San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel El Jardín a Lovers’ Paradise on the Nicoya Peninsula

Sometimes it’s good to live like a backpacker or a beach bum – it builds character and can be humbling. But sometimes it’s best to sack all that and just curl up in the lap of luxury.Hotel El Jardín is just the place to do it.

Nestled in the foreigner-ized, bustling tourist town of Montezuma, on the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula, the hotel is an escape from the escapists. Within its walls, the grounds transport guests to a lush, private oasis, a great base from which to explore the nearby white-sand beaches, waterfalls and diverse wildlife.

Walking up the cobblestone entry, visitors are enveloped by the cascading gardens of wild, vivid and colorful flora. Whoever this garden’s caretakers may be, they certainly have their hands full.

Two villas perch toward the top of the gardens, tucked in among the leafy collage of foliage. Travelers here might well feel like the veritable royalty of Montezuma, for the Jardín’s grounds are the apex of the crossroads atop the small city’s main drag. The villas each feature two bedrooms, a terrace and a full kitchen.

The hotel is a lovers’ paradise, perfect for honeymoons or just a weekend away. Everywhere you look, and probably a few places you don’t, you’ll find another private nook. Couples can be found doubled up in hammocks, sharing deck chairs and smooching on balconies and porches.

Hotel El Jardín is perhaps Montezuma’s best place to see and be seen. Passersby can’t help but notice the beautiful tropical flowers and the sleek, mysterious cabinas hidden behind them.

A rate of $65 secures a queen bed, air conditioning and a private bath. The queen bed and hot shower are big-ticket items. Assuming you’ve spent the day getting your hands dirty or your muscles sore, you’ll need them. And after a day of trekking up rivers, swimming in dirty pools, or jumping off waterfalls, you’ll feel like you’ve earned it.

And oh goodness, the air conditioning. When days at the beach send you home with burns on your thighs, toes and the tip of your nose, that little humming machine in the corner will welcome you to sleep soundly. You might even need to cover up. As if you could possibly need more water, the hotel’s been outfitted with a shallow pool and Jacuzzi. But, after dark, it’s a different story. The pools become a surreal oasis full of clever lighting, healthy palms, cacti and other rare flowers.

The rooms are tidy and have enough storage space, but you might feel the need to hit the street markets to buy some trinkets just to have something on the shelves.

The room I was given featured a floor-toceiling stained-glass piece depicting local wildlife, but few other adornments.

Guests won’t find TVs in the Jardín’s rooms, but in a place of such natural beauty, the glare would be an unwelcome distraction. The staff was somewhat passive during my visit, and not outstanding when it came to giving directions and advice.And though the hotel focuses on creature comforts, it would be nice if they’d offer little bottles of shampoo and conditioner to go along with the soap. The labeled tip jar in the room was a bit tacky and wholly unnecessary.

But these small complaints are no reason to stay away. Hotel El Jardín is the class of Montezuma.

For information, call 642-0074 or 642-0548, visit or e-mail


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