JACÓ, Puntarenas – Nestled on the beach just away fromthe hustle and bustle of the Jacó’s main strip, the eggshell whitestucco apartments that make up Apartotel Girasol are a relaxingescape in the lively tourist town.Within the wrought-iron gates, the beautifulmanicured garden with its floweringshrubbery and shady palm trees stretches outbetween the apartments and the beach.Originally built as condominiums, the 16spacious apartments allow guests to stretchout and relax.GIRASOL is run by part-owner PhilipAubin, a Canadian, who along with his brotherRaymond, came here and fell in love withthe area during a vacation in 1990.“We came upon it by accident,” Aubinsaid. “We were looking for a place to go onholiday and someone suggested Costa Rica.”After discussing it with a travel agent,they were told that they could either go toJacó, on the central Pacific coast, orTamarindo, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, also onthe Pacific coast.“Back then, there was hardly anything down here,” Aubinsaid. “We asked the agent where she suggested.”ADMITTING she had no idea of the differences betweenthe two beaches, the brothers decided simply to go to the oneclosest to the airport. At that time the Liberia airport inGuanacaste had yet to begin regular international flights.“Basically, we got down here and just fell in love,” Aubinsaid.A few years later, the Aubin brothers purchased the propertywhere Apartotel Girasol is now located.Although the original intent was to sell theunits as condos, they decided to run it as ahotel, renting out the apartments by thenight, week or month. Girasol officiallyopened in January 2000.Each apartment is made up of two largerooms. The main room joins together cooking,dining and sitting areas. Set off by a partialwall, the fully equipped kitchen is joinedto the dining room by a pass through. Thefirst room also features a couch and a chairsectioning off a small area with the focusdirected to the television with cable. Setback behind the living room area is a twin sizebed.THE tile floors, wicker furniture andlarge picture windows add to the ambianceof the apartments. The spacious bathrooms, with their bright redtiles and quirky-patterned shower curtains, add a jolt of color tocontrast with the soothing white of the rest of the apartment.The air-conditioned bedroom has a queen-size bed and atwin bed. In total, the apartment can accommodate five adultsor an average-size family. “We’re very family oriented,” Aubin said. “A lot ofhotels aren’t very children friendly, but I think it’simportant that parents know that their children are welcome.”Top and bottom level rooms are virtually identical –the only difference being that upper level rooms havevaulted ceilings and, depending on the floor, each apartmenthas either a balcony overlooking the hotel’s pooland landscaping or a patio that opens on to the centralarea.MOST guests, who tend to be a mix of both nationalsand foreigners, stay for either a weekend or a weekdepending on the time of year, Aubin said.The quiet and peaceful atmosphere combined withthe convenience of having many restaurants nearby issomething Aubin sees as a highlight of the hotel.Another feature Aubin adds to the hotel is makingsure that guests are happy – whether it’s arranging toursor something as simple as calling a taxi.“Everybody’s important,” he said. “People leavehappy and that’s what we want.”APARTMENTS start at $86 a night during the lowseason and $115 a night during the high season. Weeklylow-season rates begin at $517 and $725 during the highseason. Monthly rates are also available.For more info, see www.girasol.com or call 643-1591.GETTING THERE: By car: An approximatelytwo-hour drive from San José, take the Inter-AmericanHighway west and then head south along CoastalHighway. Follow clearly marked signs. Heading intoJacó on the main street turn left onto Calle LosAlmendros. Girasol is at the end of the road.By Bus: Several buses a day leave San José from theCoca Cola terminal at Calle 16 between Ave. 1 and 3.Tickets are ¢1,020 ($2.35).