Costa Rica is the destination of choice for those seeking active adventure and the El Mangroove Hotel & Spa is one of the perfect places from which to enjoy it. Abundant wildlife, stunning volanoes and rainforests sit in the dozens of nations parks alongside zip wires, rafting and hiking. After all of the scenery and excitement, it is less well known that the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts are home to some of Central America’s finest beaches.
El Mangroove Hotel & Spa faces the one of the best – the sandy and naturally shady Coco beach in the stunningly beautiful horseshoe-shaped gulf of Papagayo. The hotel was designed by Costa Rica’s most prominent architect, Ronald Zurcher, who has coaxed a casual luxury out of simplicity.
There is an uncomplicated but coherent style that incorporates local stone, cane, and a series of towering guanacaste trees into the design. Any trees that were cut down in construction were repurposed into bedroom furniture such as tree-stump tables and wood-framed mirrors.
Simple rectangles and clean lines define the visual space of El Mangroove Hotel & Spa, from the buildings that contain the rooms, and an airy courtyard to the 45-meter pool lined with beach bungalows and modern rooms.
Facilities are equally impressive, with two restaurants, a spa, gym, an aquatic activities centre and a gift shop. The open-air spa cabanas mean you can have massages out amid the mangroves. There is also a steam room, outdoor relaxation areas with Jacuzzis and fitness classes on offer. El Mangroove Hotel & Spa is also the closest beachfront hotel to the international airport in Liberia, 20 minutes away. Note that the alternative – a 3 hour drive to San Juan for better international connections – is not a difficult option.
The service is cheerful and impeccable. Upon check-in we were provided with a tasty fruit cocktail and a cold cloth before a friendly host escorted us to our room and demonstrated how everything worked before parking our car. Anywhere we went on this property, we got big smiles and warm greetings.
Our room was L-shaped opening into enclosed patios, meaning you’re greeted by a hammock and sunshine on your way to the bedroom.
With either mangrove or garden views, the rooms have walk-in closets, minibars, Wi-Fi, touch-screen phones. Corner suites have ocean views. Ideally opt for El Mangle, for its direct beach access, private plunge pool, Pacific panoramas and a personal chef.
Morphing in to each other are El Mangroove Hotel & Spa’s two restaurants. Lofty cabana-style Matiss faces beach or pool and is the choice for lunch and early dinners featuring old-school, home-style, unadulterated local dishes, including patacones, or fried plantains, and chifrijo, a typical bar snack served in the cantinas: rice, beans, grilled avocado, pico de gallo, and chicharrones.
A step away the more stylish Makoko is the place for dinner and breakfast. Both feature menus from a Michelin-starred chef who sources 95 per cent of his produce from local fishermen and farmers.
Breakfast consists of a huge and impressively varied buffet with eggs made to order and local items such as tamales, and chalupas.
Steps away is the wonderful, almost endless, sandy beach where you can spot stingrays, dolphins and turtles (and humpback whales in season), or settle in for sunset on a row of loungers under the trees.
Swimming is not always advisable on the Pacific Coast but here, in the sheltered bay it is common and relatively safe.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of El Mangroove Hotel & Spa
For more information visit www.elmangroove.net