Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Nestled in the hillside on a private nature reserve above the world famous Manuel Antonio National Park, the chic and contemporary twenty–room Gaia Hotel and Reserve offers adults age sixteen and up stylish accommodations and highly personalized service.
The 14–acre (5 hectares) property slopes up from the hotel entrance, located five kilometers from Quepos on the road to Manuel Antonio National Park. The Gaia Hotel spreads across 2.1 acres and is surrounded by a 12–acre private nature reserve. Parking is at the foot of the property, where you are greeted by name and shuttled up the steep driveway through a tunnel of foliage in a golf cart. The stark white hotel dotted with powder–blue reflection pools creatively blends with the natural environment: the whites recall the cotton ball–like clouds that form in the forest canopy and the blues the Pacific waters in the distance.
The small reception area, dressed in dark woods, draws your gaze to the treetops and the Pacific Ocean through a panoramic glass window. The emphasis on the natural environment is not lost in this design–oriented luxury property. Checking in includes an introduction to your personal concierge, who is like having a well–connected friend at the hotel. From here, you can enjoy the views and your welcome drink from a cushioned chaise lounge on your room’s private terrace, step over to the La Luna Restaurant and Amber Lounge for its tapas menu (starting at 3 p.m.), or immediately indulge in the complimentary 20–minute massage, exfoliation or facial treatment at the Terra Spa. Perhaps you are on your anniversary and would like to celebrate with bottle of champagne at a poolside table bedecked with fresh flowers? You just need to communicate your desires to your personal concierge.
The food at the Gaia Hotel and Reserve gets rave reviews. The New York Times said “the restaurant serves excellent fusion cuisine.” (This is quite the compliment from a publication where writers are quick to say that they could make a better snack with an emery board and dental floss.) The La Luna Restaurant, which is open to the public at certain hours, is set with linen topped tables and cushioned rattan lounge chairs. Bar seating is available in the combined Amber Lounge. Dining is al fresco. The setting generates as much enthusiasm as the food. The entire restaurant commands sweeping views of the lush natural landscape backed by the Pacific, and live Latino music every night adds just the right amount of ambiance.
Catering to a sophisticated crowd, the Gaia Hotel and Reserve knows that many people would like to have the opportunity to learn a bit about the local culture. Open to sharing the secret to its renowned cuisine, the kitchen invites you to learn how to prepare your favorite dish on the menu. Nature lovers can explore the private nature reserve with a guide in the morning. For trips further afoot, your personal concierge can arrange everything from a guided tour through Manuel Antonio National Park to river rafting on the Savegre River to an adrenaline–infused afternoon at the nearby Adventure Park.
If relaxation is high on your to–do list, the Gaia Hotel and Reserve has no shortage of options. The intimate Terra Spa has six well–equipped treatment rooms with views. In addition to the comprehensive list of available treatments, there is a weekly special. (During my visit, the weekly special was a Chocolate Indulgence Massage.) There is also a beauty salon if you feel like having your hair done. If you are not renting the Gaia Suite, which is the only accommodation with a private pool, the main pool more than satisfies. The warm waters that cascade throughout the five-tiered infinity pool quickly lull you into a meditative state, especially if you are leaning back in one of the floating lounge chairs with a blackberry margarita in the cup holder. You can also pick up books, DVDs and board games in the reception area, which is open 24 hours.
Beach lovers take note though: as with most hotels in the Manuel Antonio area, there’s no direct beach access from the property: you’ll need to get into a vehicle and head into town to join the masses on the public beach.
There are just twenty rooms at the Hotel Gaia and Reserve. The Villas are the only guest quarters with two rooms. The biggest difference between the Deluxe Suite and the Suite is that the former has a second–floor terrace. The views and the canopied day–bed make the Deluxe Suite worth the extra cost. The Villas, Suites and Studios have the same rattan furnishings and king–size beds dressed in 500–thread–count linens set atop almond wood floors. The spacious bathrooms are tiled in slate and have Jacuzzi tubs. All rooms have flat screen TVs, home theatres, coffee makers, minibars, and safes. Wireless is available throughout the property, and there are also computers in the business center.
Gaia Hotel and Reserve is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. With a keen eye on sustainability, it has also been awarded four of the five leaves in the Costa Rica tourism board’s rigorous sustainability certification program. The hotel is under review this year and striving for a miraculous five. The Gaia Hotel and Reserve is sure to please adults looking for a peaceful and romantic getaway (honeymooners in particular). People with children, or for those seeking a hotel with equally breathtaking views to host a large wedding, might consider Villa Caletas or Arenas del Mar.
Web Address: www.gaiahr.com
Total Number of Rooms: 20
Published rates: $220 to $1,100 BB
Review and photos by Beverly Gallagher