Staying at the Beach House, Mal Pais

beach house verandasAdditional postings from this trip, and last year are found elsewhere in this blog.  Look for Mal Pais / Santa Teresa on the sidebar.
 
This year, we came back to Santa Teresa with a group of friends, and rented “The Beach House”.  This immediately adjoins the Hotel Tropico Latino, and has the same ownership.  So all of the facilities at the hotel (pool, restaurant, beach chairs, etc) are available to guests at the house.
 
beach house bathroomThe house slept our three couples and two “single” gals quite well.  The gals shared a first floor suite with two bedrooms with king beds.  Each bedroom opened onto the beachfront deck and had its own access to the bath.  One couple also had a first floor room with two beds, and private bath.  Again, it opened onto its own covered beachfront deck.  The other two couples had suites on the second floor, each with a king sized bed, private bath, and small beachfront porch.  One featured a second bedroom (double bed) and the bath here was amazing.  Double vanity, shower, and large jacuzzi tub.  The lower half of the wall was wavy free form cement, and the top half was screened in.  Very nice.  We all did the paper, rock, scissors thing, and my bride and I were lucky enough to score this suite.
 
In between the first floor suites, was a fairly well equipped kitchen.  This was the scene of our daily “family” breakfasts, and where we did some serious research on our Bloody Mary recipes.  There was even a single trundle bed in the dining area, that would be a good place for some kids to crash.  All in all the house was nice enough, but not so perfect that you felt that you had to be overly fussy.  So it was a very comfortable place to hang out and socialize when we weren’t on the beach or on an activity.  I can see this place easily sleeping a dozen family members, or close friends when absolute privacy is not an issue.  It will sleep four couples with full privacy, and five or six if some don’t mind sharing a bath.
 
beach house verandaAll the bedrooms and the kitchen were air conditioned.  The house came complete with fast and free WiFi.  There was even a cat!  Although, I have to say that this was more of a pleasure for my wife and I than for some other members of the group.  We are very cat friendly, and it was nice to have this little guy hanging around.  Very sweet, and seems to know where the food is kept!  He even followed us out to the beach every day.  Though he would hang back and cry out to us if we got too close to the surf.  Must have had a bad experience! 
 
If you aren’t a cat lover, you could shoo him away.  We noticed last year that he liked hanging around the hotel.
 
Although none of us were surfers, we thought we might come back next year for lessons.  Great surfing was right outside the door!  This is a good news / bad news kinda thing.  The water here is turbulent, and the shore can be rocky.  So it isn’t a great swimming beach.  We were told that we could walk down the beach a ways, and find a spot there.  We never looked for it.  But we enjoyed wading, and walking down the beautiful beach.  The hotel pool was very nice, and we were there cooling off almost every day.
 
The location here is perfect.  It is only about a thirty yard walk across the lawn to the beach and some very inviting hammocks.  It is close enough to the hotel to be convenient, but not so close to feel like we were without privacy.  Our gals were even comfortable using the outdoor shower, when they had a small plumbing problem in their suite one day.
 
It is a short walk to the concentration of shops, restaurants, tour companies, and other small businesses in this area.  Not a metropolis by any means.  But there are dining and shopping options nearby, and secure parking for your vehicle right outside.
 
This was a great spot for our group of friends, that enjoy being together.  I could see it working well for a large family group, or a gang of surfers.  The suites can also be rented individually at a reasonable price.  You must rent at least two, to get the kitchen.
 
We have already booked it for next year!

Italian Sophistication on a Costa Rican beach

Our first impression of Hotel Tropico Latino was a little misleading.  We arrived after dark, and all we could see was a small parking lot and a small guard hut.  The guard directed me down a dimly lit gravel pathway.  I really did not know what to expect, and have to admit that I was wondering what I was getting into.  I needn’t have worried.  As my eyes adjusted to the light, I realized that this was actually a very nice tropical garden.  Along one side, there were small bungalows with porches and hammocks.  I came to a clearing and there was the open air bar and restaurant.  I could hear the pounding surf and soft Latin jazz.  Reception was closed, but they were expecting us.  The very personable young Argentine woman behind the bar had our room key, and checked us in with no fuss or ceremony.  We dumped our bags, and returned to the bar for drinks and dinner. 

Hotel Tropico Latino restaurantOver the next couple of days, we grew to love this place.  The hotel is Italian owned, and the  bar/restaurant staff are almost all either Italian or from Argentina. Fun group, and amazing food. The chef is from Florence, and really knows his stuff. He had owned a restaurant in the area, and the owner persuaded him to move it to this hotel. Sure, it was a little pricey by Tico standards.  But it was a very good value by US standards, and we felt as if we had been transported to Italy. Fresh seafood was the specialty, and all was prepared in a very imaginative fashion.

We ate here that first night.  It had been a long travel day, and we were ready for a little spoiling.  We were totally blown away.  This was my bride’s birthday trip.  Before we left on our trip, she told me that all she wanted was a lobster while we were at the beach.  As good as the food was, I noted that there was no lobster on the menu.  My plan was to find a restaurant that would be able to satisfy her request.  But the next day, my wife told me that she loved the restaurant.  She didn’t care about the lobster anymore.  She wanted to eat there again! 

So I made a point to find the chef when she wasn’t around, and ask him about surprising her with a lobster. He was a very nice younger guy and obviously passionate about food.  It was Sunday, and early afternoon before I found him. He was excited about a surprise, and promised to do what he could.

When we arrived for dinner, I was informed that they were not able to find a lobster on such short notice. But I was told by the bartender that the chef had spent the better part of the afternoon calling fisherman, and trying to locate the owner of the (closed on Sunday) fish market. I was very appreciative for the effort, and his kindness left an impression. Dinner still rocked, and we were quite happy.

We stayed in a Garden Bungalow. Not right on the beach, but less than a hundred feet away. They offer beach front bungalows too, for a little more. These have nice little ocean view porches. But the Garden Bungalows were bigger, and we liked the extra space. All rooms have a fridge and a microwave. Our room had two huge king beds, and the best A/C I have ever had in Costa Rica. It was needed too, this area is hot!

The hotel also offers a two bedroom beach house, and a huge house that sleeps a large group (12?). It is big enough that it can be split into separate units.

The only knock on this hotel is the very expensive breakfast. It seems like a different crew is in the kitchen during breakfast. It was more expensive than what I paid in Manhattan! I am not kidding. I know that hotel breakfasts are sometimes expensive in Europe. Maybe that is what the owner is thinking here. But another guest clued us in, and told us about a cheap breakfast spot across the street. That seems to be the way to go. All in all, I didn’t let this one little bump in the road change my opinion of the hotel. I thought everything else was a great value, and we are counting the days to our next visit.

Finally finding my way to Santa Teresa

Although I have been to Montezuma several times, I had never made the short trip up the road to the Mal Pais / Santa Teresa area. Shame on me, because there has been a buzz going on about Mal Pais for a while. I was late getting here.

The beach was unbelievable. It just went on forever. We love to take long walks on the beach at sunset (sorry if this sounds like a personal ad!). This was perfect for that. The surfers love this beach, though you have to be aware where the big rocks are. Swimmers have to mind the current as well. But it is also a great place to just hang out with an adult beverage.

During my recent visit to the Mal Pais / Santa Teresa area I made several hotel inspections.  We stayed at Hotel Tropico Latino, and I profile this hotel in my post “Italian Sophistication on a Costa Rica Beach”.    The following is a quick review of some of the other hotels we toured.

The first place I wanted to see, was The Moana Lodge in Mal Pais.  It has always gotten pretty favorable reviews, and this was before they built the new Suites and Jr. Suites. I have a feeling that the reviews are going to get even better. 

These accommodations are the newest part of the hotel. They had only been open for a week when I did the inspection. The only negative I can give is that there are so many steps. I mean lots and lots of steps. But they do carry your luggage.  I promise that once you are up in the rooms, you forget about the climb. The views are magnificent, and the whole front of the Suites and Jr. Suites is plate glass. There is a balcony if you feel the need to sit outside, but you can see the ocean just fine from the living room or bedroom. There are teak floors throughout. The bathroom in the Suite features two sinks, bidet, and a two person jacuzzi tub. It’s perfect for honeymooners. 

moanalodgeThe almost 1000 square foot Suite goes for under $300 per night in high season, including tax. This is really a great value for a suite at this level. I know I am going to be sending some honeymooners, for sure. The new Jr. Suites are $225.00 per night at high season, also including tax. They are smaller than the big Suite, and the bathroom is not as over the top. But again, they are extremely well appointed and not a lot of money for an accommodation at this level. 

All of the rooms at the Moana Lodge are done in an African theme. The older existing rooms have also been redone to reflect the theme. While they are not as spectacular as the suites, they are attractive and a good value. The only other small negative to mention here is that the hotel is located across the street from the beach and up a bit of a hill. So you have to walk a little back and forth from the beach. Between the steps and this walk, I don’t think I am sending anyone elderly or with mobility problems. But for the young and fit looking for a romantic spot, this is a great choice. I can’t wait to return to Mal Pais, and actually stay here. 

Even more over the top was Flor Blanca. But with high season rates that start at $475 per night, and climb to over $850 I guess you expect to be amazed. I know I was. Each of the deluxe secluded individual villas feature tastefully decorated huge open air living rooms, complete with hammocks. The garden bath is also open air. But the bedrooms are air conditioned for comfort. Very private. If you have the budget, this is the perfect romantic spot. I glanced at the restaurant menu and the spa. Both appeared to be first rate. 

There are a couple places that I missed, and would have liked to inspect. Most notable was Hotel Casa Marbella. I have heard very good reviews about this hotel, but I just ran out of time. 

The former owner of the Flor Blanca is also constructing a new hotel up the road on the beach. I knew these folks before Flor Blanca, when they operated a hotel in the Tamarindo area. We sent them guests on a regular basis, and once used them for a lovely destination wedding. This new project will be their third hotel, and the last two were very interesting. So I am eager to see what they have come up with. There was no one at the construction site but some local workers. So I didn’t get the tour. It was hard to see what was going on, but I know there will be some open air showers. I guess I will have to go back!