From the print edition
Off a dirt road that winds through the jungle along tropical streams and past sunbathing lizards, the intimate and luxurious Oxygen Jungle Villas perches on the hillside above the southern Pacific coastal town of Uvita. For honeymooners looking to vacation in Costa Rica or seasoned lovebirds celebrating an anniversary and hoping to avoid crowded resorts, this boutique retreat is the definition of a far-off romantic getaway.
The hotel is comprised of small groups of cabins set back from the coastal community that is already set back from the rest of the world. Upon arrival, a patio clearing in the trees provides a distant but stunning view of the closest bay and a glimpse of far-away Caño Island. Apart from the constant stream of smooth, poolside electro-jazz, the only sounds to be heard on the hotel property are the natural jungle noises of howler monkeys, birds and cicadas humming in the breeze.
As your senses take it all in, you are also greeted with a welcome cocktail – the friendly staff doesn’t believe in paperwork and no formal check-in is necessary.
The secluded resort may be the perfect spot for some, but its off-the-beaten path locale does come with a trade-off. The trip from the hotel to the nearest town takes about 20 minutes in a special all-wheel-drive taxi, and sometimes – particularly at night – a taxi is not available. As the hotel’s website states, it’s “hard to find, hard to leave.”
But if your vacation goal is to make prearranged day trips to many of the nearby destinations, such as Manuel Antonio beach, Quepos or the Osa Peninsula, and then hunker down in the evening for a spa treatment or quality time with that special someone by the infinity pool, Oxygen is an ideal destination.
The retreat caters to couples. Each of the 12 cabins are limited to two people, meaning even when the hotel is at full capacity there will never much of a line at the cocktail bar. Also, leave the kids with the in-laws: No one younger than 16 is allowed at this grown-ups-only romantic clubhouse.
Designed by the Dutch owners themselves, the architecture of the hotel is inspired by a Balinese style blended with a modern touch. The decadent little hideaway cabins are made of glass and separated from each other with stone pathways, statues of Oriental deities and jungle foliage. The bungalows also provide a near panoramic view of the beautiful scenery.
There are just a couple of unique drawbacks to the all-glass units. Firstly, there are no windows (a problem solved by the air conditioning), and secondly, the occasional bird becomes confused by the glass and crashes into it.
Come evening, a five-course, surprise meal is served, taking the pressure off those too indecisive to make menu selections. The staff asks about food allergies, and the gourmet chef does the rest. If my meal one evening was any indication, the cuisine has a tendency to satisfy.
My dinner included olives marinated in olive oil and rosemary; honey melon with ham; a wrap with smoked salmon, greens and capers; zucchini soup and filet mignon with baked potatoes and a mushroom sauce; and finally, ice cream and homemade banana bread. Dinner costs $32, plus $5 more for a glass of the house Malbec – a good price considering the remote location and lack of competition.
If somehow Uvita is still not quite far enough off the grid for you, Oxygen Jungle Villas is in the process of opening a second resort on a remote beach in Tanzania, Africa.
Oxygen Jungle Villas is in Uvita, three to four hours south by car from San José. Take the new Caldera Highway west to the Central Pacific and follow signs to Jacó, then Quepos, then Uvita. There is no signpost, but the hotel website provides exact directions (don’t forget to bring them). The drive is about 3.5 hours. Domestic airlines Nature Air (www.natureair.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com) offer daily flights to Palmar Sur, which is 30 minutes south of the hotel. Prices for the rooms range between $139 during the rainy season (May to December) to $189 during the dry season (January to April), and the hotel offers rooms by reservation only. It’s best to book far in advance. For information and reservations call 8322-4773 or visit www.oxygenjunglevillas.com.