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.
Over 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.