Hotels and Resorts
- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Backpackers are spoiled for choice. My favorite place is Hostel La Botella de Leche (tel. 506/2653-2061, www.labotelladeleche.com, $8–12 pp dorm, $20 s, $35 d private room low season; $12–14 pp dorm, $30 s, $36 d high season), one of the most popular surfers’ and backpackers’ spots in the country. It’s run to high standards by a delightful Argentinian woman, Mariana “Mama” Nogaro; her son Wences offers surfing instruction. The place (now in its third location) is painted like a Holstein cow! It has a laundry, a delightful lounge, a large common kitchen, plus surf rental, Internet and WiFi, and lockers. It has three dorms, plus six private rooms for up to four people.
Readers rave about Villas Macondo (tel. 506/2653-0812, www.villasmacondo.com, $30–50 s or $35–55 d room, $80–115 s/d apartment), run by a German couple. This delightful spot has five colorful albeit simply appointed double rooms with ceiling fans. Four larger rooms have air-conditioning. Or, choose spacious, fully equipped, two-story one- or two-bedroom apartments. There’s a community kitchen, and you can cool off in a kidney-shaped pool.
French-run La Laguna del Cocodrilo Hotel (tel. 506/2653-0255, www.lalagunadelcocodrilo.com, $45–100 s/d low season, $60–115 s/d high season) has a unique location: The natural back garden merges into the adjacent lagoon with crocodiles. The hotel remodeled and went more upscale in 2008 and has added a restaurant and lounge. It has 12 air-conditioned rooms and two oceanview suites, all with cable TV and minimalist but charming decor including terra-cotta tile floors, batik wall hangings, ceiling fans, and beautiful glazed bathrooms with hot water. Some rooms have stone terraces facing the beach. It has a bakery.
In the village center, Hotel Zully Mar (tel. 506/2653-0140, www.zullymar.com, $41–47 s or $46–53 d low season, $56–61 s or $61–69 d high season) has raised itself from shoestring status and is now a well-run property with 27 clean rooms (eight with a/c, refrigerator, and safe) with private baths, though most still have cold water. The old wing is still popular with backpackers (despite being overpriced), though a newer wing has metamorphosed Zully Mar into a simple albeit stylish hotel with a pool.
The attractive Hotel/Bar/Restaurante El Milagro (tel. 506/2653-0043, www.elmilagro.com, $53 s or $60 d low season, $73 s or $79 d high season) has charm. The 32 modern conical cabinas—set in soothing, breezy, landscaped grounds with a swimming pool—have air-conditioning and private baths with hot water. A restaurant serves seafood under the watchful guidance of European management. There’s also a kids’ pool. Rates include breakfast.
Domus Kahuna (tel. 506/2653-0648, www.domuskahuna.com, $50 s or $65 d rooms, $75 one-bedroom apartments, $115 two-bedroom apartments low season; $60 s, $75 d room, $115 one-bedroom apartments, $155 two-bedroom apartments high season) has three simply furnished one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments in a landscaped garden. Rough-hewn timbers add a nice note to the earth-tone structures, with classic Central American architectural hints. It has free WiFi and a swimming pool.
I like the beachfront La Palapa (tel. 506/2653-0362, www.lapalapatamarindo.com, $65 s or $75 d low season, $75 s or $85 d high season), tucked up to the beach in the village center. Its compact loft bedrooms are endearingly furnished and have cable TVs, minibars, and safes. It has an enviable location, and a pleasing restaurant with bar. Nice!
The exquisite Italian-run canary-yellow Luna Llena (tel. 506/2653-0082, www.hotellunallena.com, $75 s/d standard, $89 bungalows low season; $90 standard, $109 bungalows high season) has air-conditioned rooms and bungalows around an alluring swimming pool with swim-up bar and a raised wooden sundeck with a whirlpool tub. Stone pathways connect sponge-washed conical bungalows done up in lively Caribbean colors and tasteful decor, including terra-cotta floors; a spiral staircase leads to a loft bedroom, and the semicircular bathrooms are marvelous. There’s a small restaurant and a laundry. Rates include tax and breakfast (the seventh day is free).
Hotel Arco Iris (tel. 506/2653-0330, www.hotelarcoiris.com, $79 s/d bungalows, $95 s/d deluxe rooms low season; $109 s/d bungalows, $125 s/d deluxe rooms high season) is one of the standout hotels. The two highlights are the gorgeous wood-and-stone pool deck with lounge chairs, pool, and chef Schlomy Koren’s superb Seasons Restaurant. Black stone pathways link the five bungalows and four upstairs deluxe rooms in sepia-toned units with timber supports. The lovely yet simple aesthetic combines chocolates and creams, and all rooms have TV, refrigerator, and gorgeous contemporary bathrooms with slate walls and stylish fixtures.
Down by the shores, Hotel Tamarindo Diría (tel. 506/2653-0031, www.tamarindodiria.com, $182–230 year-round) ranks in the top tier with its quasi-Balinese motif and rich color scheme. The lobby, boasting Guanacastecan pieces and elegant rolled-arm chaise lounges, opens to an exquisite horizon pool with fountains, with lawns and ocean beyond. It has 113 pleasantly furnished air-conditioned rooms (including 47 deluxe and 28 premium) with terra-cotta tile floors. Some have a whirlpool tub, and many are wheelchair-accessible. A large and airy restaurant with a beautiful hardwood ceiling opens onto an expansive bar and outside cocktail terrace. It has a kids’ pool, tennis courts, a small casino, golf driving range, and a boutique, plus sportfishing and tours.
The Hotel Pasatiempo (tel. 506/2653-0096, www.hotelpasatiempo.com, $89 s/d standard, $109 deluxe, $119 suites low season; $109 s/d standard, $119 deluxe, $139 suites high season) has 11 attractive, spacious, well-lit thatched air-conditioned cabins around a pool in pretty grounds full of bougainvillea, bananas, and palms. Note the beautiful hand-carved doors and hand-painted murals in each room. It has a book exchange, table games, and snorkeling gear. The Yucca Bar hosts live music.
The hillside all-suite Tamarindo Vista Villas (tel. 506/653-0114, www.tamarindovistavillas.com, $69–214 s/d) offers 32 handsomely appointed oceanview air-conditioned one- to three-bedroom suites with full kitchens and spacious verandas. The property has a swimming pool with waterfall and swim-up bar, an open-air poolside restaurant, and a disco.
Wow! That was my first reaction to 15 Love Contemporary Bed & Breakfast (tel. 506/2653-0898, www.15lovebedandbreakfast.com, $75 s/d room, $95 s/d suite low season; $95 s/d room, $140 s/d suite high season), named for the tennis courts. Tucked in a courtyard with plunge pool, wooden deck, and sexily sinuous bar, this hip minimalist inspiration has just three rooms and a suite, each with lovely, clean, crisp, colorful, contemporary decor and orthopedic king-size beds, plus flat-screen TV and WiFi. Stylish to the max! You can rent the entire place.
City-style sophistication is also a hallmark at Hotel Jardín del Edén (tel. 506/2653-0137, www.jardindeleden.com, $110–190 s/d low season, $135–220 s/d high season), on a bluff overlooking Tamarindo. Truly a hillside “garden of Eden,” it earns laurels for the chic tenor of its 34 rooms and two villas with spacious terrace-porches offering ocean views. Rooms are themed in regional styles: Japan, Tunisia, Mexico. A stunning pool with swim-up bar, whirlpool tub, and a large sundeck with shady ranchitos are set in lush gardens floodlit at night in a quasi son et lumière. The restaurant is one of the best in town. Rates include buffet breakfast.
At Playa Langosta, I love the Sueño del Mar Bed and Breakfast (tel. 506/2653-0284, www.sueno-del-mar.com, $150–195 low season, $195–240 high season), a truly exquisite Spanish colonial house with four rooms cascading down a shaded alcove to a small landscaped garden that opens onto the beach. Each is cool and shaded, with rough-hewn timbers, whitewashed stone walls, terra-cotta tile floors, security boxes, screened arched windows with shutters, and tasteful fabrics. Most have exquisite rainforest showers. The huge upstairs suite is a true gem, with all-around screened windows, mosquito net on the four-poster bed made of logs, and a Goldilocks’-cottage feel to the bathroom with rainforest shower with gorgeous tilework. It also has a casita for four people. A small pool and wooden sundeck adjoin a thatch ranchito with hammock, perfect for enjoying cocktails and bocas. Complimentary snorkel gear, boogie boards, and bikes are available.
I also love nearby Villa Alegre (tel. 506/2653-0270, www.villaalegrecostarica.com, $150–195 low season, $170–230 high season), a contemporary beachfront bed-and-breakfast run by gracious California hosts Barry and Suzye Lawson, who specialize in wedding and honeymoon packages. The main house has lofty ceilings, tile floors, lots of hardwood hints, a magnificent lounge with library, and four air-conditioned bedrooms with french doors opening onto a private patio. Two casitas—one sleeping four people—each have a living room, bedroom, and small but fully equipped kitchen. The rooms are individually decorated with the globetrotting couple’s collection of art, rugs, and miscellany. The Mexico and Russia rooms are wheelchair-accessible. A vast veranda overlooks a swimming pool, with a thatched bar serving bocas. Rates include breakfast.
If large-scale resorts are your thing, consider the handsome Barceló Playa Langosta Resort & Casino (tel. 506/2653-0363, www.barcelolangostabeach.com, from $198 s/d), which sits over the river estuary at the west end of Playa Langosta. It has 240 rooms in three categories in nine two- and three-story blocks arrayed around a free-form pool, with a whirlpool for 30, set in lush landscaped grounds. It has a casino, boutique, tour desk, and tours. Rates include tax.
Seeking a self-catering rental? One of my favorites is Casa Cook (tel. 506/2653-0125, www.casacook.net, $155 s/d low season, $210 s/d high season), about one kilometer west of town, with three one-bedroom casitas with a pool and patio. Other choices include two large bedrooms with private baths in the main house and an apartment added in 2007.
New in 2010, The Breeze (tel. 506/2653-2161 or 877/855-1767, www.thebreezetamarindo.com, $150 low season, $200 high season) will delight sophisticates with a taste for super-stylish contemporary motifs. It has one- and two-bedroom units with WiFi, plus a split-level cascading pool.
My preferred place to rest my head is the Swiss-run Capitán Suizo (tel. 506/2653-0075, www.hotelcapitansuizo.com, $140–385 s/d low season; $200–535 high season), a deserving member of the Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica. Beach-loving cognoscenti will appreciate the resort’s casual sophistication. Even the local howler monkeys have decided this is the place to be! Pathways coil sinuously through a botanical Fantasia to a wide sundeck and large amoeba-shaped pool with a faux beach shelving gently into the water. The lovely 22 rooms and eight bungalows (some lack air-conditioning) have natural gray-stone floors and deep-red hardwoods, halogen lamps, and soft-lit lanterns for a more romantic note. Spacious bungalows have mezzanine bedrooms with king-size bed and huge bathrooms with “rainforest” showers and whirlpool tubs. The wood-paneled Honeymoon Suite has a king-size bed in its own loft; two more Honeymoon Suites were being added at last visit. The bar and restaurant are among Tamarindo’s finest. Capitán Suizo has its own horse stable ($20 first hour, $10 each extra hour), plus kayaks, boogie boards, game room, and the Aromas del Mar Spa.
Yoga, anyone? Panacea de la Montaña (tel. 506/2653-8515, www.panaceacr.com, $160 s or $240 d low season, $188 s or $260 d high season, including all meals) is a holistic yoga and wellness retreat in the mountains outside Tamarindo, with delightful Tuscan-style cabins and gourmet fare.
Alternatively, the supremely deluxe Los Altos de Eros (tel. 560/8850-4222, www.losaltosdeeros.com, $395–495 s/d) graces an 11-hectare estate outside town. This Tuscan-style villa boasts six gorgeous rooms (four poolside), including a two-bedroom suite; all are done up in pure white and are exquisitely romantic. Dinners are served twice weekly. The inn specializes in yoga in a thatched ashram, plus health and beauty treatments in a full-service spa.
A great bet for a long-term surf-camp stay is the beachfront Witch’s Rock Surf Camp (tel. 506/2653-1262, www.witchsrocksurfcamp.com, from $1,163 s or $1,758 d for seven days), a lively place with great ambience. It has clean, colorful, nicely appointed oceanfront rooms, plus a swimming pool, game rooms, thatched restaurant, lockers, a surf shop, and surfing lessons. It specializes in one-week surf packages.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition