San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Villas Hermosas ranks tops with travelers

No, it’s not the Playa Hermosa just south of Jacó on the central Pacific coast. And it’s not the Playa Hermosa on the Gulf of Papagayo up north. This Playa Hermosa – literally, “beautiful beach” – a tropical, white-sand expanse on the rocky southern stretch of the Nicoya Peninsula, is the one you usually won’t find in guidebooks or on maps, but it is arguably the most beautiful.

Those fortunate enough to secure lodgings at Playa Hermosa’s most beloved property, Villas Hermosas, can enjoy the delicious restaurants and nightlife in the more developed Santa Teresa and Malpaís to the south, before coming home to tranquil and spacious villas by the sea. (A note to New Yorkers: the showers at Villas Hermosas will seem larger than your apartment.)

Extending across four acres of manicured jungle with a beachfront backyard, this intimate establishment comprises just three 1,500-square-foot villas – each with fully equipped kitchens, two large bedrooms and two bathrooms – as well as an ocean-view honeymoon suite, a cascade-fed swimming pool and a thatch-roofed rancho where gallo pinto is served each morning.

The relaxing, surf-inspired decor, rooftop domes and hammock-equipped porches are standout features of the villas, but a stay also comes with personal touches such as chocolate chip cookies at check-in and bath towels folded into elaborate swans. The owners’ thoughtfulness was rewarded recently with a shiny new pair of TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

Long ranked first out of 23 hotels in the Santa Teresa area on the popular travel website TripAdvisor, Villas Hermosas this year placed fifth for service out of all the hotels in Central and South America. Even more impressively, the place garnered the top prize for the best bargain hotel in the regions, giving The Tico Times a very good excuse to check it out.

Approaching the property, the inattentive observer may miss it entirely. The cream-colored buildings are swathed in green vines that blend the structures in with the jungle surroundings. Local wildlife seems equally unaware of the development, as iguanas bask in pochote trees, butterflies glide among birds of paradise, and the occasional howler monkey roars from its perch among the bamboo branches.

“We’re bamboo freaks,” says Tara Shaw, one of the owners, while conducting a tour of her property in a bathing suit, beach towel and blue nail polish.

Beautiful Villas Beautiful Beach

Playa Hermosa, north of the surfing mecca of Santa Teresa on the southern Nicoya Peninsula. Courtesy of Villas Hermosas

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Shaw and her husband, Brad, traveled the world for years to find the perfect spot. They bought the land in Playa Hermosa about nine years ago, before any of the nearby pharmacies, banks or restaurants existed. They moved into the honeymoon suite in 2004, endured three years of permitting issues, and finally opened the villas in 2007, just as the area was becoming a destination.

Couples, well-to-do surfers and particularly families are attracted to the property for its intimacy, comfort and proximity to waves of all sizes. With two young children of their own, the Shaws installed a jungle gym on the property with families in mind. For adults seeking adventure, the villas are a coconut’s toss away from zip lining, horseback riding, tide-pool snorkeling and Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica’s oldest protected nature reserve.

With spacious, comfortable villas, family-friendly hospitality and a “beautiful beach” location, the Shaws have created an environment perfectly suited to the laid-back folks they love to host.

Going There

From San José, take the Caldera Highway to Puntarenas and the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula (check ferry schedule at After the one-hour scenic ferry ride, you arrive in Paquera. From there, drive southwest through Tambor and Cóbano, then follow signs to Malpaís and Santa Teresa. At the crossroads in El Carmen (“Frank’s Place”), turn right. Drive through Santa Teresa and into Playa Hermosa, about 6 km from the crossroads, until you reach Villas Hermosas.

High-season rates through April 30 are $295 for villas (up to four adults) and $245 for the honeymoon suite (up to two adults), including breakfast. For information and reservations, call 2640-0630 or visit

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