Costa Rica, Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Travel, Uncategorized

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Adventure: Arrival

6 Comments 18 June 2014

Gluten-Free Costa Rica First Impressions River

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was invited to Costa Rica to consult with the owners of the award winning resort Arenas del Mar.

(Btw, Arenas del Mar translates to Sands of the Sea.)

Finally, here’s the first part of my review….

I was surprised that the flight from NYC to San Jose, Costa Rica is only 4 1/2 hours!!

It takes longer for me to fly home to Portland, Oregon!! It’s hard to believe that in such a short amount of time I can be transported to another world — the jungle!

I invited my friend Brenda to join me on this adventure and upon arrival at the airport we were greeted by our friendly driver Jorge.

It’s about a 3 hour drive from the airport to Arenas del Mar, so Jorge had us take a short rest stop along the river pictured above. As you can see, the view was stunning!

There was a charming rustic food stand at the edge of the bridge above the river and it was exciting just to see so many different foods and exotic fruits that I’d never seen before. There were a lot of tempting candies, but they all had “leche” (dairy) in them.

We both opted for an icy, cold, fresh coconut cut open just enough to insert a straw and suck up the thirst quenching coconut water. I’ve had coconut water before, but drinking it this way was extra delicious! It reminded me of Gilligan’s Island! 😉

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Fruit

Brenda bought some exotic looking fruits to snack on. I’ll talk a bit more about these in my next blog post.

Gluten-Free Costa Rica First Impressions Crocodile

Now for a quick walk over the bridge to stretch out our legs and enjoy the view.

Uh, when you look down this is what you see!!!! Zoinks, Scooby!!! See how big the crocodiles are?!! And there are scads of ’em! That one on the far left napping on the mud bank, he was sleeping with his mouth open! Yikes!

Gluten-Free Costa Rica - Arenas del Mar Cliff ViewArenas del Mar

So, we made it to the town of Quepos, where Arenas del Mar is located. The resort is walking distance from Manuel Antonio National Park, which is considered one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. The Arenas del Mar resort is also the only resort in the area with direct access to the beach. Many resorts nearby brag about beach access, but Arenas del Mar is truly the only one located directly on the beach!

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Award

Eventually, Jorge turned the car off of the small tourist town road onto a rough jungle path.

We pulled into a spot that looked like an outdoor lounge you’d see in a travel magazine. Rough hewn wood pillars supported a pointed circular thatched roof that shaded chic wicker furniture, complete with designer fabric cushions.

No, we weren’t officially at the resort just yet, but at the drop off area. You see, after this spot you have to either walk or take a golf cart through the jungle to the actual resort. I loved this! It added to the sense of adventure!

After a short ride on the golf cart we arrived at the official reception area that was adjacent to the bar and poolside dining area. All of it was open air architecture, which of course suits the climate.

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Beach Sunset

All guests are greeted Fantasy Island style with an official “Welcome Drink” (basically a refreshing smoothie consisting of local fruits), which is the perfect anecdote for the noticeable humidity.

We were also greeted by our host and the resort co-owner Jeremy Allen. He’s a sardonic witted Brit that can get away with saying just about anything due to his charming accent and demeanor.

Jeremy is passionate about the resort being sustainable and giving the guests the best experience possible. We watched him continuously rove about with abundant energy, greeting guests and sharing his tips on how to get the most out of their visit to Costa Rica.

jeremyallenanddaughterJeremy Allen & daughter Emily Hadji

Our story in a clam shell is…that after watching his daughter diagnosed with celiac disease struggle with traveling gluten-free, he decided to help Arenas del Mar become gluten-free friendly. So, after reading about the different travel opportunities on my blog, he wanted me to come and consult with them on how to make the resort a truly safe and inviting gluten-free destination.

So far, four members of the management team have taken the NFCA’s GREAT (Gluten-free Restaurant Education and Awareness Training program) and they are now translating it into Spanish for the rest of the staff. In early July all of the food service staff will have been officially trained to serve gluten-free food safely!! This will make it a tropical breeze to visit Arenas del Mar and eat gluten-free anytime or visit during one of their special Celiac Weeks when they invite famous chefs from restaurants in the States with successful gluten-free menus to come and take over the kitchen! (For more information click here.)

After getting acquainted for a little bit, Jeremy encouraged Brenda and me to go enjoy a quick walk by ourselves on the beach before sunset.

The jungle walk to the beach wasn’t long, but it was very dark in there already due to the dense foliage. We were laughing at the thought of getting lost and not being able to find our way back. I even had to take off my wedge sandals to avoid tripping. I couldn’t think about what I might be stepping on.

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Beach Surfer(I actually think this view is from another day during a rain shower.)

We finally saw a glimpse of light ahead where the path merged onto the beach.  It was lovely!

We probably stayed out on the beach a wee bit too long, but somehow in the dark managed to find the entrance to the pathway back and made it back to our room.

Gluten-Free Costa Rica CrabsHalloween Crabs

One of the first things I fell in love with were these little crabs and the tapping noises they made when they scurried away every night as I’d walk along the twisted jungle path to our room.

They ranged in size and were a bright orange color with a dark purple center. They would cover the paths at night and would look as if they were trying to sneak in through the door. They’d even climb the walls on the exterior of the building! So cute!

These tiny crabs were one of many things that made my first visit to the jungle so special!

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Room

Ahhh…after a long day our Ocean View Premium Room was a beautiful sight to see! We each had our own space and our own bathroom!  Here’s a glimpse of my bedroom (above).

Gluten-Free Costa Rica Room Balcony View

My favorite thing about our room was the huge deck! Here’s a shot of it…hot tub, table, two comfy lounge chairs and a couch you can’t see. And that view!!! I think I could come here on vacation and just stay the whole time on this deck!!


Gluten-Free Costa Rica Room View Rock

Another view from the deck of the mesmerizing rock you’ll see in most photos of this area. I tried to find out if the large rocks out in the ocean have names, but no one seemed to know and I couldn’t find anything online.

If you know, pray tell.

So, stay tuned for more about the food, kitchen and training for gluten-free dining at Arenas del Mar.

I have a lot more photos!!!

In the meantime, here’s a video that really captures how beautiful everything is at Arenas del Mar.

Pura vida!!!

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Your Comments

6 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Jenn says:

    This is great! We stayed at Arenas del Mar for our honeymoon prior to my celiac diagnosis and absolutely loved it! Looking forward to going back even more now!

  2. 2
    Lee Jenkins says:

    Hello from New Zealand,
    I have Coeliac Disease and am also intolerant to salicylates, (I eat low level salicylates) amines, glutamates and tolerate only some dairy. By preference I don’t eat meat. I was wondering if anyone has multiple food intolerances and if they could share information, recipes, support. I would be very grateful if anyone who has something to share could make contact.
    Kind regards, Lee

  3. 3
    Courtney says:

    My husband and I were married at Arenas del Mar on June 8th of this year. I received my celiac diagnosis on July 3rd. Crazy coincidence! I love Arenas del Mar even more now that I know the connection to gluten-free living and celiac!

  4. 4
    Glenda says:

    Lovely photo’s and descriptions! Especially like the cute little Halloween crabs! Is there a resort like this one along the Texas Gulf Coast area? I would love to be able to stay where I can eat safely gluten free near home.

  5. 5
    Cricket says:

    Traveling and being gluten free always seems so stressful to me. Did you have a hard time making sure your food was gluten free? When I go out to eat in the states I often have servers unsure of what I can and can’t eat, I’m always scared I’m going to get sick. What’s your trick?


  1. » Gluten-Free Costa Rica: Welcome Drink Recipe - July 1, 2014

    […] your Welcome Drink and the view at Arenas del Mar* While I was consulting at Arenas del Mar, I got their Welcome Drink recipe for you! It may vary depending on the mood of the bartender and […]

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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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