Playa Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
With its stupendous oceanfront position and gorgeous Asiatic-inspired aesthetic, Florblanca Resort is in a league of its own as a small boutique beachfront hotel with panache, offering true luxury in a far-flung area that mostly appeals to surfers and wanderers, with a secluded jungle setting away from the bustle.
Stretching along seven acres of forested beachfront and named for the "flor blanca" whose white petals form a fragrant carpet underfoot, this understated and chic retreat draws its inspiration from Bali. The hotel is hidden by a low wall at the far north end of a gorgeously rugged beach, beyond which the dirt coast road turns steadily wilder here at the tip of the peninsula. A two-minute walk down the tide line leads to an expansive and mostly empty beach that goes on for miles.
After a rough journey bouncing through the ramshackle town's gravel street, you arrive at a quick remote check-in area by the parking lot. After that it's all bliss as you descend to a hidden world under a shady natural canopy. Beyond the entranceway, charcoal-gray flagstone paths ease down through a glade of palms and almond and plumeria trees offering tantalizing glimpses of the surf. Riotous foliage rises all around, hiding the villas to each side. The path spills down to the multi-purpose, open-walled main building edging up to the beach. Here, a small reception area with games to borrow adjoins the restaurant and bar. This area overlooks a stone paved sundeck arcing around two freeform pools—one with gradual wade-in access—overhung by a Balinese-style lounging palapa that doubles at night as a lovers' private dining terrace.
The core of the social scene is the poolside Nectar Restaurant and Bar, a lofty timbered space whose arcing cocktail bar doubles as a sushi bar. While the culinary bar in Costa Rica is still surprisingly low, Florblanca will at least meet expectations with more creativity than usual and plenty of locally sourced ingredients: "farm to table and hook to fork." The menu is, by design, focused instead of sprawling, but it's sure to please a wide audience and the chef is happy to meet individual requests. Sushi here gets rave reviews and I had an excellent catch of the day that couldn't have been any fresher. Breakfast runs from a fancier version of the typical Tico meal to Mexican-inspired dishes to a healthy morning bowl. The lunch menu includes some family style plates meant to be shared.
The full bar serves up a variety of cocktails, beers, and carefully chosen wines you can enjoy here, poolside, or by the beach at sunset.
The pool itself has a variety of lounging spaces, some flavored ice water in a glass dispenser, plush towels, and even some sunscreen if you forget yours. Hammocks and a dining table are down just a few steps between the pool and the beach.
You'll probably spend much of your vacation time walking the beach and lazing around, but there is a popular yoga class six mornings a week at the beautiful bamboo dojo that's open to nature on one side. Florblanca also has an air-conditioned fitness center on site and trainers often do strength and conditioning classes or Pilates on the beach or in the dojo with small groups. There are surfboards to borrow for those with experience or classes the staffers can set up in town for newbies.
For me they arranged a paddleboard excursion in a relatively flat-sea area a few miles down the coast where we paddled while the sun dipped down to the horizon. You can also arrange snorkeling excursions, horseback rides, mountain biking, or guided nature walks in nearby Cabo Blanco Absolute Wildlife Refuge. There's also a nice boutique on site with quality items to purchase.
The Asian-inspired Bambu Spa is a peaceful set of buildings set off from the others and it would be hard not to relax during a treatment here. The private Jacuzzi in the designated room for couples invites lingering and the soothing sound of falling water is ever present. Immersed in the tropical forest and surrounded by shallow pools and cascades, the spa exudes a tranquility that massages your body, mind and soul.
The 11 vast villas nestle deep amid the hillside foliage. The most common layout is set up like a small house, with an air-conditioned bedroom, an open-air bathroom with outdoor shower and huge rock soaking tub, plus a large living room area where you could invite 10 friends over for a party. It's open to the natural surroundings at the far end, with an inviting hammock strung up to enjoy while you listen to the tropical birds singing. (Drop down screens offer protection in inclement weather or privacy at night.) Numbers seven and eight are closest to the restaurant and reception and the number eight one is wheelchair accessible.
Three superiors have the same general layout, but add a second floor with another bedroom and an additional bath. The Deluxe suite has an ocean view, as does the Honeymoon House and the Surf House. The latter is more rustic than the others, but is good for families since it sleep six (with two in the living room area) and has a full kitchen. It also has a porch with hammocks and armchairs running the length of the building, facing the ocean.
Done up throughout in soft ochres and creams, with teak accents and furnishings, these inviting quarters are some of the most attractive and spacious in the whole Nicoya Peninsula region. Each unit has a dining space, wet bar and minibar, built-in sofa with cushions, and understated decor featuring the occasional Balinese mask and Costa Rican watercolors and craft pieces. Bedrooms have a good array of lighting, outlets for charging up the gadgets, a full closet with safe, robes, and WiFi that works well.
The outdoor bathrooms set in walled gardens are a visual delight with their poured concrete sink and countertops, shaded shower, and sunken two-person stone tub shaped like a boat. Florblanca is proud of its well-developed sustainability program, the efforts of which are showcased in a wooden picture book decorating each villa's living area and the various programs and foundations the resorts staffers are involved in each year.
The youthful staff (many are keen surfers) deliver enthusiastic service. The overall mood is professional yet laid-back and unpretentious. Nonetheless, this lovely hotel is sufficiently sophisticated to draw plenty of well-heeled travelers willing to make the long journey and endure potholed and dusty gravel roads to get here.
For nature lovers who want to really feel like they're in Costa Rica while still enjoying gorgeous sleeping quarters and fine meals, it's hard to top Florblanca resort for a relaxed vacation.
Web Address: www.florblanca.com
Total Number of Rooms: 11 (10 villas and the Surf House)
Published rates: $400 to $1,050 double
Review and photo by Timothy Scott.