Between Jaco and Manuel Antonio Beaches, Playa Estilleros Este, Costa Rica
Rising from the endless and isolated marbled black sands of Playa Estilleros, an oasis of almost undeveloped natural beauty along Costa Rica's popular Central Pacific Coast, is Alma del Pacifico (formerly Xandari on the Pacific), a truly exceptional luxury offering.
© Alma del Pacifico Hotel
Just a stone's throw from the pounding waves, you will first be struck by Alma del Pacifico's soaring architecture, a symphony of color and form that speaks to the senses, an interpretation of Costa Rica as constructed by the infinitely creative husband-and-wife team of Sherrill and Charlene Brody. Also responsible for recommended Xandari Resort & Spa near Juan Santamaría International Airport, this architect-artist couple added one remarkable amenity with their newest offering: the Pacific Ocean.
Like the original, Alma del Pacifico is an outstanding collection of exceptional luxury villas, each flowing and unique. Privacy is at a premium, and each secluded getaway is surrounded by secluded gardens on at least three sides. One lovely "garden villa," even more discrete than the rest, is completely encapsulated in high walls and gorgeously maintained greenery.
The rest offer an entire wall of glass that opens onto divine ocean views, fronted by private porches furnished with comfortable chairs and lounges, overlooking a soft, grassy lawn studded with coconut palms poised against that midnight beach. Walk for hours on the soft sand, or take one of the complimentary body boards into the crashing surf (not always safe; a tide schedule with swimming recommendations is supplied at the front desk when you check in). Or enjoy Alma del Pacifico's dramatic complex of pools, including a child's pool, a lap pool, and whirlpool, all surrounded with simply stunning gardens. Monumental artwork adds an almost psychedelic edge to the simplest swim.
On one end of the pool is the beautiful spa, fronted by some of Charlene's dramatic mosaic tile work. Enter into its restful interior, where myriad treatments are administered using the most modern technologies and sustainable products: massages, facials, wraps, scrubs and "rituals." The rituals are performed in four rooms aligned with the ancient principles of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Or you can enjoy most treatments outside, on the beach, or in the comfort of your own room.
© Alma del Pacifico Hotel
For despite all the beauty that surrounds you here in Playa Estilleros, you may not want to leave your decidedly divine habitation. Enormous spaces are open and inviting, with sleek built-in furniture and elegantly arched ceilings hewn from precious hardwoods. Every bright tropical hue of the exquisite exterior gardens blooms indoors, incorporated into the wonderful original artwork, which includes richly textured original paintings by the owner, as well as bright and beautiful sculptures imported from Guatemala. Gorgeous Guatemalan tapestries also flow across the undulating walls, extensive sofas, and beds well dressed in the highest quality linens. Many furnishings, such as the mosaic-tiled desks and coffee tables constructed from one hefty slice of driftwood, only add to the whimsical ambiance. And with glass encompassing one entire wall, opening onto a porch with lounges or perhaps your own tiny private pool, the sea will be your constant companion.
Large glass doors also open from the enormous bathrooms, where appealingly tiled showers face small private gardens, offering the experience of showering outside, with no compromise in comfort. Two separate vanities also ensure space enough for several guests to primp using Alma del Pacifico's fine selection of organic soaps and lotions.
Hidden amidst all this artistic beauty, bedecked in fresh flowers throughout, are telephones, CD and MP3–ready radios, Wi–Fi, excellent air conditioning, fans, and personal safes — but not televisions. The goal of this omission is the creation of a serene and restful atmosphere, where the pounding waves reverberate unobstructed through your vacation. A television and DVD room is available in the main building. The well–stocked minibar includes not only complimentary coffee from Alma del Pacifico's private plantation, but also a selection of Costa Rican snacks, including organic Bio Land cookies and chips, all included with the room rate.
The onsite restaurant offers open–air dining overlooking the sea, along with excellent service and a fine wine list. Chef Belizario Arce was in the process of changing the menu at press time, to reflect a new focus on local ingredients and healthy preparation, sure to be appreciated after you enjoy one of the many day trips and activities offered by accommodating hotel staff.
The area's relative isolation won't completely confine you to Alma del Pacifico; there are at least two restaurants and a tiny shop within walking distance of the hotel. But be aware that this is not Costa Rica's most developed spot — those who require a wide variety of nightlife and dining options should note that Manuel Antonio and Jacó are a fair drive from this virgin shore. Alma del Pacifico is, perhaps, better suited for those who like their long walks along the sea unspoiled, their flocks of green parrots and scarlet macaws unmolested by large crowds; their comfort uncompromised and romance unsullied by the concerns of too much civilization.
Web Address: AlmaDelPacifico.com
Total number of rooms: 20
Published Rates: $210–$370
Review by Paige Penland, photos by author except where indicated.