Tacacori, five km north of Alajuela, Costa Rica
Stylishly contemporary, Xandari Resort and Spa combines an impressive ridgetop location with colorful, artistic décor and a satisfyingly sophisticated full–service spa. (And it's close to the San Jose airport!)
When California entrepreneur couple Sheryl and Charlene Brody bought themselves a coffee estate on the slopes of Poás volcano, a few kilometers north of Alajuela, they selected a site tailor-made for a splashy hotel. Barely a 15-minute drive from San Jose's international airport, with fabulous views over the Central Valley to the distant Escazú hills, the setting is sublime. Unlike with some other hotels with such a panorama though, this one adds delight after delight to your experience.
A steep and road through coffee country deposits you at the gate, beyond which a lush world of ferns, palms, and colorful plants slope up to a circular, stone–lined arena with a broad shallow staircase channeling up to the entrance. The arching facade is a statement to the lovely architectural simplicity that owner Sheryl—professional architect—brought to designing this hotel. It is giddy throughout with a combination of ice–cream pastels and primary colors, the mosaic tilework and stained-glass windows combining with mango, peach and pistachio walls. Much of the vibrant modernist artwork is co–owner Charlene's.
The lobby lounge is a veritable gallery of exquisite sculptures and craft pieces spilling out of the adjoining gift store. To one side, a sinuous bar with gleaming hardwood counter mirrors the curvaceous vaulted hardwood ceiling—a Xandari motif that plays throughout the property. Open along one wall, the mezzanine lounge opens onto a shaded dining terrace offering vast views over the valley beyond a forested canyon. A small TV and music room proves convenient on rainy days. Charlene offers art classes and yoga in a dedicated studio.
Coffee plantation has given way to lush tropical gardens and spots where nature has been allowed to take over again. A staff of 11 gardeners keeps it all in check and walking paths thread through all the vegetation, including a long hike to a waterfall and natural pool. You can go on your own with provided maps or go on a reasonably-priced guided walk.
Two heated lap pools are next to the original buildings, while a stunning new infinity pool is now open out past the newer villas. You can reach it via a pleasant walk through the gardens or summon a golf cart to take you. The full-service spa is a soul-soothing temptation that's staffed full-time and offers a wide range of treatments, many making use of local fruits and herbs. Couples can also rent a private open-air hot tub for two by the hour here.
Delicious health–conscious meals produced by a versatile chef make the most of fresh ingredients from the hotel's own orchard and garden. The setting is sublime, with mosaics and bright colors on the inside, the valley and mountains in the distance past the open terrace.
The smallest rooms are the Primas, which are studios, and are less private than the others. They'll do, but only take one of these if everything else is booked. The rest are spacious, free-standing villas that come in various contemporary architectural styles. With their sensual rooflines and contoured sofas or two daybeds, each is a visual stunner steeped in sunlight and flooded with primary colors. Décor includes original artwork, native craft pieces, and quality Guatemalan tapestries and fabrics. All villas are positioned to maximize great views through walls of glass opening onto broad furnished verandas. Each villa additionally boasts an enclosed garden with lounge chairs. Bathrooms beckon with their capacious showers enclosed by arcing mosaic-clad walls, while some also offer outdoor showers or large tubs, either looking out at a private garden through walls of glass. Sizes range from 500 to 735 square feet, with numbers 15 and 16 being the largest.
There are purposely no TVs, but units that don't share a wall with anyone have a CD player. Other amenities are extensive: robes, wet bars, fridges, coffee makers, electronic safes, complimentary snacks, and quality natural toiletries in the double-vanity baths. Guests who need to check their e-mail must do so in the lobby, however, either using the provided computer or the wireless signal.
There is Internet access in the newest unit: the sprawling two-bedroom Star Villa that will certainly make you feel like a rock star. It has a living room with a huge sectional sofa, a dining area that will seat eight, a full kitchen, and a stunning view through a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass. Hand-carved wooden bedroom doors and custom artwork make this one of the most attractive city suites in the country.
At 3,900 feet altitude, this resort stays temperate all year long and rooms don't require air conditioning. It is hard to imagine anyone not falling head over heels for Xandari Resort and Spa and harder still to believe how downright convenient it is to the international airport. The guest book is filled with regrets of guests who only booked one night here on the way in or out of the country, not knowing they would long for two or three more after arrival.
Note that the previous Xandari by the Pacific has been sold to new owners and changed names, but it remains a near copycat version by the shore at Esterillos Oeste, with the same delightful design touches and attention to detail.
Web Address: www.xandari.com
Total Number of Rooms: 23
Published rates: $220 to $644 BB with taxes
Original review by Christopher Baker, updates and photos by Timothy Scott.
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