Mono Azul: Comfort in good conscience
For groups, families, budget travelers or anyone seeking a relaxing place to revitalize, the Braman family’s Hotel Mono Azul is an attractive alternative to the expensive, resort-style hotels found throughout Manuel Antonio. Hotel Mono Azul is affordable, has an interesting eclectic layout, a laidback, friendly vibe, and a goal to do a greater good.
As you drive down the hilly, winding road from Quepos into Manuel Antonio, about four kilometers before Manuel Antonio National Park, you will notice the signature Hotel Mono Azul name spelled out in rocks on the side of the road. Look to the left, look to the right. The hotel surrounds the street with rooms and pools on either side.
The 32 units are adorned in several styles, the most basic of which includes a ceiling fan, a private bathroom with a hot shower, free WIFI, and a single, double or queen bed. Deluxe rooms have AC, cable TV, a private bathroom with a hot shower, a patio and a combination of two beds. The Villas and Tower accommodations are spacious with all the previously mentioned amenities, and are designed for larger groups or families.
I stayed in the Junior Deluxe Suite next to one of the three pools. It offers two comfortable king beds, a living area with a plush leather sofa and chairs, a private bathroom with a hot shower, cable TV, a fridge and AC. It also has an incredible jungle mural covering one of the very large walls, painted by local artist William Montero. The two walls adjoining the jungle mural are made out of glass, allowing for a view of the actual rainforest and creating the effect of being in the jungle while simultaneously enjoying AC. Nice.
To be completely immersed in the jungle sans AC, you can go three miles down the road to Manuel Antonio National Park or take a trip out to Finca Braman, the 70-acre Wildlife Sanctuary and Rehab Center that is also run by the Braman family.
The animal sanctuary houses 29 monkeys of various species and one kinkajou. Head out early in the morning for a monkey feeding tour, or go later in the day on an unofficial tour funded by donations.
The rescue, rehabilitation and sanctuary for animals depend on donations and volunteers, but donations have dropped off in the past four years alongside the decline in the economy. To try and overcome this, the Braman family expanded the volunteer program in early 2012 with the addition of a volunteer center that can house an additional 17 volunteers. At any given time, there are 3–25 volunteers at the center including experienced veterinarians, students, interns, missionaries, service groups, and primate groups.
The family is also in the process of moving one of the rescue centers. Previously, the rescue and rehab center had two locations – one by Hotel Mono Azul and the other out at Finca Braman. By March 15, owner Chip Braman hopes to have the center by Hotel Mono Azul completely transferred out to Finca Braman “to save money and to facilitate better coordination and efficiency of the two centers with each one having a different purpose.”
The current rescue center has six animals that are being transferred to the new location, where nine new cages and a clinic are being built. When asked what types of animals are rescued, Chip replied “…from snakes to raccoons to sloths to anteaters to birds to anything. If you call upon us, we will probably rescue it.”
Hotel Mono Azul is located in Manuel Antonio – about a 2.5-hour drive from San José. Take Highway 27 towards Jacó, Quepos, and Puntarenas. Take the exit to Jacó (highway 34), which is immediately after the tollbooth following the town of Orotina. Drive past Playa Jacó until you reach the exit for the town of Quepos. Follow the exit to the right. Drive about 2.5 km and then turn right on the last road leading into the town of Quepos. Continue straight through town about 500 meters and follow the road that leads to Manuel Antonio up the mountain. Hotel Mono Azul is about 1.5 km down the mountain road. The office is located next to the restaurant, before the big blue cow.
Public buses also run to Quepos and Manuel Antonio. It’s about a 4 hour ride from the Coca Cola terminal in San José to Quepos. You can get off in Quepos and take a taxi the remaining 1.5 km or take the bus all the way to Manuel Antonio National Park. Quepos is closer to Hotel Mono Azul, but be very careful in Quepos at night.
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