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Really, Really Long: Santa Teresa / Mal Pais hotel inspections

Really, Really Long: Santa Teresa / Mal Pais hotel inspections

Old Jul 9th, 2009, 10:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 470
Really, Really Long: Santa Teresa / Mal Pais hotel inspections

Hey all. I have been off the forum for awhile. We took a group to Mexico for a week over the holiday, and the missus and I took a couple extra days for us. I am just getting back in the swim.

I promised to write a review of the Mal Pais / Santa Teresa area. I figured I better get on it while I still remembered details!

Although I have been to Montezuma several times, I had never made the short trip up the road to this 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 here 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.

We stayed at Hotel Tropico Latino. This hotel is on the beach. We loved this place. Comfortable rooms, great pool area, and an amazing restaurant.

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 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 great deal by US standards, and we felt we had been transported to Italy. Fresh seafood was the specialty, and all was prepared in a very imaginative fashion.

This was my bride's birthday trip. Even though we were going to be in Monteverde for the big day, she told me that all she wanted was a lobster while we were at the beach. We ate at the hotel the first night. As good as it was, I noted that there was no lobster on the menu. But the next day, my wife told me that she loved the restaurant. She wanted to eat there again.

I made a point to find the chef when my wife 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.

I left my wife on the beach, and spent an afternoon doing some hotel inspections. I found a couple of gems, and some not so interesting.

The place I liked least was right next store to our hotel, and I am still trying to figure it out. Luz de Vida was a little confusing. Small, musty rooms. Certainly nothing special for the price. Casual atmosphere. Almost too casual. There were a bunch of pasty, hairy guys in Speedos playing pool in the common area. None of these guys had the figure for a Speedo, if you know what I mean. But the girl showing me the property was dressed to the nines, and not very friendly. Just an odd place. I couldn't be comfortable there.

The other end of the scale 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 accomodations 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 two person jacuzzi tub. Perfect for honeymooners.

The almost 1000 square foot Suite goes for under $300 per night in high season, including tax. 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 starts at $475 per night, and climb to over $850.00 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.

The last hotel we inspected, was the Esencia Hotel and Villas. This was the least expensive hotel I toured. It's funny, I guess I became a little jaded looking at the lifestyles of the rich and famous! So I had to come back to reality to appreciate this small and comfortable hotel.

Very reasonably priced, with nice clean and well appointed rooms. Even in high season, their most expensive villas were only $150.00 per night, including tax. And that is for four folks in a two bedroom unit. Their "open space" villas for two top out at $105.00 per night. The villas all have kitchens. They also have some standard hotel rooms that are $90.00 per night. No restaurant on site, so you are on your own for breakfast. And you are close to, but not on the beach. But again, a good value.

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 to 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 we 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!

Sorry that this ran so long.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer any more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
Pat_Hewitt is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2009, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 371
Wow, Pat, great detailed reviews of Malpais and Santa Teresa!
My husband and I got married at Ylang Ylang in Montezuma last February, and are booked to return for a week this coming February. We are contemplating splitting our week between Montezuma and Malpais/Santa Teresa. We loved Ylang Ylang, and I'm wondering which of the hotels you've seen in Mal/ST would compare. We really crave quiet places, romantic,with great views and proximity to the ocean, and of course, lots of critters to hang out with. Sounds like either Moana Lodge or Tropico Latino. We like to book months in advance for the choicest accomodations. What do you suggest?
costaricalover is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2009, 08:59 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 470
I guess it would depend on your budget, and how far you are willing to walk to the beach.

Tropico Latino sits right on the beach. If beach access is your main criteria, then this should be your first choice. They have some nice beachfront bungalows for $180.00 per night. The Garden bungalows are a little larger, with only a garden view. But they are twenty bucks cheaper, and only about 100 feet from the beach. This hotel offers everything you need for a casual beach hangout. All rates include tax, no breakfast.

If you have a little larger budget (and don't mind a little bit of a walk), then you should consider Moana. The views from the Suite and Jr. Suite are unsurpassed. I am a sucker for luxurious hotels with amazing views. This place fills the bill. It is romantic and elegant, without being pretentious. The new Jr. Suites are a real bargain at $195 per night. If you can splurge, the Suite as $295 is an amazing choice. All rates include tax and breakfast.

You are wise to book early for high season. These are both small hotels, and they will fill up quickly. Make your arrangements early, or you might be disappointed down the road.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer any more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
Pat_Hewitt is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2009, 08:25 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 7
Hi Pat-
I have been looking at Moana Lodge and I was really interested in going there. This review sealed the deal. You responded to my post about getting around Costa Rica. I wanted to do Arenal area and beaches. So, what I really want to do would be to go to Arenal/Fortuna area for 3 days and then go down to Malpais/Santa Theresa. You had mentioned in your response to my post that the distance is kind of far and suggested Sugar Beach, but Malpais just sounds perfect to me. I thought that from Arenal area we could rent a 4x4 to Putarenas, take the ferry over, drive to Malpais area and then head back to San Jose to fly home. Is that what you would do? Can you suggest something else?
You've been so helpful so far. Thank you in advance.
CRPlanning is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2009, 10:08 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 24,190
Cool, thanks, Pat! We haven't had a chance to visit this area yet. Appreciate the good info.
volcanogirl is online now  
Old Jul 17th, 2009, 10:43 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 24,190
Pat, do you know anything about Casa Chameleon? I think it's in that same area, and I've heard good things.
volcanogirl is online now  
Old Jul 24th, 2009, 09:28 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1
Hey There!

I just returned from my travels to Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, where I had an amzing time at a relatively neww little place, Blue Surf Sanctuary..and thats exactly what it is! I learned to surf with the most amazing instructors and the hotel is a very special cozy place with just four bungalows, but they are all decorated differently and now I want to redo my home here in the USA just like them! The staff was so helpful and caring, "breakfast" was huge and delicious and dinners out with Pia, or Miguel and the rest of the students couldnt have been better. It all began with emails to the owner Gloria, who made my holiday special before I even arrived.I have found my home away from home and thought it only right to share my discovery!
surf_sungoddess is offline  
Old Mar 12th, 2010, 07:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 6
Hi Pat. I was so happy to hear all of your thoughts about the hotels in Mal Pais/Santa Teresa area. I will be going there for a wedding in November and am looking to spend a few days before the wedding relaxing with my husband. We were considering staying at the Hotel Tropico Latino but have concerns that they don't accept credit cards. We have to wir them money for a deposit - seems shady and weird to me. Is there anything about that to be concerned about? Are they trustworthy? Also, I have read some things on tripadvisor about robberies. Do you think is it safe to stay in the bungalows? Any thought you have would be greatly appreciated.
brack is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2010, 01:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Great post, Pat. Hope you are doing well. Missed you.

We too loved Tropico Latino back in March of 2004. Wow, those oceanfront bungalows were $90 then! The entire area has really come on the scene. At that time, we heard of some property in Santa Teresa selling for $25,000. I told my husband we needed to get it! We didn't. Story of our lives.

Thanks again!
shillmac is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2010, 02:57 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 189
Good review, Pat. I have fond memories of that long, beautiful beach where you could walk on and on and on. And all those sand dollars! I too was surprised at the Tropico Latino rate. I had a beachfront unit for $80 INCLUDING taxes back in '03. Is it any easier to drive there nowadays? I remember a very long, bumpy, adventurous ride with all those darn rivers to ford......
joeschmo is offline  
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