Santa Barbara de Heredia, Costa Rica
You'd never know we're about 20 minutes from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city, and its busy airport. But here we are comfortably tucked into a lush tangle of trees, greenery, and flowers that attracts dozens of bird species. Butterflies and dragonflies flit from bloom to bloom.
A cool breeze ruffles our tablecloth and a hint of jasmine scents the night air as we prepare to dine on the creative culinary whims of the chef at El Tigre Vestido. Gazing across the tree tops from the restaurant, the city lights are winking in the distance against the backdrop of the sunset-burnished central hills on the far side of the valley.
Guests like us have the good luck to be lost in this little slice of paradise called Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn because of the vision of an American family. Sylvia Jampol, like so many others since then, fell in love with Costa Rica in the mid-1980s as it became a burgeoning holiday destination. She was so smitten she wanted to build a home here for her family.
She bought—at an unheard-of price these days—eight acres of muddy motocross terrain. They would later acquire an old 35-acre coffee plantation across the road.
Today, the property is a jungle oasis, every tree and bush planted by Sylvia to create a special family home. But financial reality set in and the family couldn't afford to keep it to themselves.
They re-imagined it as a resort and it became Costa Rica's first eco-boutique hotel. Today the property has two villas and 13 rooms and it is still the highest-ranking member of the world-renowned Sustainable Tourism Certification program.
Over the years, it has become popular for its service, but also because of its location. It is a popular haven either going to arriving from the airport, or returning from the central hills to see the country's volcanoes. Today, Sylvia's son Glenn and his wife Teri have carried on her dream and then some. Over the past 30 years, they've crafted an unpretentious, luxury eco-resort, filled with their personal eclectic art collection from their travels. It caters to travelers who crave quiet, creative all-organic cuisine (with chickens raised right on the property and the produce in the greenhouse). And, of course, delicious coffee—all close to a big capital city. Guided tours of the coffee plantation are offered daily, followed by a "cupping session," a serious coffee tasting that is a fascinating way to learn about the palate's perceptions.
You can opt to be as busy—or not—as you like. The hotel offers dozens of tours, from adventurous pursuits like whitewater rafting to more cultural offerings such museum tours or cooking demonstrations. At some point it’s very likely you’ll just want to stay put once you settle into the serenity of Finca Rosa Blanca and relax amid its charms and quirks.
En route from the airport, our GPS told us to turn right at what looked like a narrow alley, and we did so warily. We passed a mashup of modest and more stately properties, until the gate and a bright yellow tiled sign appeared on our right. We were greeted with a cold fruit juice festooned with a bamboo straw. This is just one of the small examples of Finca Rosa Blanca's commitment to operating a fully sustainable hotel. Its initiatives include solar-heated water, composting organic waste for the gardens, hiring local residents, using pulp from the coffee plantation as fertilizer, and using water harvested from banana trees to irrigate the plantation.
Guests are chauffeured by electric golf cart (no motorized vehicles on site), and ours stopped at El Ranchita, our round luxurious roost for a couple of nights. The vaulted bamboo ceiling and cushioned window seats set against a dense garden jungle made it feel like a fantasy treehouse. Steps away was an infinity pool with a dreamy view overlooking the valley.
The most distinctive feature of Finca Rosa Blanca is the whimsical Gaudi-esque styled white stucco villa that pokes out of the trees, with 10 suites. We couldn't wait to go back at the end of our holiday if only for one night to stay in the three-level Rosa Blanca master suite. Its circular roof-top terrace surrounds the bedroom, providing an unimpeded view of the countryside. The suite's fanciful bathroom has colorful murals on the wall and a deep soaker tub that gets filled by what looks like a natural stream trickling down the wall. The gentle, tropical scented lotions and soaps in the bathrooms are all locally made and organic.
A winding teak wood staircase to the bedroom leads you to a dreamy four-poster bed. And that's where we head after another delightful Latin fusion meal. It highlights why there's no reason to venture further beyond Finca Rosa Blanca’s gates for a relaxing stay away from the bustle.
Web Address: www.fincarosablanca.com
Total Number of Rooms: 15
Published rates: $280 to $410
Review and photos by Lisa Monforton.