San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Recovery Ranch Tranquil, Private

THE 10 cottages have been fashioned and furnished in themes reminiscent of the southwestern United States on a cattle ranch outside of San José. But the coziness of their décor is interrupted with handles around the toilets and soon to arrive adjustable hospital beds.There, in the Chetica Ranch recuperation home for post plastic surgery patients, men and women in various stages of recovery read in bed, watch one of the many movies available on DVD or DirecTV, warm themselves by the wood fireplaces in every cottage, walk the trails through the hills and ride horses.RUBEN and Lorena Martin stumbled on the idea more than seven years ago. Ruben had bought the land as an investment for posterity and a respite from the bustle and smog of Los Angeles, Calif., where he had owned a business and lived for 25 years.A friend of Lorena’s went to San José for a plastic surgery operation and checked into a hotel afterward. There she was told to remain in the room so as to not frighten or disturb the non post operation guests, and the rude treatment prompted an invitation from her friend and sent her with packed bags to the ranch.SHE recovered there, on land skirting Braulio Carrillo National Park, northeast of San José, in a room with a forest view and visits by monkeys, sloths and tropical birds. She was so enthralled with the tranquility of the home and the hospitality of her hosts that she began to spread the word among her friends. Now that word has slipped into the suggestions of local doctors and onto the Internet, where surgery chat rooms and support groups gush over the enchantments of the ranch.MARTIN and his family take charge of every detail of a patient’s visit to the country. They arrange to greet new arrivals at the airport, help settle them in before their appointments, drive them to their clinics, take them back after their operations, feed them home-cooked meals and grilled meats, light their wood fires, and attend to their medical needs.It is a family operation that includes Martin’s mother, Tita, who is a nurse and administers shots and helps with medication, and Lorena’s brother and his wife. Each cottage is an independent unit, some small and cozy, others larger with kitchens and multiple levels. Martin pores through Architectural Digest magazines and books of architectural photography seeking ideas for their decoration and their design.He began work on four more houses that will be replicas of domed buildings on a Greek island that he has seen only in photos.WOODS carved in images of bald eagles, bears and suns, among others, frame doors and adorn headboards.Floors are of multi-colored natural woods and ceramic tiles in bathrooms.“I’m trying to put a lot of details in there,” he said, something he has accomplished with fireplaces of river rock, a jacuzzi, a social room, not yet finished, where guests can meet to talk, use the Internet, or order from the protein drinks bar, and a masseuse who visits to give therapeutic massages.SOMETIMES they invite musicians to play concerts for a night, and other times they host dinners for their guests in their home and serve Martin’s Argentinean wood-grilled chicken.“We are so close when they stay here,” Lorena said. “We get to know their lives. They are just like part of the family.”The food served is all natural, no sugary beverages or alcohol that might bungle the healing process (though they are always available in town for the obstinate). José Vásquez, much better known as “Fincho,” keeps the grounds, acts as nightly security and saddles horses and guides trips.MARY Wigginton, a surgery patient who stayed at the ranch, considered it vital to her recovery.“Even with the finest surgery in the world you just can’t make it without the aftercare,” she said. “Chetica meets you at the airport with a big sign and a smile and makes you feel wonderful.”EVERY service, except the massage, including the meals, the transportation from the airport and to the clinic and the horses, is included in one price of $75 per patient. A friend of a patient can stay for $35, and two patients who stay together can stay for $65 each. Kids are free.For more info about the ranch, call 268-6133 or e-mail The Web site is

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