San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel Villas Lirio Offers Both Beach and Jungle Delights

To make a gross overgeneralization, there are two basic tropes to Costa Rican tourism. There is the beach, which is hot, breezy and generally tries (not always successfully) to put one in the mind of linen and seashells. And there is the jungle, which is in many ways the opposite – close, still, crawling with things, encouraging you to wear boots and bring a GPS locator.

Villas Lirio, situated as it is in the beach/jungle hot spot of Manuel Antonio, on the central Pacific coast, could have gone either way, so we weren’t sure what to expect when we pulled up to the gate one sunny Saturday morning.

The enormous whitewashed outer wall with the hotel’s name in huge lettering left us in no doubt as to where we were. And from the outside, on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it seemed like “lirio” could have meant “beach view” in Italian.

It turns out, however, that a lirio is a lily, as in the kind of flower you might find by foraging deep into the heart of a thick jungle, which is sort of what it’s like walking around the grounds of Villas Lirio. We wound our way through the dense foliage along a brick pathway toward our room, and plunged inside.

The grounds of Villas Lirio are probably the most impressive thing about the hotel. The lot itself isn’t very big, and it is right on a rather busy road. Yet the design contrives to trick you.

The thick walls give a sense of privacy, while the tropical foliage filling most of the green space is literally so dense you can’t see more than a few feet off the brick path. Paradoxically, the closeness gives the grounds a sense of space.

All the winding paths lead somewhere –the main swimming pool, the restaurant, the community kitchen – and a humongous guanacaste tree spreads its limbs over all.

The motif here is very much jungle, from the design of the grounds to the design of the facilities. Paintings of wild animals are everywhere, and all the furniture is either wicker or dark wood – rustic style.

The hotel takes the jungle thing a bit too far in the rooms, which are dark to the point of gloominess and ventilate with difficulty.

All the furniture is heavy and dark, though a fan and air conditioner help lighten things up.

Anyway, who goes on vacation to stay in the rooms? The hotel has an abundance of outdoor sitting areas – couches, chairs, lounges by the pool.

Again speaking to the genius of the designer, every room, no matter how humble, has its own patio with a few chairs and a table. Our room, which was more humble than some yet nicer than others, had a patio that opened onto a small swimming pool shared by three or four rooms. It was a nice touch.

Another nice touch is the shared kitchen area. Available for any guest who cares to reserve it, the space is simply enormous and fully equipped with two double-door refrigerators, a stove, a grill and just about any utensils you could want.

Villas Lirio is not a budget hotel, but it’s good to see that even nicer hotels are picking up on the attractions of staying in a hostel –community and do-it-yourself fun. A grocery store just 100 meters down the road makes home cooking and the kitchen option even more attractive.

The kitchen is only one gastronomic option. The hotel also has a bar, which makes delicious – if a bit too sweet – piña coladas and margaritas. The restaurant, however, still has a few kinks.

The main problem is that it has a set menu every night, which makes it more like a cafeteria. Also like a cafeteria, the food tends toward the heavy side.While it’s filling, there isn’t much interesting happening on the plate, and considering the rather steep price of $20 per dinner, it might be a better idea to call a taxi and try out one of Manuel Antonio’s many decent restaurants.

Villas Lirio maintains an impressive list of tours it can set up for guests. Prices vary depending on the tours, and we unfortunately never got a chance to try one out. But for anywhere from $30 to $100, guests can enjoy horseback riding, a sunset catamaran tour or even whitewater rafting, as well as the ubiquitous canopy tour and tour of ManuelAntonioNational Park.

Villas Lirio is owned by the Casa Roland Hotel Group, which also operates the CasaRolandHotel in San José and the Casa Roland Marina Resort in Golfito, on the southern Pacific coast.

Getting There, Rates, Info

Follow the winding road from Quepos to Manuel Antonio for four kilometers. As you are ascending a steep section to the top of the hill, you will see the ManuelAntonioSchool (Escuela) on the left side of the road. Do not drive past the school. You will see a road that makes a sharp 180-degree turn to your left heading up a small rise, passing a stone wall on the right. Follow this road around the corner and you will find Villas Lirio on the right-hand side.

Rates are $135 for a single garden room with one queen-size bed and a porch; $165 for a double garden room with two queen-size beds and two porches with sofa arrangements; and $185 per night for a garden suite with living and TV room, kitchen and separate bedroom with queen-size bed. All rooms have cable TV, ceiling fans, air conditioning and private bathrooms with hot water. The above rates do not include 16.4% sales and hotel tax. Prices are higher December and January.

For information, call 777-0403, e-mail or visit


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