San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Delicious tranquility at Hotel Blue Conga

The best way to arrive at Hotel Blue Conga is probably in the dark. We did this after an extended commute from San José to Puerto Viejo: the noon bus was full, the 2 p.m. bus was full, the 4 p.m. bus was late and we hit a road obstruction near Limón.

 Basically, an easy four-and-a-half-hour trip to the Caribbean shores nearly tripled, and we would have been happy to sleep on a dirty piece of gravel underneath a tarp. But our kids slept on the bus, so they were ready to party when we fell into room one at Blue Conga just after midnight.

It was a clean, tiled room with painted concrete walls and some varnished log furniture, the room’s nod to the standard Tico cabin aesthetic. The little ones (3 and 6) splashed in the warm shower while we stumbled around rustling snacks, dreaming of a quiet place under a tarp.

Finally we did sleep, and when I opened the window in the morning, I remembered we were not in a Motel 6 in some dusty Texas town – we were on the corner of a tropical paradise, and everything was green and blue and flowered and quiet. The quietude seemed like a trick of nature, at least compared to the night rhythms of Puerto Viejo locales like Rocking J’s, just around the corner, where you can buy condoms at the front counter and rent a hammock for $7. At Hotel Blue Conga, however, the quiet seemed like a visual feature. There are 12 rooms in two main buildings, and a tropical garden courtyard with a small pool nestled against the dining area, which was both bright and shady.

The space is actually rather small, but the vegetation and the way the buildings are set up make you feel you might be in a lodge miles deep into the jungle, and that the caretakers simply wandered off to forage for beautiful fruits to arrange on white plates.

Hotel Blue Conga 2

Fresh fruit.

Paul Brohaugh

The room rate includes this beautiful arrangement with coffee and toast, and I don’t know where the fruits were picked, but there are several nice trees in the garden. If you eat meat, you’ll get some savory specimens fried up as well. For other meals, you are supposed to go out and support the local economy, or order in from places nearby.

Majority owner Eric Climent said he wanted people to feel at home in a quiet place, close to Puerto Viejo, close to Playa Cocles, but apart from the world as well. There’s no television or air conditioning and not many wild parties. On an ecological note, the Blue Conga features solar hot water.

Climent, who is French, bought the hotel half-built in 2007, after putting his finger on the map. “It is the truth,” he said. “It is here. Never have I been in Puerto Viejo, never in Costa Rica. It is the truth.”

He confirmed his geographical premonition with a two-week visit. He and a friend were supposed to spend one week on this side and one week on the Pacific coast, but he fell in love and never went to the western shores. The Blue Conga was up and running by 2009, and the pool completed the feel in June 2012.

Caretakers at Hotel Blue Conga can help arrange anything you need. They’ll rent you bicycles, snorkeling gear and laundry services. Most reservations are made online at, where you fill out an inquiry form. I was nervous that my inquiry would vanish into space, but our caretaker, Marise, responded within an hour during one of the busiest times of the year, and arranged a room for the same evening. We managed to contact her during our bus delay, and she adjusted our arrangements so we could arrive in the middle of the night with no problems whatsoever – except for children’s confusion about the proper time to sleep.

Going there

Room prices range from about $60 to $110, depending on the size and the time of year. Hotel Blue Conga is a short taxi ride from Puerto Viejo, or a ten minute walk from downtown towards Playa Cocles: look for a sign by a small road on the right.

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