach House is what is says on the label. It’s truth in advertising wrapped up in a beautiful two-storey home, with a lush tropical garden and a lovely swimming pool and hot tub. There are hot and cold running monkeys, iguanas and Jesus lizards – and that’s only in our garden! More wildlife awaits at Manuel Antonio National Park, a ten-minute stroll away along the sand. Best of all, the classic Costa Rican beach of countless postcards is accessed through our front garden where the monkeys cheekily play every day.
This is a real beach house. And it is one of only two private houses that are genuinely located right on the beach – the other being next door. But this is no beach shack. This is a beautiful home, lovingly built by a young couple whose personalities are stamped on the property in subtle ways. In the dish of shells on the coffee table in the living room that we imagine they collected on their numerous strolls along the beach.
And in the monkey theme that permeates throughout the house, from the carved wooden Monkey lamps in the dining room and bedroom to the monkeys that carry the face cloths on their heads in the bathrooms. There are three bedrooms. Upstairs there is a lovely master bedroom with access to a large patio where the monkeys like to play that overlooks the garden and beyond that the palm trees on the beach.
There is another cute, albeit snug, room on this level with a double bed and divan. Downstairs, there is a self-contained bedroom with its own kitchenette and bathroom and a wooden deck overlooking a garden. There is a fine kitchen with a great gas stove and oven, and plenty of utensils for cooking up a feast, along with loads of dinnerware and glasses, and in the dining room a big round table for entertaining.
The place is ideal for a big family or close group of friends enjoying a break together. People might be fighting to use the big main bathroom upstairs that leads through a fantastic walk-in dressing room to the master bedroom, but there there are two bathrooms downstairs.
There’s also a laundry (handy if you’ve got kids getting muddy in the national park or swimming every day) and a maid and a gardener, who can come as little or as often as you like. And there’s television, a DVD player, an iPod docking station, and WiFi Internet access.
But unless you’re on a working holiday, here in the wet season, or are two travel writers, you’re probably going to spend most of your time on the beach, by the pool, in the national park, or out and about doing things. And there is so much to do. Or little to do. The great thing is here at the The Beach House, it’s a great place to do either. Or neither.