Santa Elena, Puntarenas Travel Guide
We've been tipping the Peninsula Papagayo region as the one for a beach vacation in forever-warm Costa Rica, but if cooler kinds of nature are more your thing, you might want to head into the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and try the Hotel Fonda Vela.
Fonda Vela bills itself as "the jewel of the Monteverde hotels" and does in fact hold the #1 place out of the 20 hotels TripAdvisor lists in the Forest Reserve. With just 40 rooms, there's time for personal service, yet apparently enough business to run two restaurants and a bar. The rooms are also relatively large and are commonly described as "rustic" in taste.
The bonus at the Fonda Vela is the huge collection of paintings you'll keep almost tripping over. Paul Smith Sr, the father of the two founders and current owners, brothers Paul and Steven Smith, is a prolific artist, and some 400 plus of his paintings cover the rooms of the hotel. Head into the shops and restaurants of Monteverde and you're just as likely to find his pictures adorning walls there, too.
On top of all that, the rates at the Hotel Fonda Vela are more than reasonable. A standard double costs $103, although meals are extra ($9 for breakfast, $14 for lunch and $18 for dinner)--or they'll set you up with an all-inclusive package. Perhaps soon they'll start throwing in a free painting with every extended stay.