Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Costa Rica -- August/September 2006

For this vacation, we spent one night at Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose, four nights at Los Altos de Eros Inn and Spa just outside of Tamarindo, and four nights at Gaia Hotel and Reserve in Manuel Antonio.


Hotel Grano de Oro review:

My husband and I spent a night here at the beginning of a 9-night Costa Rica vacation last fall, and were pleased overall with the property. Check in was fairly quick and quite friendly, and the public areas of the hotel are lovely, with several small foliage-draped courtyards.

The superior room was not large or fancy, but was certainly comfortable enought for the night. We had a window looking out onto a pretty open air courtyard, and a spacious-enough bathroom. The shower was large and the water pressure was good. The only real complaint we had was that it was very noisy in the morning (starting pretty early). Not sure if they were doing construction to the hotel itself or just nearby, but there were a lot of chainsaw/jackhammer type sounds in the hours before we checked out.

We had already eaten dinner by the time we arrived, but did partake in a couple of cocktails--the mojitos were especially delicious! Breakfast the next morning was very good as well, and we were shocked at how inexpensive it was.

Transportation between the airport and hotel will be somewhere around $15-$20, and the ride is around 20 minutes or so.

I would say GdO is a very good choice in San Jose, and we'd absolutely stay there again.

Los Altos de Eros review:

Like a character in an old cartoon, I sit here now with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other… The devil tells me to keep my mouth shut about how unreal Los Altos de Eros is. The angel says that since I found Los Altos through Tripadvisor in the first place (and booked our visit within the hour!) it’s only fair to add my own 2 cents. I am quite tempted to listen to my devilish side (as usual), but lucky for you, I have always been good at sharing!

I will admit, my husband and I are picky travelers, and expect the very best. We have been lucky enough to spend time in many of the world’s (supposed) finest hotels, but never have we experienced anywhere like Los Altos. This is paradise--every detail here is perfect, every luxury complete. Many 5-star resorts have good staff who manage to be friendly and helpful, and make your stay run smoothly. But each of the 22 people who work here—Ari, Yanina, Leo, Wilfredo, and Francisco to name a few—go beyond that. Not one person we encountered was any less than completely kind, charming, gentle, delightful, and supremely perceptive as to when we needed anything (or nothing!) at all. The service and attention that one receives as a guest here is the very definition of luxury. It is obvious from the moment you walk through the front door that everyone truly adores what they do and is happy to be here. The difference that makes is immeasurable, and is a tremendous part of what makes Los Altos such an incredible place to stay.

The inn itself is stunningly designed and decorated—I won’t spend much time describing it, since photographs do a much better job than I ever could. But I will say it is a brilliant combination of Costa Rican flavor and character, Mediterranean style architecture, and barefoot luxury mixed with casual elegance. Our room was filled with sunlight during the day, and at night, we fell asleep in the supremely comfortable bed the moment our heads touched the pillows. The bed itself was decorated daily with fresh orchids, a beautiful tropical touch. When we first checked into the inn, a chilled bottle of white wine and 2 glasses awaited us on our dresser—wonderful after a long day of travel! We stayed in a king room, and spent most of our time sitting on the cushioned chaise lounges on our deck, looking out over the lush green hills that slope gently down to the blue Pacific. In the distance, we often heard the almost primordial-sounding calls of the local howler monkeys—who also made some appearances in the trees only yards away from where we sat!

One huge factor of what makes Los Altos such a wonderful retreat is the guests themselves. As Peter (reviewer #52) commented, there seems to be some self-selection at work here. (This is not a place for everyone—if you love the feel of a large anonymous resort, if you don’t like to spend time getting to know those around you, if you are the type who treats hotel staff like servants, this is not the place for you). However, if you love getting the chance to really talk to others, be around people who have interesting stories to tell and are interested in meeting you as well, you will fit in well and love your stay. Never before have I been able to say that not only was I lucky enough to get to know at least a little bit about every person who shared the inn with us during our 4-nights there, but I could still tell you every single person’s name. I think we were truly lucky to have a particularly lovely group staying there with us, but then I may be biased… Hello to everyone who was there with us—and Mark and Ros, thank you for your hello and kind invitation! You know y’all always have a place to stay in Atlanta—we would love to have you visit us anytime!

Another area in which Los Altos excels is its meals—the food, the presentation, the service, there is nothing to say except that it doesn’t get any better than this. Our Saturday night dinner was already well-described in review #52, but I must say that post-dinner was just as much fun, as Calvin and Jacqueline sat with us and some of the other guests by the pool, talking and laughing, and just enjoying our time together. Speaking of Calvin and Jacqueline, I must say that never before have my husband and I been so warmly welcomed anywhere. We stepped into their home as strangers, but I feel we left as friends. You will have a hard time finding more interesting people to talk to, and both are sophisticated, witty, fun, entertaining and constantly committed to making sure their guests are having an extraordinary stay—absolutely the consummate host and hostess.

We had planned to do several activities while we were in the Tamarindo area—surfing, fishing, and a zip-line tour. But we could not bring ourselves to leave the resort—our state of relaxation and pure bliss was too great to consider stepping out into the real world for more than an hour or two! My only regret about our time there is that we did not do the day spa package—but at least we have that to look forward to during our next visit! We did have the sunset massage for 2, though—a divinely romantic and decadent treat that everyone should partake in while visiting. It does not get any better than an amazing massage followed by alone time with your “amor”, sipping champagne and eating strawberries with cream and brown sugar, listening to the howler monkeys cry out as the sun slips down over the jungle and sea.

But the delights did not stop there…we followed this up with a private dinner in the spa. A table was set up next to the jacuzzi, and we were served a delectable meal by candlelight. A salad with pecan-crusted goat cheese preceded moist and tender grilled mahi-mahi and vegetables with garlic bread. Rum-soaked brownies with vanilla-bean ice cream were a perfect end to a fabulous meal. The spa was then ours for the evening, so we made good use of it, sipping wine in the jacuzzi while staring at the star-studded sky. I just cannot imagine a more romantic setting or a more flawless evening.

I have so much more to say about Los Altos de Eros, but feel it is best experienced firsthand, like all the most worthwhile things in life. No matter how many pictures you see of the staggeringly beautiful sunsets from the pool, no matter how many glowing reviews you read, you can’t truly appreciate the astonishing appeal of Los Altos until you have actually spent time there yourself. In the meantime, please feel free to email me if you have any questions about my stay.

Just one more thing…while I agree with the reviewers who stated they felt like royalty/celebrities, I would say it is even better than that. I must continue the “between heaven and earth” theme I have seen in other reviews, and say that staying here must be more like being a particularly pampered and sybaritic angel, for everything about Los Altos is heaven indeed. I don’t know how Jacqueline and Calvin have made it all come together in such a spectacular, decadent, sensuous, fun, special, perfect way, but they have. We marveled at every moment while we were there, and have barely spoken about anything else since the day we left. My only worry is that nowhere else will ever measure up—Los Altos may very well have ruined us for other hotels! It is truly without equal—I am very confident in saying you will not find anywhere else quite like it on Earth. We will be going back as soon as humanly possible. Many thanks to Jacqueline and Calvin for a stay beyond compare.

Gaia review coming soon...

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...