Costa Rica Travel Guide
Our morning cuppa Joe overlooking the rainforest and Osa Peninsula, at Costa Rica's Lapa Rios Ecolodge (Lapa means "macaw").
Flocks of the lodge's namesake, rainbow-colored parrots greeted us every morning as we sipped our caffeinated bevvies on the porch of our open-air bungalow nestled in the treetops… along with fluttering blue Morpho butterflies, wily coatis, spider monkeys, and enormous lizards. It's a wildlife-lover's paradise. GO.
High season (Jan-April) rates from $380 per person, double occupancy. Includes lodging in a private bungalow, meals, round-trip transfers to local airport, and guided nature tours. (Plus, the morning coffee delivery is complimentary!).
[Photo: Suzanne Steinert for HotelChatter/ Twitter]
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On the same trip that took us to Costa Rica's sexiest new sustainable hotel back in October, we ended up acquiring a nasty bout of food poisoning (no, not from said sexy hotel, mind you!) a couple days before our flight home. When we stumbled upon San Jose's Corteza Amarilla Art Lodge & Spa, we knew we'd found the perfect spot to recoup. Sure, maybe it was all the antibiotics and electrolytes the local farmacia prescribed. But seriously, one night in this place and it was a miracle. We were cured!
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People swear when they go on vacation they are going to “disconnect” from the trappings of technology, jobs, and whatnot. What we’ve found? Many of them are filthy liars.
They lose their ever-loving minds if their room is without a television, nevermind cable, have fits of despair without WiFi, and if there aren't enough outlets to plug in all of the toys they swore they weren't bringing along on their getaway? Best get outta the way because there'll probably be hell to pay.
Well, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo has thrown down a gauntlet, a challenge of sorts with its “Disconnect to Reconnect” idea.
A few weeks ago, we hightailed it to Costa Rica's posh central Pacific Coast for a quickie first glimpse of the country's newest eco-licious spread, Kura Design Villas, during its invite-only soft launch phase.
Officially opening on November 15th, just in time for the high & dry season, even in the pouring rain (at the time it was wet, excuse us, "green" season), this place is bangin'.
After clamoring in our 4WD rental up to the hotel's steep mountaintop perch, bypassing signs like "WARNING: Very Dangerous Road!" while raindrops pounded our windshield, we were greeted warmly by the fresh faced, thirty-something owners Alejandra and Martin. "You made it! We were worried about you!" they genuinely exclaimed. She's a petite biologist with an edgy pixie cut; while he, an architect, master-minded the entire minimalist chic property head-to-toe (remarkably his first big project since finishing design school in San Jose).
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You know we're the biggest kids at HotelChatter. We see rooms intentionally designed for children and we get all pouty and think "we want that, tooooo!". But alas, we're big kids now, some with little tykes of our own, so we get our thrills when we see things like this--the new Barbie Room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cariari in San Jose, in Costa Rica.
We are positively entranced by all the pinkness that is Room 2036. It is filled top-to-bottom with Barbie-themed linens, clothes, costumes, games, dolls, movies and accessories galore. And do not ask about Ken. This is not about Ken!
Through Nov. 11, 2012, kids can spend the night in the Barbie room for only $139 per night (two-night minimum), and includes breakfast for two children. The room is attached to connecting parents room which starts at a rate of $109 per night for a king-size bed. And yes, you have to purchase the parents room, too.
Here's an instance where our experience of a hotel actually exceeded expectations set by the heavily photoshopped images on its website. We recently spent a couple nights at the Harmony Hotel on Playa Guineas in Nosara Costa Rica, and in our humble opinion, the reality was actually better than the hype. Check out the above photo, with an insert from the Harmony website in the top left corner
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Aloft launches its second Latin American hotel this month with the opening of Aloft San Jose in Escazú, close to the Juan Santamaria airport. Though Aloft Bogota opened last year, this is the company's first location in Costa Rica. The budget, easy-in-easy-out appeal of Aloft must have outweighed its flashier big sister, W when it came time for Starwood to decide which brand to introduce.
A quick TripAdvisor search reveals that until now, Escazú has boasted little in the way of hotels. While Real InterContinental Costa Rica and Marriott San Jose are both viable options (and also both boast killer spa servies) $149/night rates will make Aloft very attractive to cost-conscious travelers.
And all the usual Aloft trimmings (w xyz bar, re:fuel snack station) are here. The website is also showing photos of a "backyard" space with tables and chairs—since we know how much Aloft loves its social butterfly guests...
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Less than an hour's drive from the little Liberia Airport near Costa Rica's west coast sits the exotic oasis of the Peninsula Papagayo. It is an exclusive area, mostly dedicated to upscale resorts, vacation condos and the pristine beaches they face. Alas, there's also an Arnold Palmer golf course in the middle of the action, owned and operated by the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica.
What this means is the area is extraordinarily lush; just a drive down the hill to the entrance of the resort yielded us surprise spottings of white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, a family of Coatis (omg baby Coatis!), and an iguana here and there. Once you've entered the lobby and checked in, however, the Four Seasons is a definite playground for more than just its natural environment.
You know how it is with vacation photos. Sometimes you forget to turn off the flash and that expensive five-star hotel room of yours ends up looking cheap in the harsh lighting. Or the pool water isn't the blue of your dreams or a topless sunbather ruins the background of your beachy family photo. Regardless, everybody retouches vacation photos a little here and thereit's got to look great for Flickr, right?
Well, we found one hotel where retouching is not needed, where the waters of the pool, the beach and the bay are that blue that sews jealousy into the hearts of your Facebook friends. We're speaking of the Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. We've just returned from a weekend there and, upon flipping through our shots of the place, realized that they needed nothing more than a crop or two.
We learned something yesterday while in the sky somewhere above Nicaragua. It's something shocking, but in a very positive way and it absolutely effects hotels. You see, Costa Rica is known for being green and expertly riding the wave of eco-tourism, but they're so serious about their commitment to the environment, that they're on track to become a completely carbon-neutral country by 2012. That's next year...like less than two months away.
Due to their extreme dedication to preserving Pura Vida, Costa Rican hotels are held to high standards of eco-friendliness. We're talking programs that go above and beyond those "do you or don't you want your sheets changed to save water" things, though there's that too. For example, at the Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo (say that three times fast), every guestroom is equipped with a super trashcana single unit with three clear and separate areas for Paper, Plastic and Organic garbage.
DoubleTree has made their baked-fresh-daily walnut chocolate chip cookies an important part of the operation. So important, that the brand decided to embark on a Cookie CARE-a-van tour this summer, spreading joy (and sugar highs) all over the country.
But, as it turns out, people want more. What else is new? According to a rep for the hotel, Doubletree regularly fields requests from guests all over the world to experiment with different variations of the recipe. Add coconut in Costa Rica (DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Puntarenas shown above). Add more nuts in Siberia. But what the kitchen wants those people to know is: it ain't happening!
The other week, we dropped in some killer views from Las Vegas. This week, our own Eloise, Josh Flagg drops in one of his favorite killer views from, where else?, a Four Seasons hotel. This time he left the wilds of Beverly Hills and roughed it in Costa Rica. But you know, not too rough.
Now maybe I am overly fascinated by this, but at my recent stay in the Four Seasons Costa Rica, two things caught my attention. The first was that every floor had a washing and drying machine for hotel guests. Instead of waiting all day to have the hotel do your laundry for you (at $80 for a pair of underwear, mind you), you can walk to steps down the hall and just throw your things in the washing machine.
I have never seen this before in a luxury hotel and I must say, I loved being able to throw my socks and underwear in and have them clean before dinner.
The second thing I loved about this Four Seasons was that I could sleep on my terrace or shall I say, my outdoor room.