San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Growing Guanacaste: A Look at Three New Options

The things to do and see, the pools to swim in, the hammocks to nap in… they’re infinite. But if you live in Vacationville or are regulars to the northwestern province, you may be searching for a new way to vacation.

Here are three new items that look like quality experiences.

El Punto

El Punto hotel in Liberia, Guanacaste’s capital, offers a unique experience – the hotel is in a renovated school. In January, one of the freestanding school buildings became a Berlitz language institute, so now guests can get up and study Spanish at school and then spend the night – although the suites don’t look like schoolrooms anymore.

Mariana Estrada, who with her family owns the old school and hotel, describes the renovated decor as primitive and minimalist, with bright colors inspired by the hues of Costa Rica’s green season.

The hotel has two lounge areas, a dining area and six suites with lofts and balconies, going for $50 per night for two people, including airport transfers, laundry and breakfast.

Estrada studied environmental design at TexasA&MUniversity in the United States, and employed some of what she learned in the refurbishment.

“The concept is to restore the place, resuscitate it,” she said. “It had been abandoned for a long time. We’ve been making almost all the furniture, and it’s made from recycled materials. I’m pro recycling and I hate buying new lumber if there is old lumber around that can be used.”

El Punto sits on two acres of land 150 meters south of the only traffic light in Liberia, where the

Inter-American Highway

intersects the road to the beach.

Berlitz Institute offers flexible group and private classes. Call 665-5544, or have a look at its Web site

For more information about El Punto hotel, call 665-2986 or 388-1023, or go to

Multiday Sailing Trips

Jennifer and Jeff Herrman, owners of Blue Dolphin Sailing, have come up with a new trip. They figure their 42-foot catamaran, which sleeps up to 10 people, is an awesome way to explore the bays of Costa Rica, allowing guests to jump into snorkeling spots, be dropped off in prime surfing spots and return to the boat to eat, drink, relax and just hang out or look for dolphins.

“It’s all about an opportunity for a group of friends or family to have their vacation on the ocean,” Jennifer says. “They can focus on surfing or sightseeing, whatever they want.”

Husband Jeff adds, “It’s all about experiencing Costa Rica. The perspective of being offshore gives people a chance to look back and see where you are.”

Blue Dolphin Sailing has a back-pocket list of prime surfing and snorkeling locations, dive spots and secluded bays, and getting there is part of the treat.

“The catamaran has two keels, which gives it more stability than a regular sailboat, which has only one keel,” Jennifer explains.

“There’s a trampoline in the front of the boat, which is really like soft netting.You can hang out there, and see the ocean passing underneath you. It’s a good place to work on your tan. There are shaded areas, too. ”

Jennifer says there is plenty of space for 10 guests, with five single berths and three double berths, one of which is above deck and open enough that you can feel the breeze and see the stars.

Trips include a fully stocked kitchen and open bar, and three meals catered to guests’ desires.

“We make the food really good – simple but fresh and delicious,” Jennifer says. “We catch fish all the time and make sushi.”

The captains, two of whom are registered U.S. Coast Guard captains, know how to have a good time, too. Together with the first mate, these salty lads catch and prepare tuna, wahoo and mahi-mahi, and sometimes sidle up to local fishing boats to pick up some shrimp and lobster.

For three couples, the all-inclusive rate is $1,450 per day. If guests want to look after all meals and stock their own fridge and bar, the cost for up to 10 people is $1,250 for the boat and crew only. For more info, call 842-3204

or go to

Camping Tours

Blue Trax Tours out of Tamarindo is launching a new way to spend a good chunk of the day riding through the Costa Rican wilderness without having to worry about getting back to town: camping tours assisted by a Land Rover Defender with two popup tents.

“We offer a specialized product,” says Wim Van Cleynenbreugel, owner of Blue Trax. “We’re surfers and mountain bikers ourselves, so we know what people like.”

“We only take four people on the overnight tours – it’s more personal – and we’re involved in the adventure,” he adds. “We drive into the Santa RosaNational Park in Guanacaste, and park right by the beach. We have everything people need right there. That’s what we’re about: adventure and comfort.”

Van Cleynenbreugel goes for quality. Guests use the well-known Trek mountain bikes with full suspension systems, meaning shock absorbers on both front and rear wheels.

Having meals prepared,with a Land Rover as home base and two rooftop tents with king-size foam mattresses, allows a level of comfort that some may yearn for at the end of a day of givin’ ’er.

“With these tents you’re off the ground, so it’s cooler, and there’s half the amount of mosquitoes up there,” Van Cleynenbreugel says. “It’s way more comfortable. The tents are screened, so the breeze can blow through.”

Blue Trax offers a variety of riding and surfing tours. A four-day, three-night mountain bike tour that takes guests through Santa Rosa National Park, to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and to Avellanas and Negra beaches near Tamarindo costs $825 per person, based on four guests. Airport or hotel transfers, bikes, catered meals, snacks and water, drinks including beer and rum and Cokes, a guide and technical support are included.

For information, call Blue Trax at 653-1705 or 814-1282.


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