“Somewhere between heaven and earth” is how Los Altos de Eros’ promotional literature describes the luxury inn, spa and yoga retreat in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and a host of happy couples, new, old and somewhere in between, appear to be in agreement. At the time of this writing, the inn was rated number one out of 30 Tamarindo hotels on the tremendously popular travel site TripAdvisor.com.
The property is actually located in Cañafístula, a bumpy, 20-minute drive south of the northern Pacific beach town of Tamarindo and its hordes of tourists and sprouting condominiums. Perched high on a hill with a view of the blue Pacific in the distance, Los Altos de Eros seems aptly named “The Heights of Love.”
The scent of fresh-cut lilies was the first thing to welcome this visitor on a recent weekend, followed by a delicious hilltop breeze blowing through an open-air living room and kitchen area, and an immediate view of forest and ocean beyond a strikingly blue horizon pool inhabited by two oblivious young couples.
Despite Los Altos de Eros’ not inconsiderable price tag (from $350 per night), it’s young couples such as these to whom the inn largely finds itself catering, thanks in good part to a “snowballing” phenomenon of rave reviews on TripAdvisor, according to Jacqueline Haskell, who, together with husband Calvin, owns and operates the inn.
“This all happened sort of by accident,” said the London-born Jacqueline, waving around at the small, elegantly appointed inn that she says took a year to build.
The Haskells came to Costa Rica on their own honeymoon four years ago and started thinking about buying a condominium in the Tamarindo area, home to U.S.-born Calvin’s daughter Jennifer Herman and husband Jeff, owners of Blue Dolphin Sailing, which offers catamaran sailing trips in the region. A realtor showed the Haskells a fiveacre plot of land on a hill in Cañafístula – a far cry from the beach condo they were looking for – and they were hooked.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘This is it,’” Jacqueline said.
The couple started building, and ended up with a luxury inn and spa that now comprises 70 acres (the Haskells bought several adjacent lots after their fateful initial purchase).
And with Calvin’s business background and Jacqueline’s years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, perhaps the success of the enterprise is no accident, after all.
“This place is amazing,” said Casandra Nied of Washington, D.C., who with new husband Tim was one of four couples honeymooning at the inn during The Tico Times’ visit. “We got married on 11/11/06 –the same as another couple here – and we’re talking about coming back on 11/11/11 to celebrate our five-year anniversaries.”
Such loyalty is perhaps inspired by the Haskells’ evident commitment to their guests’ contentment, which they have instilled in their excellent staff, all but a few of whom are from neighboring villages and were trained by Jacqueline and Calvin.
With its friendly, inviting people and intimate scale, the inn feels more like a home than a resort.Actually, it is a home; the Haskells live in a suite upstairs, which they plan to convert into a “honeymoon suite” – as if the whole place isn’t one already – in March. “A guest once said that staying here was like visiting a rich relative – one you actually like,” Calvin laughed.
Amenities Worthy of Eros
In keeping with the Eros – the Greek god of love – in its name, the inn is decorated with a tasteful collection of erotic art, almost all of which was acquired in Costa Rica, Jacqueline said. But Aphrodite might have had a thing or two to say about the inn’s name, as the female form is the dominant motif here – breasts seem to pop out at you from every corner – exemplified by the six-foot-long, buxom female figure, carved out of wood, lying on its side at the foot of the pool.
“The female form embodies the meaning of love,” Calvin said. “It’s universal.”
With only four guest rooms and one twobedroom suite tucked away in back, Los Altos de Eros is not built for mass visitation, which suits the honeymooners just fine. Rooms are appointed with tasteful wood furnishings, king or queen bed with downy soft sheets, air conditioning and ceiling fan, safe and mini fridge. An ice-bucket-chilled bottle of white wine awaits all comers. Best of all are the bathrooms, which come complete with a full line of all-natural, Costa Rica-made toiletry products, comfy robes, fluffy towels and hair dryer, and, in the four guest rooms, an openair shower large enough for two.
Though infinitely comfortable, the four guest rooms are cozy, not huge. Facing the pool out of sliding glass French doors, they don’t seem to boast an exceeding amount of privacy for, say, a particularly rambunctious young couple, though none of the honeymooners present seemed to have any complaints.
The open-air common area features a living room with flat-screen TV, comfy sofa and computer with Internet access, faced by the kitchen, where meals are prepared in full view of anyone interested in watching. But let’s cut to the chase: at Los Altos de Eros, it’s all about the spa.
A short walk downhill from the pool, guests are greeted by a bubbling hot tub and a team of smiling spa attendants, trained onsite by spa manager and physical therapist Leonilda Cabalceta, who pamper guests in five open-air treatment rooms, including one for couples, with two massage tables. True to its honeymooner ambience, the spa offers sunset couples massages and romantic dinners for two upon request.
The knotted and weary can choose from two day-spa packages consisting of four treatments each. Package A includes a milk and citrus rejuvenating bath in a deep, “Indonesian-style” tub; a volcanic-mud body wrap; an hour-and-a-half-long relaxing massage; and a honey-cucumber-lime rejuvenating facial. Package B features a papaya body polish; an avocado, egg and essential-oil foot and hand therapy; aforementioned relaxing massage; and a red-clay cleansing facial.
In total, it’s about five hours of relentless pampering, broken up by a delicious gourmet lunch of shrimp and chicken skewers with fruit salsa, seared tuna, ceviche and a variety of salads, including a memorable Caprese made with fresh tomato, basil, creamy bocconcini cheese and avocado slices.
Eating and Recreating
In addition to gourmet lunches and full, hearty breakfasts – gallo pinto, eggs, locally made cheese, fresh croissants, multigrain bread, granola, fruit, juice and coffee – dinners are included two nights a week: fish dinners on Tuesdays and, on Saturdays, a sumptuous, brick-oven-prepared affair of roast tenderloin with horseradish and Dijon sauce, free-range chicken and oven-roasted potatoes, introduced with a nut-encrusted, warm goat cheese salad and finished off with real crème brûlée. Beer and wine, included in the room rate, flow freely.
On this occasion, dinner was served family-style around the long dining-room table with the convivial Haskells presiding, though Jacqueline said guests may take their meals privately.
“We feel out the group dynamic and serve meals accordingly; this bunch is really friendly with each other,” she said, and, indeed, the four new couples seemed to be enjoying the like-hearted company immensely.
On nights when meals aren’t served at the inn, guests can avail themselves of the inn’s free shuttle service to explore the varied dining options of nearby Tamarindo. For those not in the mood for the drive, the inn can prepare a selection of appetizers such as nachos, shrimp cocktail or Caesar salad upon request.
To work off crème brûlée indulgences, guests can tackle the exercise area, featuring elliptical trainer, treadmill and an assortment of weights, or hike a 5.5-kilometer loop trail through the forest.
Yoga classes are offered every morning at 7, in an open-air ashram with a panoramic view. Instructor Nicole Loría of Tamarindo specializes in Vinyasa yoga, and, with classes on the small side, attends each practitioner personally at various points throughout the class.
With most guests staying about five to six days at Los Altos de Eros, day excursions are a welcome addition. The inn’s helpful staff can organize sailing trips, canopy tours, surfing lessons, sportfishing excursions, day trips to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, and golf and horseback riding trips.
But the best part of a stay at Los Altos de Eros is perhaps the end of the day, when twilight settles on the forest below and patches of mist dot the view to the distant Pacific in shades of quiet pink and orange – a sight best shared by two.
Getting There, Rates, Contact Information
Los Altos de Eros is reached by a private road accessible from El Sabanero Eco-Lodge, about 20 minutes south of Tamarindo on the road to Santa Cruz. Free shuttle service is provided to and from Tamarindo or DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia, Guanacaste’s capital.
Rates per night are $350 for a room with a queen bed, $395 for a room with a king bed and $595 for the twobedroom suite. Also included in the room rates: full breakfast, lunch, dinner on Tuesdays and Saturdays, beer and wine, and transportation to and from area beaches and towns.
Day-spa packages for non-guests are available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for $200 per person, including transportation to and from the Tamarindo area, use of the hot tub, four spa treatments, gourmet lunch and beverages. Guests of the inn have the option to choose spa treatments à la carte from the complete spa menu.
Yoga classes for guests are $20 each; a yoga package for non-guests, including transportation to and from the Tamarindo area, instruction and materials and a healthy brunch, is available Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays for $75 per person.
For reservations and information, visit www.losaltosdeeros.com, or call 850-4222 or 850-4203 within Costa Rica or (786) 866-7039 in the United States.