San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rancho Armadillo: Like Visiting a Friend With a Really Cool House

PLAYAS DEL COCO, Guanacaste – RanchoArmadillo sits on 25 acres of dense jungle at theentrance to Playas del Coco. Unlike most of the upper scalehotels in the area, Rancho Armadillo does nothave billboards exclaiming its existence to passers-by.There is only a knee-high rock with apainted arrow to guide arriving gueststo the ranch.But, that’s how owner Rick Bogelwants it to be. He doesn’t want peopledropping in unannounced. After all,it’s not just a hotel, it’s his house.Bogel is a little picky about whohis guests are. If a guest is high-maintenanceor too fussy, he doesn’t wantthem there.“I don’t want those type of peoplehere. And I’ll tell them,” he said. Hehasn’t had to turn away too manyguests before, but it’s happened.SINCE the hotel is small – it canonly sleep 20 people at once – andsince Bogel lives on the property, the guest-owner experiencetends to be fairly intimate.Bogel makes breakfast for his guests, sips afternoonbeers with them, helps to coordinate their trips and generallyforges a friendship with them.“Within a day or so most of the guests feel athome,” said Bogel as one of the guests rises to getanother beer from the open-air lounge/restaurant refrigerator.“I’m not going to wait on these guys and theycome to see it as visiting a friend with a really coolhouse.”“Yeah, it is like visiting a friend with a really coolhouse,” says the guest. It’s this particular guest’s secondtime visiting and it won’t be his last, he added.BY the time a guest arrives atRancho Armadillo, Bogel usuallyknows just about everything aboutthem, because they’ve probablyalready exchanged about 30 e-mails.Sometimes, they even send a picture,he said.“I can tell by the kind of questionsthey ask me if I want them hereor not,” Bogel said. But, with hiseasy-going personality, it’s hard toimagine him not getting along withsomeone.Still though, this self-describedold hippie has isolated himself physicallyfrom the rest of town. Withinhis 25 acres of land, a relatively small portion of it hasbeen transformed into a lawn that takes about fourhours to mow. The centerpiece of the lawn is a huge, oldGuanacaste tree, which plays host to about 30-35 iguanas,some of them up to three feet long.BOGEL is trying to grow a secondary forest on hislawn, having planted several Guanacaste seedlings,almond and mango and teak and banana and walnuttrees, among others. A wall of blooming bougainvilleaseparates the yard from the hotel’s private drive.Bogel likes giving tours of the property and canidentify animals by their calls or recall the folklore surroundingan animal’s history. He’ll point out the round,tile stepping stones made by his girlfriend to form walkingpaths. He’ll show guests the small garden designedto attract hummingbirds and butterflies, noting that theydecided against certain plants that would attract toucansbecause their squawk is annoying, especially in theearly morning hours.The other side of the property plays host to therooms. There are four buildings, divided into two roomseach. All the rooms are equipped with a small refrigeratorand a coffee maker. Windows are plentiful withseveral different views – the tree-covered hillside, the pool or the town emptying into the ocean.Headboards are carved locally and eachhas a different nature design. Bathrooms,like the rooms, are spacious. One roomhas Playas del Coco’s first bathtub.AS a buffer between the rooms and thehouse, is an open-air patio with a thatchedpalm roof, which used to be the restaurant.There is no longer a restaurant but the full servicekitchen remains and is open toguests. Bogel will do the dishes.Or, for lazier guests, Bogel, who usedto make his living from the many restaurantsin Michigan that he owned, will cooka meal for $10 a person, plus the cost offood. As he makes the meal, he gives astep-by-step cooking lesson.The views from the ex-restaurant, andthe flower-surrounded pool next to it, areamazing.PRICES range from $65 a night forsingle occupancy to $106 for the two roomsuites.To get to the ranch, go toward Playasdel Coco. At the entrance to town and rightbefore the boulevard begins, turn left. Theranch sits at the end of the road.For more info, call 670-0108 or visit

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