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Costa Rica's Best Kept Secret: Corteza Amarilla Art Lodge

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  Site Where: Prospero Fernández Highway, Santa Ana, Costa Rica
February 6, 2013 at 2:05 PM | by | ()

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!

Tucked off a main road in nearby Santa Ana, we loved the location from the get go: ten minutes from the airport and far away from the gritty, noisy hubbub of downtown. With just 13 rooms, the lodge itself feels like an eccentric art collector's private manor. In fact, the property was built in the 1980s by a local family who lived there for 15 years. The patriarch, a hospo industry veteran, was stricken by a life-threatening illness and decided to open up and share his home with others…turning it into a dream respite for travelers passing through the city.

We hobbled through the main house's multiple open spaces, our breath taken away by the array of unique artistic and architectural details: a beautiful dark wooden central staircase; colorful chandeliers; paper leaves painted on the windows; a large silver tree strung with glass bottles; one of Colombian artist Fernando Botero's famous "fat lady" sculptures. Outside, the whole place was surrounded by lush gardens full of fountains, playful parakeets, and native orchids.

Begging for the best room they had (even if we're puking our guts out, we want to do it in style!), we were a bit bummed to hear the main house's two master suites were booked. But as soon as we opened the door to our standard junior suite across the garden, we were all, "master suite, whaa?" The sitting area, super high ceiling, hardwood floors, and stone shower would spoil us enough. It took less than ten seconds for us to snuggle under the Egyptian cotton sheets on our cozy king bed, pop some more nausea pills, and forget the world.

Confined to bed the rest of the day, we didn't get to hit up the spa, unforch. Sensing our appetite was coming back, though, we did order room service from the on-site gourmet restaurant, and both the service and the food (the first we could stomach in days) were killer.

The next morning we sampled the traditional, made-to-order Costa Rican breakfast (note: it's included) on the shaded patio. Afterwards, the owner's son (another hot GM alert, ladies!) took us on an impromptu tour, noting the many additions he's made to the lodge in recent years by following in his father's footsteps.

The Final Word?

Intimate, inspiring, authentic…and with all the comforts of home. We also stayed at downtown's Grano de Oro, often touted as the capital's default best bet and a "middle of the city oasis." At Corteza, you'll pay half of what you would for a night at Grano for less polished, but a heckuva lot more charm. (The in-room WiFi is way better than theirs, too!). Plus, the bittersweet family backstory leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy (not woozy anymore!) inside.

Rates from $142 a night. To book, visit cortezaamarillalodge.com.

[Photos: Suzanne Steinert for HotelChatter]

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