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Rainforest Luxury in Manuel Antonio

Destination: Manuel Antonio

Over a delectable breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Villa Alegre; our three days in Tamarindo had flown by. At 7:30 a.m., the Interbus shuttle rolled up to the bed and breakfast. (I was still appreciative of their punctuality.) We picked up more passengers in Liberia for our trip to the central Pacific town of Manuel Antonio.

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Though it is one of Costa Rica's most visited locales, I had never been there, but my husband counted it among his favorite national destinations. He explained that a hilly coastal road connects Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Our hotel, Makanda by the Sea, was located in Manuel Antonio, but not beachfront -- it was set in the hills overlooking Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean. From here, we'd have easy access to the area's best restaurants and beaches. I was excited.

We pulled into Quepos around 1:30, and when two of our fellow passengers got out of the van, a wave of heat hit me. Tamarindo is known for its dry heat, but Manuel Antonio is much more humid. This balmy air struck me as distinctly beachy -- I could almost smell the salt wafting off the ocean.

We pulled into Makanda's large gate; the hotel was set back on a gravel road, and though we were close to the main drag, our rainforest surroundings were incredibly peaceful. A staff member loaded our luggage into a golf cart and set off for our room. En route, he stopped by a tree, where we saw a three-toed sloth and her baby. With such wildlife sightings and rainforest tranquility, I knew we were in for a treat.

We opened the villa's front door and were greeted by 1000 square feet of pure luxury. A king-sized canopy bed sat on a raised platform, while the spacious living room, kitchen, and indoor hammock graced the lower level. One wall of the villa was floor-to-ceiling glass, and the ocean view made my mouth drop. We looked out over a large cove, where sailboats and cabin cruisers wiled away the afternoon. This was paradise.

Fabian and I decided on an early dinner, and chose one of Manuel Antonio's quirkiest landmarks: a restaurant built from an airplane. The old Fairchild C-123 sits high above the ocean, affording panoramic views. We chose the corner table -- the best seat in the house for the evening's sunset.

Over calamari rings and sirloin fajitas, we watched as the sun dipped over the rocky cliff face, its pink and peach rays reflecting off the ocean. A large island framed our view, creating a picturesque scene. As the glowing orb dipped lower, it turned progressively redder. Dark bands appeared around its circumference and, though it was still far from the horizon, it slowly disappeared into thin air.

Back at the hotel, we called the onsite restaurant to order tomorrow's breakfast. At Makanda by the Sea, room service delivers the morning meal; as newlyweds, we thought breakfast in bed was a lavish touch. After placing our order, I succumbed to exhaustion, dove into the ultra-plush bed, and quickly fell asleep.

Rainforest Luxury in Manuel Antonio in Pictures

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