Believe it or not, it’s still possible to disappear on a quiet, deserted beach just a few hours from San José. Sandwiched between Jacó’s party scene and Manuel Antonio’s national park, the central Pacific coast’s Esterillos Este offers neither of these attractions. Instead, it holds quiet nights, big blue skies and long stretches of empty beach.
The most luxurious spot to slip into this world is Xandari by the Pacific resort. U.S. owners Sherrill and Charlene Broudy opened this getaway last year, drawing on the popularity of their first Xandari Resort, which opened in Alajuela, northwest of San José, in 1996 (TT,March 28, 2003).
Xandari by the Pacific is their joint brainchild, meshing artist Charlene’s colorful paintings and mosaics with architect Sherrill’s unique shapes and lines.
Each of the resort’s 11 spacious villas reflects this creativity. Smooth tile floors, stucco walls and wood finishings are accented with colorful throw pillows, comforters and artwork. The Ultra Villas and Maxima Villas have king-size beds and long, Lshaped leather couches, ideal for lounging in the air conditioning when you’ve had enough of the sun and surf.
All of these villas, as well as the Prima Villas, have their own beachfront terraces with small tables and lounge chairs. A few Garden Villas lack the beachfront view and have small, green patio areas instead.
At Xandari, beachfront is not an exaggeration – with the sliding glass doors open, the lull of waves nearby is ever present, as are unhindered views of the lush grounds and ocean beyond a glass wall facing the beach. Curtains on the edge of the patio can be drawn to provide privacy if desired.
Half-moon-shaped, mosaic-walled showers are the focus of large, well-equipped bathrooms. The villas also come with a small fridge, countertop and coffeemaker.
Designed with privacy in mind, each brightly colored villa is separated from the next with its own gated entrance and has its own lawn area separating it from the beach.
At first glance, it would seem these lawns provide private beach access. However, one Xandari employee subtly explained that using them for this purpose is not recommended, since you could have honeymooners for next-door neighbors, and nothing but a glass wall would separate you from them if you were to traipse through the lawn. Two pathways centrally located between villas lead you to the beach instead.
A well-manicured yet natural grassy area with hammocks and comfortable lawn chairs borders the gloriously long, dark-sand beach. Behind the villas, a long lap pool for adults only and an adjoining smaller pool are both accented with colorful blue tile, fountains, chairs, umbrellas and garden areas.
Not surprisingly, all this private luxury comes at a price – a pretty hefty one, in this visitor’s opinion. During the low season from May 1 to Nov. 14, the Garden Villa runs $195 per night, while the deluxe Maxima Villa, which has its own small pool, is $325.
Those prices jump to $235 and $370, respectively, in the high season from Nov. 15 to April 30.
While the rooms and grounds can accurately be described as luxurious, the rates seem to exceed what the resort offers, especially considering that only continental breakfast is included and all other meals are billed separately. And because there’s only one other place to eat in Esterillos Este – the nearby Pelican Hotel – and nothing in the way of markets, guests will likely end up eating all their meals at Xandari (see sidebar for more on the restaurant).
However, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of customer service. Xandari’s friendly staff is available to meet your every need and can also help arrange activities including trips to Manuel Antonio or Jacó, horseback riding, canopy tours, rafting and more should you need a diversion from all the peace and quiet.
A spa similar to the one at Xandari’s Alajuela location is in the works and likely to open by December, according to assistant manager Richard Arias. It’s designed to enhance the resort’s theme of peace and tranquility that’s reflected in its name.
“‘Xandari’ is a word the owners created to describe their vision of an inspirational paradise” that creates well-being and harmony of spirit, mind and body, according to literature provided by the resort.
Esterillos Este is located off of the central Pacific highway, about 30 kilometers south of Jacó. For more information on Xandari by the Pacific, visit www.xandari.com, e-mail email@example.com or call 778-7070 or, from the United States, 1-866-363-3212.
Yummy Eats, Great Margaritas with a View
Xandari’s thatched-roof restaurant pavilion affords diners the same unbeatable ocean views they get from their rooms while serving up a nice mix of creative dishes and solid standbys.
Standouts on the menu include the Greek island fish, the catch of the day cooked in olive oil and oregano and topped with a mixture of tomatoes, olives and blue cheese, a very tasty combination.
There’s also the “tropical” mahi-mahi with marinated garlic, olive oil and celery, topped with black beans and pineapple, one of a few tempting seafood choices.
Several interesting chicken and pasta dishes are available, such as sesame grilled chicken with cranberry sauce, and Xandari also does a mean tenderloin steak.
Most entrées range from $10 to $14.
Lunchtime brings salads, pizzas, sandwiches and specialties including fish tacos and wraps. The Caribbean salad, described as mixed greens, jumbo shrimp, crabmeat, papaya, avocado, lemon and Dijon mayonnaise turned out to be tangy and fresh, but a bit on the skimpy side for $10. Four jumbo shrimps top a mound of lettuce, unfortunately shredded from wispy leaves into something resembling lawn clippings. The crabmeat is diced so small it’s barely noticeable, and the salad fell short of the heaping bowl of greens and seafood one might expect for $10.
Traditional Costa Rican bocas such as nachos and patacones (fried green plantains) are well done and more reasonably priced, starting at $4, and Xandari whips up a tasty cocktail to go along with them. In fact, the margaritas are so good it’s worth visiting Xandari for happy hour or a nightcap even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
Real, fresh lime juice, triple sec and enough tequila to bite are shaken and poured over ice, just as they should be – no messing around with sugary mix in a bottle. Sipped from a salt-rimmed glass, this concoction is a rare find to be savored ($6).
Perhaps guests overindulging in these margaritas inspired the “Tower of Health,” one of several items included in the continental breakfast. It’s a vibrant stack of fruit, yogurt and granola in a parfait glass. Bread, muffins and fruit are also free with the room, and those who want something more can order gallo pinto, eggs, ham, an omelet or pancakes for a reasonable price.