Though an easy drive from the busy Central Pacific tourist destinations of Jacó and Manuel Antonio, Hotel Paraíso Carlisa seems worlds away. Its peaceful location on the road between the mountain town of Puriscal, southwest of the capital, and the coastal town of Parrita, about halfway between Jacó and Manuel Antonio, offers tourists an experience entirely different from the beach. The hotel recently joined the Best Western chain and is being billed as Best Western’s first mountain hotel in Latin America.
The natural experience starts on the drive in, as the primary route to the hotel takes you on well-kept, winding mountain roads with breathtaking views of deep-green rolling hills, peppered with the occasional herd of cattle or bright yellow flowering tree. Some of the only traffic you’ll find is the occasional pickup truck filled to the brim with mangos, pineapples, watermelons or one of the other seasonal fruits the area has to offer.
The hotel bursts forth from the road with the flags of some 20 different countries shooting from a modest but beautiful openair reception and dining area. The rooms’ strategic placement into hillsides and under large shade-providing trees keeps the place subtle and homely. With only 18 rooms, the manmade structures take up only a tiny percentage of the more than 200-acre property.
“I was angry every time they had to cut a tree,” recalls Gauthier de Baker, the hotel’s manager, who arrived in the area five years ago to help start construction of the project. “It was a natural project, and we did everything we could to keep the environment the same as we found it.”
Of the rooms, two large “marriage bungalows,” close to the main structure, face
east and collect the dappled morning sunlight peeking through low-hanging branches. By following the snaking, paved trail out toward the other rooms, guests can stop to admire rare species of flora cultivated by the hotel’s landscaping crew.
Eight standard rooms with two queen beds and eight suites with a queen bed, sofa and private terrace round out the rooms. All come fully equipped with safe box, minibar, coffeemaker, hot-water bathroom, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, television and wireless Internet.
“The first thing I felt when I got here was a positive energy,” de Baker says of the sprawling property. He stresses the importance of facilitating that energy. “It’s what keeps the animals around,” he says, smiling.
The animals of which de Baker speaks are some of Costa Rica’s classics. Sky-blue morpho butterflies stall, dip and dive throughout the property, while myriad tree frogs bring up an early-morning and late-evening chorus.
The occasional sloth can be seen relaxing in nearby branches, and, with a tactically placed banana or two, white-faced capuchin monkeys seem to arrive every day.
If your animal appetite is not satisfied by what you can spot from your room or the dining area, the hotel offers guided horseback riding tours into the forest for further exploration. One of the more spectacular trips is a 40-minute ride to a 180-foot waterfall – one of two cascades on the property – where cool wading pools and spectacular views await. Toucans, parrots, parakeets and other colorful birds can be seen from horseback on the hotel’s five kilometers of marked trails. The hotel is also close to the rain-forest trails and varied wildlife of La Cangreja National Park (TT, Oct. 19, 2007).
After a long day in the saddle, it only makes sense to dip into the vanishing pool that blends softly into the blue horizon, and maybe have a drink at the wet bar or under an umbrella on one of the padded lounge chairs.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, the hotel restaurant offers a host of international and local cuisine, with everything from hamburgers to traditional casados (rice, beans, fried plantain and choice of meat), while the bar offers a wide variety of cocktails. For further entertainment, grab a bite from the snack bar and head into the DVD library and screening room.
The hotel organizes occasional concerts and dancing at a rancho that sits on a hill a few hundred meters away. Easily accessible by foot or car, this bamboo and palm-frond structure seems more like an extension of the environment than a manmade edifice. Local guitarists and percussionists blend their music with the sounds of the forest, and guests can dance the night away under the blazing stars.
“We know Jacó can offer you a full day at the beach and a big party at night,” de Baker says. “But here we offer nature, tranquility and a calmness that would be hard to find somewhere else.”
Getting There, Rates, Info
The Hotel Paraíso Carlisa is on the road between Santiago de Puriscal and Parrita. From San José, take the highway west through Escazú, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colón and continue on to Santiago de Puriscal.
From there, head west and south on a winding mountain road to Salitrales, then on to La Gloria. The hotel is between the villages of La Gloria and Los Angeles.
From the coast, travelers from Jacó can drive south along the coast to Parrita, then turn inland (east) onto a gravel road toward Los Angeles. Likewise, travelers from Manuel Antonio and Quepos can drive north along the coast to Parrita and head inland from there.
Double-occupancy rates are $99 for a room and $119 for a suite in high season (through April 30) and $89 and $109 in low season (May 1 to Dec. 23), including tax and breakfast. A horseback ride to the waterfall costs $20. Several tourist packages are also available on the hotel’s Web site.
For information and reservations, call 2778-1112, e-mail email@example.com or go to www.hotelparaisocarlisa.com.