San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Resort Has It All Near Rincón de la Vieja

When asked to describe the offerings at Blue River Resort, you can save yourself a lot of time running through the list by simply answering, “It has it all.”

The resort near El Gavilán, a tiny village nestled in a valley at the base of Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, is something of an anomaly in this area of the northwestern Guanacaste province. On the 35-kilometer stretch between the

Inter-American Highway

and El Gavilán, horses outnumber cars and the surrounding hills are populated by cows and small, humble homes. The modern, elegant Blue River Resort almost doesn’t fit. But it’s worked to create a niche.

“It was my mission to build this place here,” said owner Daniel Apelboim. “I initially thought I would create a beach location, but every place these days seems like a beach location. I wanted more than that. I wanted a peaceful place in a beautiful area that wasn’t like everywhere else. And that’s what we have here.”

Apelboim, a former U.S. businessman with Israeli roots, has created – and is still creating – what he considers his “vision.” What has been constructed thus far, in just over two years of work, is impressive: a lush, manicured botanical garden, a butterfly farm, an iguana and frog farm, four natural mineral hot spring pools, a central pool with a slide, a spa with a personal masseuse, a workout center, saunas, a stunning kitchen with a waterfall behind the bar and comfortable wooden cabinas, each with two large beds, flat-screen television and huge open bathroom with stone shower.

Like I said, it has it all.

And development here isn’t nearly done yet. In the next year, Apelboim hopes to complete 52 more cabinas, a small bird and monkey zoo, a kids’ recreational area and camp and a canopy zipline. Apelboim also is constructing the Blue River Estate, a development of 37 one-story homes on 75 acres of land, about a kilometer from the resort.

“We’ve really accomplished a lot in the first two years,” said Alfredo Chacón, general manager of BlueRiver. “The progress on the resort is moving fast and the contribution and reception of the community has been fantastic. This has given this area a shot of life they didn’t have before.”

As Blue River Resort has been erected, new opportunities have been created for the local community. Several bridges have been built on the central road, electricity has been provided for nearby residents, and people from El Gavilán and neighboring towns have found employment at the resort (TT, June 4).

“I used to have to go to Liberia (Guanacaste’s capital city) every day for work,” said Warner Araya, a resort employee who lives in the area. “Now I walk to work and give tours of the area I grew up in. This place has been great for me.”

After two years of diligent labor, Blue River Resort has evolved into the getaway it was intended to be. A stretch of mountains sits behind the hotel. Given the rural location and clear night sky, the stars seem to fall down upon you as you sit in the thermal pools or sway in your hammock on the front porch of your cabina. It is a development in an undeveloped area, intended to remove you from the developed world.

And you don’t ever need to leave the property. You could be there a week and still find new things to do. If you want to amble through the splendid garden and smell the flowers, it’s always open. If you want to sit on a bench and read in the butterfly garden, make yourself at home with the fluttering blue morphos.

If you want to digest your lunch with the help of a full-body massage, head to the spa. The active-minded can take a horseback ride to a private waterfall and blue volcanic river, or hike Rincón de la Vieja Volcano.

As for meals, chef Sandro Ramírez was brought in from La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano to the southeast, to prepare meals for the resort’s guests. Ramírez has found the recipe for taste-bud bliss, from fruits and traditional gallo pinto in the morning, to a variety of salads and platters for lunch, to a lomito pepeverde for dinner; all that’s left to do is point at your full stomach and tip your hat to the chef.

“We want this to be people’s home away from home when they come here,” Apelboim said. “We want them to have space to move around in their rooms, enjoy a swim, a massage, a relaxing walk in the gardens and a good meal. That’s all we’re looking to provide.

Is that too hard to ask?”

During my two-day stay at the resort, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I left. I completed about 75 percent of them, failing to try out the pool slide, sit in the sauna and, inexplicably, get a massage.

“You missed out,” Apelboim told me.

“I had a hard time fitting it all in,” I said.

“You should have stayed longer,” he replied.

“I wish I could.”

“That’s what all my guests say,” Apelboim said. “They always want to stay longer. It’s hard to leave this place.”


Getting There, Rates, Info

Several international airlines offer direct flights into DanielOduberAirport in Liberia; Nature Air ( and Sansa ( offer domestic flights to and from this city.

From Liberia, take the

Inter-American Highway north

18 km to Potrerillos and turn right after the second bridge, at the large antenna on the left. Drive 7 km to Quebrada Grande and turn left after the park toward Dos Ríos. Continue 20 km and cross Dos Ríos toward El Gavilán. Five km later, you will come to the Río Celeste; cross the river and turn left. BlueRiver Resort is 600 m down on the right.

Double-occupancy room rates range from $105 to $130 per night, depending on the season, and include breakfast and taxes. Day passes including entrance to the pools, botanical gardens, sauna, gym and change rooms cost $20 for entrance only, $35 with lunch and $65 for a full day including lunch and horseback or car ride to the resort’s private waterfalls.

For information and reservations, call 2206-5000 in Costa Rica or (954) 769-0313 in the United States, or visit


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