To those looking for the fullest experience of the booming beach town of Tamarindo, here is my advice: Go to the party in Playa Tamarindo, but stay at Sueño del Mar in nearby Playa Langosta.
Located in the northwest province of Guanacaste, the two beaches are separated by only a 15-minute walk or a three-minute drive – but their ambience is worlds apart. Tamarindo is all about frenetic commerce and salty revelry with its abundant bars, restaurants, surf shops and casinos. Langosta is Tamarindo’s tamer, laid-back neighbor to the south, where a good time is watching the sunset from a hammock on the quiet, jungle shore of the Pacific.
Each night, guests at Sueño del Mar – a bed-and-breakfast that’s been around for nearly two decades – do just that. Then they might take a dip in the pool, head to town for a bite or socialize with other guests before retiring to one of just six accommodations. All are uniquely adorned with locally crafted hardwood beds, hand-painted sheets and colorful handmade crafts that the owners have collected from around Central America. Every room includes a private outdoor shower dripping in tropical foliage.
The spacious and plush units – two of which are casitas with multiple beds and kitchens – feature arched wooden doorways, vaulted ceilings and undulating white stucco walls. A honeymoon suite with the second floor to itself and two stairway entrances comes with an enormous hammock, two traditional rocking chairs, an iPod dock and a bottle of wine.
Downstairs, the full kitchen hosts a three-course breakfast each morning. The breakfast – made from scratch with fresh, organic ingredients – is free for guests but open to everyone. It includes homemade granola, pancakes or a savory omelet, tropical fruit, and mouthwatering breads and cakes, accompanied by passion fruit mimosas and Bloody Marys with pickled asparagus and celery salt made by one of the managers.
“It’s pretty easy,” explained Dutch hotel manager Susanne Koomen. “You toast the leaves of the celery stalk and sauté them on the fire. Then you crumble them up and add some seasoning and garlic powder.”
Koomen once owned her own restaurant in Tamarindo, and many of the other staff members, including general manager Eduardo Villa, have restaurant backgrounds. That expertise can be tasted every morning, and the B&B’s website, www.suenodelmar.com, generously provides recipes for some of the breakfast favorites.
Although the ocean air is unkind to crops in the area, Sueño del Mar regularly attempts to grow its own produce. They’ve seen success with chili peppers and passion fruit, Koomen said, and the staff also makes a point of composting as much as possible. They have a black water treatment plant on the property, and they recycle.
“We’re pretty green,” Koomen said.
Local wildlife seems to agree. For those interested in encountering howler monkeys, geckos, iguanas, blue jays and many other bird species, Sueño del Mar is a great place to do it. The B&B also provides snorkel gear, which is best used at low tide for spotting starfish and other small marine critters.
For the couples and families who travel to Sueño del Mar, these simple pleasures of Playa Langosta often wind up trumping the action to the north. But for those who can’t resist the call of the night, Tamarindo’s party scene is just a stroll down the beach.
International guests can fly into Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, capital of Guanacaste, which is a one-hour drive from Sueño del Mar. The B&B’s private driver will retrieve up to eight people there for $80. You can also fly into Tamarindo’s tiny airport from Liberia or San José on domestic airlines Nature Air (www.natureair.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com). Driving from San José takes about five hours.
Rates range $150-$325 plus 13 percent tax and include a three-course breakfast, air conditioning and use of snorkeling equipment, boogie boards and wireless Internet. The B&B plays frequent host to weddings and honeymoons. For information and reservations, call 2653-0284 or visit www.sueno-del-mar.com.