Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
In the heart Playa Langosta, a 5–minute walk from the beach, this charming hotel and villa complex offers a colorful and relaxing ambiance on shady tropical grounds, with a magnificent pool and fine organic restaurant.
Despite its landlocked location enclosed by a wall and unpaved dirt road, Cala Luna pervades a sophisticated beach resort feel that impresses immediately upon arrival. A fruity welcome drink and cool towel appear at the sit-down check-in while someone whisks away your luggage. The lobby here is worth lingering in. Glazed tree trunks support the open–sided lobby's angled palenque ceiling, beneath which you can settle into a huge L–shaped, soft–cushioned, sofa and white leather lounge chairs encircling a large coffee table made from a ficus trunk. Rustic art and craft pieces and subtle wall motifs honor Costa Rica's Indigenous tradition, and the hotel's logo suspended above reception is that of a pre–Columbian representation of an eagle.
This space opens invitingly, rearward, to a lush landscaped garden inset with a free-form pool framed with hibiscus and bougainvillea in multiple shades of red and pink. Cushioned wood and metal lounge chairs are aligned around the sundeck, including some in cabana-style shaded set-ups.
The two restaurants on either end of the pool alternate meals and both are mostly minimalist, white and light wood places seemingly designed to put the focus on the food, the cocktails and the company. The former thatched roof of the main restaurant is now topped by Spanish clay tiles and solar panels, but still supported by polished tree trunks. It features covered and open air-seating, which is quite romantic at night, with candles on the tables and soft lights strung between the trees.
The chef here delivers consistently tasty gourmet fare using local organic ingredients from sustainable fishing and farming, supported by a organic and biodynamic wine list—the first place in the country to pursue this option. You can expect a much higher level of cooking and presentation here than what's common in Costa Rican hotels. The morning breakfast buffet (included in the rates) is a delight too, with plenty of healthy options mixed in with some decadent pastries, cheeses, and sausage or bacon.
At lunch time, the Caletta poolside bar becomes the restaurant, serving fresh seafood, salads, and sandwiches to eat in your bathing suit. They start serving food and drinks at 11:00, so you can ease into the day with a healthy smoothie under the categories of "Detox," "Oxygen," and "Energy." Or you can go straight to the signature cocktail of the day that's going to combine ingredients grown in fertile Costa Rica/
Guest rooms have been renovated a few times over the years and get a little more sophisticated with each pass, but they're still quirky and full of personality—in a good way. Cushioned corner window seats, custom sconces with punched moon shapes, and driftwood light fixtures are a few examples. Off-white tile floors and walls keep them feeling cool, with gauzy curtains and blackout curtains ready when needed. Color pops are provided by the headboards, striped pillows, and cushions. Overhead is a beamed wood ceiling. Two queens or a king–size bed are standard, as are air–conditioning and ceiling fans, and all villas have cable TVs, coffee makers, and free WiFi. The gooseneck reading lights on each side of the bed are a nice touch for couples on different sleep schedules.
Exquisite bathrooms feature marble–topped his and her sinks, plus two–person sunken tile tubs perfectly suited for lovers to wallow together. Complimentary toiletries are in reusable pots and there are ample fluffy towels.
Larger parties might opt for spacious two– or three–bedroom villas. Echoing the rooms in style, these also have a full living room and fully equipped kitchens with a large fridge, regular oven, microwave oven, cappuccino machine. Each villa has its own pool and lounge chairs in otherwise sparse gardens. Strolls from the villas to the other locations on site are like a mini nature walk, the paths lined by lush tropical foliage, birds and butterflies often moving between the trees.
The hotel provides complimentary bikes to use to get to town or get some exercise, plus there's a morning fitness activity most days, either a yoga class or an agility and resistance class in a dedicated outdoor platform area. Other facilities include a boutique, a spa, and a tour desk that can set up activities like kayaking, horseback rides, or sea turtle tours. Besides spa massages, you can also elect to get one in your room or at the beach. Parking is free on site.
This small Tamarindo resort is not right on the water, but the distance to the shore down a path is negligible and at night there's a complimentary sunset happy hour by the rocky beach with hammocks and chairs set up. It's a 15-minute walk to the right from here to get to Tamarindo Beach, which is better for swimming and surfing. Couples can opt for a private dinner for two out here at night, but for others the gate back to the hotel closes a bit after sundown.
Though this well-run hotel with healthy food would be enhanced by a beachfront setting, Cala Luna is in most respects the best property in the Tamarindo region and the the sea is actually much closer to your room than it is at many sprawling resorts.
Web Address: www.calaluna.com
Total Number of Rooms: 20 rooms, 21 villas
Published rates: $295 to $560
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.