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Near Santa María
The Rinconcito Lodge (tel. 506/2200-0074, www.rinconcitolodge.com, $40 s, $55 d including breakfast and tax), near San Jorge, has a lovely hillside locale with 14 spacious cabins, all with ceiling fans, simple hardwood furnishings, verandas, and modern bathrooms with spacious showers. Some overlook the old cattle corral.
La Anita Rainforest Ranch (tel. 506/2466-0228 or 8388-1775, www.laanitarainforestranch.com, $79 s/d low season, $99 s/d high season), on the northeast side of the mountain, offers a similar nature-oriented experience. It has six adorably cozy wooden cabins with ceiling fans, modern bathrooms with hot-water showers, and verandas with hammocks and rockers for enjoying views of both Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and Miravalles Volcano. Some have king-size beds; all have quality mattresses. It hosts yoga, bird-watching, and other special-interest retreats, and gourmet meals are served.
My digs of choice is the Belgian-run Aroma de Campo (tel. 506/2665-0008, www.aromadecampo.com, $52 s or $63 d, including breakfast), a secluded hacienda-style bed-and-breakfast with four simple yet exquisitely romantic rooms, each in a rich, vibrant color scheme (avocado green, eggplant, papaya, or salmon), with gauzy drapes over the beds. It exudes a perfect combination of traditional architecture and a contemporary European aesthetic, such as glazed concrete floors. Quality meals are served family style in the open-air patio with hammocks, Adirondack chair, and lovely views. Free WiFi.
A lesser alternative (maintenance seems to be an issue) is the Posada el Encuentro Inn (tel./fax 506/8382-0815, $65 s/d rooms and cabins low season, $75 s/d room or $86 s/d cabin high season), about five kilometers east of the turnoff for Rincón via Curubandé. This private home, built of stone on a breeze-swept hilltop with views, has two casitas with two large bedrooms, private baths, and private terraces; there are three graciously appointed rooms in the house. It has a swimming pool and offers horseback rides.
Having evolved as an ecolodge that specializes in adventure tours, Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín (tel. 506/2666-8075, in North America tel. 877/998-7873, www.guachipelin.com, $79–160 s, $93–160 d year-round), on a working cattle ranch, boasts a gracious lobby with exquisite wrought-iron sofas, Internet, and a bar overlooking a kidney-shaped pool under shade trees. It has 34 small and simply appointed bedrooms, all with fans and wide verandas; 18 newer units are slightly more elegant. Four junior suites in the old casona overlook the corral, where you can watch cattle and horses being worked. The stone and timber bar-restaurant (6 A.M.–10 P.M. daily) at the entrance to the hacienda is open to the public and serves buffet dinners to the accompaniment of marimba players.
The simpler Rincón de la Vieja Mountain Lodge (tel. 506/2666-2441, www.hotelrincondelavieja.com, $20 pp hostel, $45 s or $65 d standard, $60 s or $75 d bungalow year-round) offers nine no-frills dorm rooms with bunks and shared bath, 22 relatively Spartan standard rooms with private bathrooms, and 11 Colorado-style log bungalows for six to eight people. All have verandas. There are two small pools in the lush gardens, and the restaurant serves hearty, simple fare. Students receive discounts. Rates include taxes.
Near Cañas Dulces
The Buena Vista Mountain Lodge & Adventure Center (tel. 506/2665-7759, www.buenavistalodgecr.com, $78–91 s/d) has 77 rooms and cabins with private baths with hot water. The rustic and delightful cabins include some of stone and rough timbers, with pewter-washed floors and verandas looking down over lush lawns and, in some, a lake. You can admire the setting while soaking in a natural steam bath ringed by volcanic stone, and there’s a bamboo sauna. It has transfers from Cañas Dulces. A rustic restaurant serves buffet meals. You can camp for $10.
The upscale Hotel Borinquen Mountain Resort Thermae & Spa (tel. 506/2690-1900, www.borinquenresort.com, from $139 s, $155 d low season; from $166 s, $185 d high season), in colonial hacienda style, has a classically aged feel. It offers 39 spacious air-conditioned rooms (including graciously appointed deluxe rooms and junior suites) in single and duplex red-tile-roofed villas and bungalows spaced apart on the grassy hills. They’re well lit and are graced by handmade furnishings, including wrought-iron candelabras and rustic country antiques (take your pick of decor: pre-Columbian or Spanish colonial). Guests move around on electric golf carts. Facilities include a tennis court, beauty salon, gym, spa, and a swimming pool with swim-up bar.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition