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We love hotel renovations nearly just as much as we love new hotels. But what we really love about hotel renovations is seeing the transformation that happens when an old, tired and lackluster room gets a modern makeover and transforms into new, spiffed-up, stylish guest room. Or put more simply, we love comparing the Before and After.
When contributor JetsetCD toured the Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo in 2011, she was impressed with the pool and beach options, the bi-level spa, a putt-putt course (in addition to an Arnold Palmer 18-hole course), a grass tennis court and the surprise sightings of white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, Coatis and iguanas.
All this and more made it not surprising that the room rate hovered at nearly $400 a night. But now there's even more to be wowed about at the resort, thanks to a new "property enhancement" aka renovation.
Above is how the resort looked when JetsetCD popped in. Keep reading to see what the resort looks like today!
It's been fun highlighting Costa Rica this week, checking into the country's must-stay properties and digging into what it means for a hotel to be sustainable and how those principles translate into reality.
Most of the latter are located in the foothills and rainforests, but what if you're looking for a good old-fashioned luxurious beachfront resort? The majority are clustered in the northwest corner of the country in an area known as the Bay of Papagayo.
If you love hotels and resorts, this is the place you want to find yourself. It's a little bit of a hike from San Jose - a four hour drive - but home to Costa Rica's flagship properties, including the adults-only Occidental Grand Papagayo Hotel, the all-inclusive Hilton Papgayo Resort, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, and the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo amongst several others.
Sustainable Hotels / Eco-friendly Hotels / Certification of Sustainable Tourism Costa Rica / Costa Rica Hotels / → All Tags
Yesterday, we gave you an inside look at what eco-lodges look like in Costa Rica, highlighting the offerings and operations of several properties throughout the country. One of those, La Quinta de Sarapiqui, has achieved a five-leaf sustainability rating for its efforts.
It was not hard to see why during our visit. Located in an extremely rural area and tucked into the edge of the rainforest, it was easy to drive right by without realizing (which we did). Once inside, it doesn't take long to see how dedicated the property is to the environment. The hotel has a butterfly garden and caiman pond on site, organizes visits to local schools, runs chocolate and pineapple farm tours, and offers cooking classes and tree planting excursions.
But the most intense thing on the property - one that shows just how far eco-activities go in Costa Rica - was the presence of an ant farm, or ant colony. The name is completely deceiving, especially for those who are picturing a small fish tank with some tunnels to view. What the property has facilitated is actually an exterior ant farm, one that brings the ants outside their nest and allows visitors to view their hard-working lifestyle.
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La Quinta Sarapiqui has 5-leaf rating on its Certification of Sustainable Tourism
We hit you yesterday with a very factual and proper rundown of what it means to be a sustainable hotel in Costa Rica, and now, let's go back down to earth and take a look at how these concepts translate into their design and everyday operations.
I was about four hours into my stay at Finca Rosa Blanca in the Costa Rican foothills outside of San Jose when the light bulb clicked on, when I noticed there was something incredibly awesome happening at the hotel. I don't say that theoretically. I mean it very literally. At dusk, as I was walking through the lobby, I saw the lamp overhead flick on, and realized that it was the first time all day I had seen a light on at the property.
This foyer at Finca Rosa Blanca is lit entirely by natural light during the day
When I met with Teri and Glenn, the owners of Finca Rosa Blanca, and explained to them my revelation regarding the incredible use of natural light around their property, they brought over a cup of coffee, which was grown and roasted on site. They offered me some breakfast. An egg, one that their hens had laid that morning. It was through these incidents that I learned how deep sustainability really goes in Costa Rica.
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When travel writers begin to talk about what the model for eco-friendly toursim should look like, every conversation starts with Costa Rica. The country turned to tourism in the late 80s to spark its economy, but it did something different than other destinations: It put forth an envious effort to make responsibility within the industry just as important as profitability. LEED certifications are trendy for hotels in North America, but sustainability is a way of life in Costa Rica.
The Certification of Sustainable Tourism is not mandatory or required of any business in the country, yet when you talk to any owner or operator, it seems so second nature that you can only assume it as law. Maybe that's because its message is so common sense that, when presented with the information and evidence, going about it any other way would seem like suicide.
"Unfortunately, in the last decade, tourism has focused its attention on the economic aspects regardless of the negative impact that the activity causes to the environment and the cultural background of the communities directly affected by the industry," the Certification's official site explains. "The tourism industry is particularly based on demand; therefore these changes are influencing the supply... For these reasons, we can say with certainty that 'the tourism of the XXI century either is sustainable tourism or will not be at all.'"
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Hotel Finca Rosa Blanca
Introducing our newest hotel guide--HotelChatter's Must Stay Hotels--where we pick four hotels for four different types of travelers in a particular neighborhood of one major city. We started with New York, then switched it up to Maui and now we're doing the greater San Jose area of Costa Rica. This is also a seasonal guide so the options may change depending on when you're going. Got a question about where to stay and when? Email us.
Looking for a hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica? You can troll online review sites, crowdsource on Facebook and comb through endless Best Hotels” lists but why do all that when we’ve done all the work for you already?
Here are four different hotels to try in the vicinity of San Jose, located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, home to a majority of the country's population. Since most visit Costa Rica to explore the natural world and tend to bounce around, we're featuring hotels in a few different locations in the greater San Jose area, each serving a slightly different purpose in its approach.
Stay tuned this week as we'll be profiling these hotels below and more as we take a look at Costa Rica's sustainable approach to its hotel industry.
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In case you thought your visit to the new Andaz Peninsula Papagayo would be just a sunny, luxe vacation filled with nothing but gluttonous me time, forget about it. Andaz has painstakingly curated the hotel experience with the help of its team of Cultural Insiders.
Who qualifies as a Cultural Insider? You may ask. Well, the team the hotel has recruited are all people at the top of their industries of art, music and surf. First up there's twin brothers, Alex and Mike Faherty of the Faherty Brand clothing label who will together take the position of Cultural Insider: Surf. The Fahertys will provide guests with their own ‘How to Surf Costa Rica’ guide, created exclusively for the hotel, which will reveal a list of the hottest hidden surf spots in the country. Guests who book the Witches Rock Surf Package, which includes a full day excursion to Witches Rock National Park plus a professional photographer to shoot the ride, will also receive Faherty Brand board shorts or bikini.
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Andaz Hotels was supposed to open their Maui property yesterday but alas, that's been pushed back to September 1st.
The good news is room rates have dropped a bit from $509 to $409 a night.. We hope this new opening date sticks. But in the meantime, we'll be fantasizing about the next Andaz to open--Andaz Papagayo.
Reservations for this Costa Rican resort will start in December. The property is planning 153 guest rooms along with 21 funky luxury suites and should feature "modern designs with touches of local character." There will also be three restaurants, a bar, two swimming pools, a private beach and an 11,000-sq.ft. spa, along with other amenities. No word on room rates but we should
hope think it will be cheaper than Maui.
[Photo: Andaz Papagayo]
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).