Laura Byers is a freelance travel journalist that lost her heart to the world of travel ten years ago during a round the world trip with her husband. She enjoys discovering new cultures, culinary exploration and new adventures.
This luxurious hideaway is without a doubt one of the finest properties in the cosmopolitan Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur. Consisting of just 21 rooms, most surrounding the stunning lagoon pool, it is the epitome of boutique and cossets a peaceful home from home feel without compromising on life’s little luxuries.
I find I have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok. It’s a city that catapults you to somewhere entirely unique, yet after a few days you get the sense you have overstayed your welcome. After a gruelling long haul flight from the UK to Thailand, overtired hot and moany visitors arrive in their throngs but in reality once past security moods lighten and it’s time to throw yourself into the culture and infectious magic of the city.
I have previously had the pleasure of visiting Koh Phangan, and more specifically the tiny beach of Thong Nai Pan Noi on numerous occasions however never to this particular resort. With only a small cluster of hotels on a tranquil beach, it is the
Alma del Pacifico, on one of Costa Rica's most beautiful stretches of beach, exudes an auto of luxury and privacy in a completely relaxed setting without pretension. The small boutique property of 20 suites reflects Costa Rica’s colorful culture, with spacious villas in a post-modern Californian style and lush tropical gardens right on an incredible stretch of oceanfront. The hotel has created a spot that works for both families and couples on a romantic getaway, with a rejuvenating spa and above-average restaurant. When the sun starts to sink, go for a stroll along the wide glassy sands, order a mojito from the bar and watch the spectacular sunset.
Each of the 20 guest villas is uniquely designed, in the distinctive bold style of architect and former owner Sherrill Broudy: a dynamic open-plan space, flooded with light, with slabs of rich colour. A high curving wooden ceiling echoes the sea and creates a soothing airy feeling, as does the private, walled terrace of each room. The walls are adorned in Sherrill's wife Charlene’s unique paintings and rugs in saturated colours, reflecting her love of the natural tropical world. The effect is warm and welcoming and very individual: the antithesis of bland hotel rooms! There are 5 grades of villa, starting with Garden Bungalow, which although lovely, don't have sea views. We'd definitely recommend splashing out on one of the beachfront options for that instant uplifting feeling in the morning, and lounging on your private terrace in the late afternoon. Of these, Beachfront Bungalows are the smallest, though these are already huge and include 28 feet of beachfront. Beachfront Villas are even larger and the Deluxe Beachfront Villas feature a private plunge pool on their terraces. As well as the comfortable kingsize beds (or 2 doubles) each room has a long generous couch that is also a daybed, a desk space and books and magazines to peruse. Lighting is excellent and candles are provided, too - both for atmosphere, and in case of power cuts! All rooms are superbly equipped with all kinds of thoughtful details, from fresh fruit and flowers when you arrive to complimentary snacks, coffee and soft drinks in the minibar. Bathrooms are particularly generous (most with 2 sinks); we loved the wonderful wide curved shower area in Sherrill Broudy’s signature style, with hand-mosaiced tiles and views to a private garden. There’s air-conditioning as well as fans and blinds, bathrobes, hairdryers, umbrellas, torches for walking around the gardens at night, iPod docking stations, good wardrobe space, and a safe big enough for a laptop. Best of all? Your view of the ocean from your private patio - a good outdoor space, with perfect views onto the surf. Here there are 2 recliners and a table, outside lights and a blind to shut out early morning light should you require it.
New to Alma del Pacifico are three larger vacation rental options, located one-and-a-half miles from the main property and perfect for families or large groups. Casa Mono Loco and Casa Mirador are both set on the ridge line with breathtaking ocean and rainforest views; they each have three bedrooms and three baths, gourmet kitchen and private infinity pools. There are also several three bedroom luxury condos, with two master suites, expansive verandahs, exotic teak floors and gourmet kitchens. Guests of the vacation rentals have full access to all hotel facilities; a car is highly recommended, or guests would feel quite stranded.
The open-air, thatched roof Pavilion Restaurant offers great views of the ocean surf crashing to shore. Generous space between tables ensures that each group feels private, and there are sweet flower arrangements throughout. A continental breakfast is included in the tariff, including freshly squeezed juice, coffee or tea, a platter of seasonal fruit, and choice of breakfast breads with butter and preserves. Other menu options (at an extra charge) include omelets, pancakes, a nice selection of a la carte items, and a Tico-style local breakfast with gallo pinto, fried plantains and tortillas. The Lunch and Dinner menus offer international and Costa Rican cuisine, with an emphasis on local and healthy ingredients that makes use of sustainable seafood and produce. Many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in the colourful gardens on-site. There’s a good selection of sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta, hot dishes and cold options - the salads are particularly recommended. Snacks (bocas) can be eaten all day: the guacamole is excellent.
Alma del Pacifico offers the perfect setting to be as active as you want, or simply relax and do nothing. Options for activities include:
Go swimming: there are 2 pools set in lovely gardens - a lap pool (not for children) and a semi-circular pool (where children are welcome), both maintained with an ionised system so very little chlorine is needed. There's a Jacuzzi too - open all hours
Head to the beach. It's blissfully private as there are so few hotels around, but you’re warned quite seriously to swim ONLY when the tide is coming in. Tide tables are provided in each room but it's generally quite rough
Go surfing right out in front of the hotel – the hotel can set up surf lessons with a photographer!
Get pampered! The spa has superb signature treatments classified under the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Chocolate and coffee scrubs, mud wraps, superb deep tissue massage. We loved the coconut/ginger body scrub.
Horseback riding is available in the hills behind the resort, and out on the beach - a local tour which is fine for novices.
Ziplining is a great adrenaline high, at Rainforest Adventures. Combining an open-air gondola ride up the mountain with a thrilling descent down 14 ziplines, the tour also includes a naturalist guide and walk through the serpentarium and garden.
Manuel Antonio National Park is just 45 minutes’ drive away. Here, rainforest fringes stunning beaches and coral reefs. The snorkelling is excellent and the forest is home to sloths, iguanas and the rare squirrel monkey. Reception staff will organise tours with reliable local operators to save you the hassle
The Isla de Damas estuary tour offers some interesting wildlife too - monkeys, crocodiles and birds in a fragile mangrove swamp ecosystem, seen by boat or by kayak. Make sure reception staff book your trip with experts Pablo or Henry, since other guides were less experienced
Diving, fishing, golf and white-water rafting are also popular activities in the area.
Details: Alma del Pacifico Playa Esterillos Este, Parrita, Puntarenas Central Pacific Coast, Costa Rica 888-960-ALMA / (506) 2778-7070