Costa Ballena, Uvita
Perched atop a mountain, this sexy post–modernist boutique hotel offers sensational coastal vistas and an irresistibly gorgeous aesthetic that makes inspired use of glass, glass, and more glass.
"Designed for sensuality," say architect Martin Wells and biologist Alejandra Umana, the youthful creators of Kurá Design Villas, whose magnificent minimalist six–room hotel opened with a splash in November 2012. A jaw–dropper that almost defies superlatives, it enjoys an enviable position high in the Fila Costña Mountains, with sweeping views up and down the jungle–clad Central Pacific coast. Arriving guests will find the bumpy drive up the steep mountain road a thrilling challenge, but transport can be arranged from the village of Uvita, far below.
You enter via a cobbled hall framed by glazed bare concrete walls and an open staircase that augers up to the reception desk, adorned with three glowering devil masks of the local Boruca Indians. Still, the warm welcome here induces a grin, not least thanks to wall–less vistas over the sprawling sundeck and saltwater infinity pool to the designed–by–Hollywood vistas.
The 19–meter–long, L–shaped pool has a commanding presence, and even features an underwater sound system and a flame that's lit at night. Oversized his–and–hers loungers are aligned along the landward edge, paralleled by the lounge–restaurant — its glass walls pull back concertina style to all sides so guests can be at one with the elements. The kitchen produces Costa Rican fusion cuisine using organic and sustainable produce. Bar staff will conjure a mean Guaria Morada cocktail (sugarcane liquor, blackberry, and coconut cream) — a perfect accompaniment at sunsets, best enjoyed while chilling on the Sky Lounge rooftop deck.
A small spa offers beauty treatments and massages, and private yoga classes can be arranged. Most guests wisely opt to take advantage of the surrounding wilds: hotel staff can arrange whale–watching in Ballena Marine National Park, for example, and will provide packed lunches by request.
The couple's passion project reflects their sophisticated vision of eco–friendly, including a chemical–free pool, solar energy, and state–of–the–art gray–water recycling. Their admiration for the pristine surroundings finds its way quirkily into the villas as, for example, a large photo of a red–eyed tree frog inlaid beneath glass in the black slate floors.
Imagine your open–plan, one–room villa as a glass cube with bamboo ceiling and one cement wall harboring the closets and toilet behind teak shutters. Privacy is assured by twin exterior cement and polished hardwood walls to each side, while the third wall of glass opens to a broad glass–walled terrace overhanging the forested mountain side. Villas 4 and 5 have the most unobstructed views of Uvita's famous "whale's tail" tombolo below.
A king bed sits atop a hardwood base in the center of the room, with white leather sofas or chairs to one side, with two–tone blue cushions as accents. En–suite open bathrooms are highlighted by a glass–walled shower that opens onto the terrace. Complimentary iPad and Wi–Fi are included, but forget TVs — Kurá Design Villas is designed to ensure that you unplug and unwind.
A draw principally to travelers who crave sophistication, the hotel's raw tropical minimalism and ecological sensitivity also blend naturally into the biologically exuberant surrounds of a region famous for its pristine mountains, oceans, and beaches.
Web Address: www.kuracostarica.com
Total Number of Rooms: 6
Published rates: $440 to $890 BB
Review by Christopher P Baker, photos courtesy of the hotel.