San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bejuco: A Nice Place to Be Stuck in the Middle

Hidden halfway between two major tourist destinations on the central Pacific coast is Playa Bejuco, an extension of what really could be considered one abnormally long and uniform beach that also spans the three towns of Esterillos to the west.

Lightly developed and largely unknown, this quiet community boasts little more than its scenery and two hotels, one of which carries the name of the beach.

Hotel Playa Bejuco rests about the length of a football field from where the dirt road turns into sand. The building that houses the lobby, public areas and restaurant is made up of two partially walled stories to allow the wind’s cooling circulation. At its far end, the building opens up to the pool and a series of decked paths elevated above native foliage, which connects to an L-shaped building housing 20 guest rooms.

The openness of the facilities and the engulfing vegetation is meant to give guests the feeling that they’re in a tamed forest, says the hotel’s owner and designer, Victor Keulen.

“You have the idea that you’re in the middle of the wilderness,” Keulen says. “It’s the intention of the (hotel’s) design.”

This design is the product of a unique mixture of ideas, many of which relate back to Keulen’s native Netherlands. Wooden, Dutch-style bay windows sit above beds and decor of a more Japanese feel. Hung on the walls of the lobby and some guest rooms are original Dutch paintings, many of which exude Rembrandt’s depictions of the old Dutch ports and countryside.

Veering from the norm, each guest room is unique from the one next door. This scrapping of the typical, cookie-cutter hotel design is quite refreshing – and wholly understandable when you realize Keulen has no formal training as an architect.

For obvious safety reasons, an approved Costa Rican architect must review all of Keulen’s plans before they are built. It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that the Costa Rican architect must review the functionality of the plans. And so it stands as rather ironic that Keulen – who comes from one of the tallest races on the planet – designed a guest-room showerhead to come only as high as mid-chest on a measurably shorter man of Irish descent.

Besides the headstand I had to perform in the shower to shampoo, the rooms were entirely comfortable, each air-conditioned and offering multiple levels, sitting areas and plentiful amounts of natural light.

But perhaps the best part of the hotel is the restaurant. Offering a relaxing atmosphere and delicious cuisine – also with many Dutch influences – the dining experience is truly enjoyable in the open-air restaurant under cooling overhead fans.

Outside the hotel in Playa Bejuco, there is little to do but head down to the seemingly endless beach. The current is dangerous for swimmers, and signs warn visitors of the water’s hazards. However, one of the beautiful aspects of the location – besides the obvious aesthetics – is that it sits only 30 km south of Jacó and 40 kilometers north of ManuelAntonioNational Park, both popular tourist sites offering a wide variety of activities. Visitors can easily enjoy these tourist destinations during the day and return to the relaxing seclusion of the hotel at night.

“Everything is nearby,” Keulen says. “But when you’re here, it’s about rest.”


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