After a busy tour of Costa Rica it was wonderful to relax in this Pacific Paradise. I had requested this boutique hotel for our "beach extension" as it was the only one in the Manuel Antonio National Park area that was carbon neutral and the first Costa Rican luxury hotel to be awarded the Five Sustainability Leaf Award and a Five Star Award.
Having experienced a fairly long journey from the Monteverde Cloud forests, broken up by a tour of a coffee plantation, we descended an impossibly steep slope to a reception area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where we were deposited with our luggage. There was no sign of the hotel so we availed ourselves of the toilets, helped ourselves to ice cold water from the dispensers and sank into the sofas awaiting our golf cart ride to the main reception. During our ride up and around steep hair pin bends, our driver pointed out monkeys, lizards, and trail paths through the rainforest to the public beach.
At the main reception, I was beginning to unwind when I was handed an I-pad to check us in. This was a first. Although a proficient typist, I've always had trouble using touch pads and have never used an ipad before so became increasingly frazzled when I could not find the key pad, or work out how to make capital letters let alone find the numbers! When it came to finding the @ for my e-mail address I came very close to hurling the thing into the nearby pool but reminded myself that my 82 year old mother copes very well with her "ippy" as she calls it.!
I was disappointed as I had requested and paid for an Ocean Breeze room with sea views but these were fully booked (there are only 38 rooms) and we were given a garden room. This sounded grim. However, it turned out to be in a block close to the reception area with its bar and restaurant, and contained a large, comfy bed, curtained off from a living area with bed settee, kitchenette and table and chairs. The mini bar contained free soft drinks, snacks and a closed jug of fresh water which was topped up daily. A coffee maker and coffee were also provided. Patio doors opened onto a terrace with cane furniture and jacuzzi. We were warned to keep the doors fully locked at night to avoid a raccoon invasion. The bathroom was well equipped with towels, robes and a large walk in closet with a large safe (and cute, live pet crab that scuttled out to visit me regularly as I performed my ablutions!) Good quality organic shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are provided and you are politely requested to use these products to help avoid adding chemicals to the ecosystem.
There was a pool by reception that remained virtually unused throughout our stay – possibly because it was in full view of guests using the reception area and restaurant. Another smaller pool was situated by the hotel's "private" beach. This was surrounded by sun beds and comfy sofas. There was a plentiful supply of towels. On the beach there were further sun beds and double bed sized foam loungers. There was no reserving of sun beds as there were plenty to go round. The sea was quite rough with strong undertows so there were only certain places and times of day when swimming was possible. The hotel security guard doubled as life guard. The larger public beach was reached by a walk through the forest. This was safer for swimming and you could walk along it to the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Food served at the hotel is sourced from local organic farmers and fishermen. Breakfasts were absolutely fabulous – fresh tropical fruits, smoothies, coffee and light healthy options such as oatmeal and berries as well as heartier fare such as burritos and pancakes. The restaurant has some tables outside by the pool, overlooking the pacific, where you will be joined by resident iguanas and serenaded by tanagers and grackles. Evening meals could be taken in the Mirador restaurant or, twice during our short stay, on the beach with live musical accompaniment. We did not venture outside the hotel except for our fishing trip for which I made a long, uphill walk to the nearest bank. Reception had said it was just 10 minutes away – they meant by car not on foot!
Staff were friendly and helpful, constantly topping us up with free iced water as we sat by the pool, keen to point out wild life. I would have missed the delightful mother and baby sloth had it not been for one of the groundsmen beckoning me over.
Overall, the resort was a magical wildlife paradise. However, they have a little bit of work to do on their standards of customer service. 1) There were no guides to the hotel available written in English and I had to ask several times for a map of the hotel as, confusingly we had to go uphill then downhill to the main entrance and spot the walk through the forest to the public beach; and downhill the opposite direction to the hotel's "private beach" and pool. There are golf carts and drivers available and these were essential for my partner, but personally I prefer to walk. I eventually found I was able to translate the spanish guide and realised, on our final day, that the hotel had ipads and a Kindle fire available to loan to guests. This would have been extremely useful to have known upon checking in as I had been trying to arrange a deep sea fishing trip, necessitating repeated visits to reception to use their pcs. I learnt on checking out that the hotel had received a delivery of English guides the day after we arrived. It is a shame no one thought to deliver one to our room. 2) I enjoyed an amazing early morning bird walking tour with the hotel's bird guide, Anya. I had assumed this was a free service, like the dance classes and was surprised to find a charge of $50 dollars added to my bill at check out. This was reduced to $25 when I pointed out that my partner had not accompanied me. Whilst it was certainly worth the money – I just would have like to have known about the cost involved. 3) During one of our evening meals taken inside the Mirador restaurant I had to ask for us to be moved as we could not hear ourselves think for the sound of cutlery being clattered by staff into cutlery trays a few feet away. As he moved us, the waiter cheerfully informed us that other people had complained about the noise at this table – I wonder why the table, which, being beside the service corridor must be the worst position in the entire restaurant, isn't simply removed? 4) Because of our disappointment at not getting an Ocean Breeze room, we had been advised by our tour company that we would have something special in our room, I mentioned this to our hotel's "experience manager" whom we were introduced to on our first day but never saw again, and she assured us it would be in our room on our final night. It wasn't and we have no idea what it would have been! Kind thought but…
Although a few issues prevented our overall experience from being excellent, I can highly recommend this beautiful place and its stunning location. Just make sure you know how to use an Ipad so you can check in without the hassle I experienced.