Originally built in 1930 as a family home in the newer (at that time) part of Quito just north of the Old Town Center, Casa Joaquin has loads of history and character. The family run, colonial-era inn has been completely renovated, very well-done and tasteful. The decor is stylish, but not at all over the top; it's mix of European tradition and contemporary trend works. The place is very comfortable and homey while achieving elegance at the same time. The hotel was named after the famous painter Joaquin Pinto (1842 – 1906), who lived in Quito and who is considered to have been the “Ecuadorian Da Vinci”.
It is also the perfect size, in my opinion. The original Ecuadorian wood and iron staircase leads to 13 brand-new, individually designed guest rooms, with furniture and decor by local artisans. Each room is unique and has been named after an old drawing or art-reproduction the owners found in the house, left by the former inhabitant and dated from 1920-1940. There is also a full apartment in the back of the property, on ground level, with a bedroom, living room and full kitchen along with a private garden terrace. The apartment is perfect for long term stays of a week, several weeks or months.
Breakfast is a treat; along with the full European continental breakfast, each day guests are also served a specialty of the house that is fair-trade prepared. On our mornings we were treated to crepes, French toast and a savory pastry. A serious Italian espresso machine means that you can also order a wonderful, authentic cappuccino or espresso. Their secret? secret? Two cooks who owned a famous gastronomic restaurant in Leuven, Belgium created Hotel Casa Joaquin - and they just can’t hide their love for fine food!
Adjacent to the dining room is a small, cozy bar that is a nice place to have a drink in the evening. The red phone-booth door to the WC closet (bathroom) is an unexpected, fun and quirky touch.
The staff is excellent - knowledgeable and helpful, while respecting your privacy and giving you as much or as little service as you desire. Rooms are extremely tasteful and comfortable, with excellent European bathrooms.
The neighborhood, La Mariscal, is fun and lively. This is the less conservative, younger and more bohemian Quito neighborhood. All around Casa Joaquin are a wide choice of international restaurants and bars, particularly two blocks down where a corner plaza is a very happening spot in the evening, filled with street cafes, restaurants, and people walking around. Only a few blocks to the trolle system that will take you straight down into Old Town Quito, the location is easily accessible to other parts of the city as well.
All in all, Casa Joaquin offers everything you would want in a boutique hotel, and is the perfect affordable yet luxurious starting point for visiting the treasures of UNESCO World Heritage city, Quito.
orthopedic mattresses, anti-mites treatment
private bathroom with shower, WC and hairdryer
flat screen cable TV
free wireless internet
safety deposit box
delightful breakfast included
24 hour reception
Boquete, Panama has become one of those "it" places that expats have been flocking to relocate to in recent decades. Fortunately, it is still under the radar of places such as Costa Rica and Cuenca, Ecuador; and still retains an authenticity, a low-key vibe, that keep it from simply being gringo-land in Central America. The cool mountain climate, stunning views, great hiking and coffee farming draw short-term tourists, retiring Central Americans and Western expats alike.
Two of these expats are Jane Walker and Barry Robbins from Vancouver, Canada. The couple left their home and stressful lifestyles in high-tech nearly twenty years ago, heading south to Central America yet unsure of where they would finally settle. "As we drove out of the parking lot, I just let go," Jane recalls of their exodus from North America. "The life we were leading was being left behind. I didn't know where we were going, but I knew it would be different."
After a year and a half of exploring the region, they settled in Boquete in 1996 and found six acres of land that was a defunct coffee and orange farm. There, they built La Montaña y el Valle - The Coffee Estate Inn, the first luxury inn in the Boquete area, in a mere 10 months.
The Coffee Estate Inn is exquisite and magical; you can look at the photos and videos online, but they don't prepare you for the riot of flowers and colors and scents that envelop you the second you drive through the gate. Jane and Barry have been avid gardeners all their life, using it as an escape from stresses of the job back in Canada. "We would garden just about as frantically as we worked," Barry says. "So instead of taking the enjoyment and that soul-fulfilling thing of working in the soil, it was just covering up an absence in the rest of our lives." But for the past 18 years, the couple has found their calling and turned their passion for gardening into a labor of love, creating the stunning oasis that is their inn.
"There's no 'growing season' here," Jane says. "You pick up a plant and stick it in the ground, and it simply grows. It's truly a gardener's paradise. It's right for us, right here." Luckily for the rest of us, we have the opportunity to live that paradise if only for a short while. Three very private, luxurious bungalows are the only rooms at the inn, and the couple has thought of every small detail to make the stay wonderful and memorable - right down to heated floors in the bathrooms for those chilly mountain mornings.
There are many very good reasons why VISIONTV out of Canada picked the inn for its "Recreating Eden" television series. The episode featuring Jane, Barry and their Coffee Estate Inn has been syndicated and shown on the Knowledge Network in Canada since January 2008.
The Coffee Estate Inn sits high up on a hill a few kilometers above the town of Boquete, so it is both secluded and peaceful as well as a quick, convenient drive into town as well as local hiking trails and other day trips. Jane and Barry provide loads of detailed information, both during the arrival orientation as well as in the information book left in each guest room; and they always make themselves available to answer questions or provide guests with area information. You can also take a coffee tour of the farm with Barry, who explains the process of coffee farming and roasting, along with interesting tidbits about the gardens in general and life in Panama. The tour is included in stays of three or more nights.
The Coffee Estate Inn remains a small and exclusive hotel by choice. The bright and airy bungalows face the volcano and have spectacular views. All are surrounded and separated by gardens and forest. Each bungalow has a large covered terrace, spacious living room and dining area, kitchenette, separate bedroom with ensuite bathroom, flat screen television with satellite TV and DVD, security safe and free high speed wireless Internet. Windows are screened. Each bungalow also has a fully stocked kitchenette with toaster oven, microwave, mini-fridge and of course - a personal supply of the estate's personally roasted coffee beans, never more than three days out of the roaster.
"Coffee is one of those things that just gets in your blood," says Barry. "This is the place we want to be. This is home."
Rates are $180 per night, per couple using the special internet rate; private breakfast left in the room for each morning is included.
Some travelers are beach people, wanting the sand-and-water experience under palm trees. Others are city travelers, preferring the excitement and diversity of entertainment that a metropolitan vacation offers.
Westin Playa Bonita in Panama City is one place where you can have both – in style. The gorgeous property is just at the outskirts of the city, across the bridge from Panama City’s lively downtown and the Panama Canal. On this peaceful stretch of Pacific Ocean beach, with its golden sand and blue waters, the Westin Playa Bonita has all the makings of a hidden-away tropical resort; yet is only minutes away from the sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife that thriving Panama City has to offer.
Guest Rooms The rooms have an elegant, understated modern décor, with fantastic bathrooms and views that either look over the Pacific Ocean or the tropical rainforest that surrounds Playa Bonita. The beds are seriously comfortable; in fact Westin has trademarked it as its Heavenly Bed, and that it is. All rooms feature a 40-inch LCD television, iPod docking station, refreshment center, separate shower and deep soaking tub, wood Panamanian furnishings and some have private patios. The 18th floor is home to the Westin Executive Club Rooms, all with stunning views from private balconies and access to the Executive Club Lounge, serving food and drinks throughout the day. Suites are also available, from the Revival and Renewal Suites meant for a relaxing stay to the Presidential Suites of 1,600 square feet, with ample living space, kitchen and dining table for six.
Onsite Facilities This is the kind of place where you can do as much or as little as you like. Four beachfront pools provide an escape overlooking the ocean, with several bars and the ability to have snack foods and light meals served. Take a stroll along the beach, or participate in some of the fun daily activities ranging from salsa lessons to beach volleyball and kayaking. There is also a fully equipped fitness center onsite. If you really want to experience total relaxation, check yourself into the Sensory Spa by Clarins, which specializes in holistic remedies and hydrothermal healing with their many choices in body and facial treatments.
When it comes to dining and nighttime fun, there are plenty of choices here. Depending on the level of package you have booked, three large dining rooms serve sumptuous buffet meals three times a day. These are not your typical buffets; on my stay we were highly impressed by the quality and diversity of the food offered. There are also several other restaurants onsite. The chic Soléo offers Mediterranean tapas by day and cocktails and karaoke by night, while Asiana is a sophisticated dining experience specializing in sushi, curries and other Asian dishes. Finally, Tierra Y Fuego is an upscale steakhouse with a Latin flair. For after-dinner drinking or dancing, the Oasis Bar & Lounge has a great vibe, personable bartenders and live music most nights.
Neighborhood/Nearby Attractions All the sites and attractions of Panama City are a short drive away, five to 25 minutes. Check out the history of Casco Viejos, the old town that is both falling apart and up-and-coming at the same time, and the newest hot spot for the hip and creative. Don’t miss the nearby seafood market, a taste of local culture and where you can get some amazing, fresh ceviche for three to four dollars. Of course, the Panama Canal is a huge draw. Take a tour of the canal and its lakes and byways; or visit the famous Miraflores Locks for a birds-eye view of ships passing through the locks.
Highlights Location – on the beach yet minutes from the exciting, lively city and the Panama Canal. Food – an excellent variety of all sorts of food using fresh ingredients and chefs who are serious about what they are putting out. Atmosphere – this can be a fun party place, with good times by the pool and evenings listing to live music while sipping delectable cocktail creations; or you can simply relax by the beachside pools or in the spa. Staff – the people who work here are generally a friendly and helpful bunch, who will make you feel at home.
Good to Know If you’re traveling as a family, you’ve come to the right place. The Westin Kids Club for children 4-12 offers supervised activities, completely free of charge. Attentive staff will lead the kids in crafts, music, playground and beach activities and much more. Weddings and events are big here. With 20 multi-purpose event spaces that compromise 65,000 total square feet, and a professional events team, having the perfect wedding, renewal ceremony, party or corporate event is a breeze. The Westin Playa Bonita is pet-friendly; they’ll even provide your four-legged friend with its own Heavenly Bed!
Los Altos de Eros means the height of love – and that’s just what this place is. Every detail is thoughtfully planned and executed, from the rooms to the exquisite spa and delightful meals - and most especially, the amazing staff.
Los Altos de Eros is a small boutique hotel set on 27 acres high amongst the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica. The secluded romantic retreat is far removed from anything to spoil the perfection of the place or experience, yet only a 20 minute drive outside the popular town of Tamarindo. In many ways, Costa Rica is the way life should be. With numerous eco climates, many active volcanoes, and pristine beaches, the country offers a diverse and storied culture that can be enjoyed by all.
Upon arriving, the entry lobby and common area living/dining rooms feel more as if you’ve just stepped into someone’s luxurious private home. The staff is warm and welcoming, and lead you to one of four poolside rooms, a detached suite with private terrace, or the upstairs Eros Suite. Each room is beautifully decorated with signs of Eros all about, from sculptures to other art forms. Each room is meant for romance, from the large two-person tubs to private terraces. It’s no surprise that this is a very popular place for honeymoons and small weddings.
The on-site spa was rated 8th best spa in the world! The building is just below the property and is open air, constructed solely of teak with bamboo ceilings. Views from the 5 private treatment rooms feature mountains, jungle and the Pacific Ocean. Very Balinese in nature, this is the place to relax even more, should you need to. Treatments from massages and body scrubs to facials and soaking tubs soothe away any stress easily, and the therapists are excellent and gentle.
The meals are a big draw here; Chef Andrea delights in creating fresh, local and very inventive dishes, and guests can also take her very popular cooking classes during their stay. She meets with each guest to discuss their likes, dislikes, preferences and any food allergies. Los Altos de Eros only serves organic fruits and vegetables, free-range chicken, and grass-fed tenderloin. The seafood is brought directly from the dock packed in shaved ice.
Other onsite activities include yoga with certified instructor Nicole Loria; hiking around the area; swimming or lounging at the gorgeous infinity pool; or going into Tamarindo for shopping, restaurants or the local beaches. Los Altos de Eros can also arrange a number of eco, adventure and culture tours in the area.
I love that the property offers a Top 10 list of reasons to stay, which include "We are hurricane proof and we don't have drug wars." Other listed reasons, all of which I completely agree with, include the romance, many awards the 5-star hotel has won, the cuisine and spa, amazing staff, involvement in the community and Coco the dog.
2 Poolside room with one Queen bed $450/night plus taxes
2 Poolside room with King bed and private terrace $550/night plus taxes
Detached king room with a cover private terrace $595/night plus taxes
The Eros Suite, our best accommodation $695/night plus taxes.
Rates include the following complimentary services:
Transportation from and to Liberia airport
Breakfast and lunch daily
Dinner on Saturdays
Complimentary beverages (smoothies, beer, wine, coffee, tea, soft drink) are available all day.
This property receives high ratings and is very popular, so booking well in advance is advised. And they have a heck of a guarantee policy: If in the first 24 hours of your stay you don't think Los Altos has over-delivered on what you expected, they will happily refund your room charge and help you find another location at which to stay.
Contact Details: Phone: (506) 8850-4222