- 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
The Pura Vida Health Spa (U.S. tel. 770/403-0238 or 888/767-7375, www.puravidaspa.com, from $110 s or $170 d, including meals), at Pavas de Carrizal seven kilometers northeast of Alajuela, offers 50 villas, cabanas, and luxury carpeted chalet tents (“tentalows”) with shared bath, amid enchanting gardens with pools, plus two suites with king-size beds in the main house. The deluxe Japanese Pagoda has a sunken living room, king-size bed, whirlpool tub, deck, and outdoor shower. It offers various health-themed packages. (When driving from Alajuela, take a sharp left at Salon Apolo 15, and Pura Vida is one kilometer up the dirt road.)
I adore the all-new Poás Volcano Lodge (tel. 506/2482-2194, www.poasvolcanolodge.com, $95 s/d standard, $110 d junior suite, $250 s/d suite), on a dairy farm about one kilometer west of Vara Blanca. The magnificent rough-stone mountain lodge, stunningly situated amid emerald-green pastures betwixt Poás and Barva Volcanoes, was rebuilt in an exciting combination of old and new since being badly damaged by the January 2009 earthquake. The exciting minimalist motif features glazed concrete floors that lend immense atmosphere to the farmhouse lodge. The five spacious bedroom suites in the lodge now feature glazed hardwood floors and wall panels, stylish modern bathrooms with slate floors and large walk-in showers; some retain old roof beams and original stone walls. All feature thick down comforters and voluminous baths. Eight rooms furnished in simpler fashion are in an adjacent block. Horseback rides and mountain bikes are offered along forest trails good for spotting quetzals. The lodge serves filling breakfasts, and dinner by request, in a fantastic dining room with glass walls on three sides. Rates include breakfast.
For a Tolkien-meets-Disney treat, check into the
Peace Lodge at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens (tel. 506/2482-2720, www.waterfallgardens.com, $255–325 s/d standard, $295–395 deluxe, $395–465 suite, depending on time of year). Imagine natural stone, huge hemispheric stone fireplaces, rough-hewn four-poster king-size beds with canopy netting, tables of diced timbers, hardwood floors, lofty ceilings, and stone balconies with stone whirlpool tubs and awesome views toward Poás. The mammoth skylit bathrooms resemble caverns and have natural stone whirlpool tubs and separate all-stone waterfall showers. The two-story 1,200-square-foot Monarch Villa “honeymoon suite” is the ultimate in romantic indulgence. Every need is catered to, from umbrellas for rainy days and flashlights for electricity blackouts to a well-stocked mini-bar, plus CDs for the CD player standard in every room. Excellent buffet meals are served by day, and the elegant guests-only upstairs restaurant offers three-course dinners ($28).
Nearby, the Rainbow Valley Cabins & Restaurant (tel./fax 506/2482-1053, www.rainbowvalleytrails.com, $60 s/d low season, $75 high season) offers a budget-oriented alternative. This working farmstead (you can milk the goats) offers lovely cabins with glossy hardwood floors and heaps of glass, although bathrooms are simple. Trails are on the property.
Via San Isidro
The Siempre Verde B&B (tel. 506/2449-5562, www.siempreverdebandb.com, $75 s/d low season, $85 s/d high season), two kilometers west of the Alajuela–San Isidro road, is a charming albeit simple bed-and-breakfast in an old wooden home set amid the coffee fields of the Doka Estate. The setting is sublime. It offers three upstairs rooms, plus a triple downstairs, all entirely of wood. They are drenched in sunlight and have modest but delightful decor, and deep tiled shower tubs. There’s a large TV lounge, a huge airy patio, and a garden with caged birds. It has a café open to the public 1–6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Rates include breakfast and tax.
You’ll absolutely love Xandari (tel. 506/2443-2020 or U.S. tel. 866/363-3212, www.xandari.com, $195–450 s/d low season; $255–510 s/d high season), a contempo stunner perched amid the hotel’s own coffee fields in the hills above Tacacori, five kilometers north of Alajuela. Xandari has been named among the top 10 resorts in Central and South America by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. The 24 villas (each slightly different) are furnished with dark hardwoods and explosively colorful works of art, poured-concrete sofas with heaps of cushions, plus sponge-washed walls, Guatemalan bedspreads, and plump down pillows; rippling hardwood ceilings and voluptuously curving walls balanced by warm tropical pastels and stained-glass windows echo the theme in the public lounge.
Each room has a kitchenette, its own expansive terrace with shady ranchito, and a voluminous bathroom with heaps of fluffy towels, bathrobes, and a cavernous walk-in shower with a wall of glass facing onto a private courtyard garden. Take your pick of one king-size or two full-size beds. The restaurant serves superbly executed health-conscious meals supported by a full wine list. There are three swimming pools with whirlpool tubs; a handsome bar and lounge; a soundproofed TV lounge with VCR, well-stocked video library, and plump leather sofas; a crafts store; a studio for artists and yoga practitioners; a gym; and an electric car to transport guests to and from the full-service Xandari Spa Village (spa [at] xandari [dot] com). Xandari has a goat farm, orchid house, medicinal plant tour, and trails that lead through a bamboo forest to waterfalls. Rates include airport transfers and breakfast.
Via San Pedro
The Jaulares (tel. 506/2482-2155, www.jaulares.com, $39–69 s/d), in addition to serving wonderful food, rents five basic and rustic wooden cabinas overlooking a river accessible by trails; each features a fireplace. It has also slightly nicer two-story cabins and a family-size farm-style house for rent ($25 pp). Remarkably, all cabins have WiFi.
Above Poasito, Lagunillas Lodge (tel. 506/2448-5506, $20 s, $25 d), two kilometers below the park entrance, has eight simple cabins with shared bathroom and splendid views down the mountainside. The rooms are lit by kerosene lamps, but the property also has electricity. There are trails for horseback rides, plus trout fishing and a basic albeit homey Hansel and Gretel–type restaurant. Access is by four-wheel drive only, along a steep and very rugged track.
The colorfully decorated Hotel Orquídeas Inn(tel. 506/2433-7128, www.orquideasinn.com, $69–89 s or $79–99 d rooms, $130–145 s or $129–155 d suite), at Cruce de Grecia y Poás, has become a kind of home away from home for local expat gringos who pop in and out to sup and shoot the breeze at the hotel’s famous Marilyn Monroe Bar. The hacienda-style home is set amid five acres of landscaped grounds and fruit orchards. There are 10 types of rooms, and even a skylit geodesic dome with a kitchenette, sunken tub, and spiral staircase that leads to a loft with a king-size bed and twin beds. Rooms in the old house are preferred to the spacious but meagerly furnished Superior Rooms in the newer block, where the individually styled suites are appealing standouts. There’s a marvelous floodlit swimming pool with fountains and wooden sundeck, plus a reclusive whirlpool spa garden; a souvenir store stocks fine national artisan work.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition