Tucked away in quiet Esterillos Este, a town on the central Pacific coast, is a tranquil hotel that allows visitors easy access to the numerous activities of the region, without all the crowds. The gravel road leading from the highway to town is flanked by acres of green fields dotted with lazily grazing cows and horses that exemplify the pace of the area. In fact, during a recent Tico Times visit, a guest of the Pelican Hotel described discovering the hotel while driving around in search of a quieter place to stay.
The Pelican Hotel, formerly known as Auberge du Pélican, has gone through a few different incarnations since it was first built, but the newest owner, Robert Poles, aka “Oso” (“Bear”), has put a great deal of effort into renovations since he purchased the hotel in 2003. The hotel has 12 rooms, all equipped with private bathrooms, ceiling fans and air conditioners.Most of the rooms have views of either the swimming pool or the ocean beyond. The ceilings are made of golden teak, creating a cozy, rustic feeling in the simply furnished rooms. The rustic motif extends throughout the furniture in the hotel, bar and restaurant, from the tables and chairs to an intricately carved, hand-made pool table.
A recent renovation was the transformation of the restaurant into an open-air dining area and bar. Both are now open to the community of Esterillos, not just to hotel guests.
Though the bar is not open late into the night, it is visited by both hotel guests and area residents looking for a friendly place to relax. And the staff is certainly friendly, from the gracious general manager, Julia Johnson, to restaurant employee Marco Peraza, who regaled us with childhood memories of the days when nearby Jacó and surrounding areas were quiet and undiscovered.
Not only does the bar and restaurant area provide the soothing sound of the ocean and delightful ocean breezes, it also offers really good meals in a casual atmosphere. Dinner choices range from vegetarian to beef tenderloin, and of course fresh seafood is available as well. Not to be missed is the incredible chocolate flan, boasting both excellent texture and flavor. Entrées are reasonably priced between $7 and $13. Continental breakfast is included in the room rate, with fresh fruit, juices, coffee and a variety of breads offered buffet-style along the bar. A full breakfast menu is available for those who want something more substantial.
The Pelican is ideally situated halfway between Jacó and Quepos, providing easy access to all of the diverse activities of the Central Pacific, from hiking the rain forest to white-water rafting. The hotel has an on-site surf instructor, Brett Schroeder, who has taught people of all ages up to 60 years old how to enjoy the sport. The Pelican can also arrange fishing expeditions with a local fisherman.
Johnson also recommended horseback riding trips, stressing that riders can be sure the horses are extremely well cared for.
If relaxing is the primary goal, a cabana of hammocks provides the perfect spot for reading or napping.
And, of course, there’s the beach. Playa Esterillos Este is as beautiful as they come, blissfully uncrowded and serene. The view back toward land of lush jungle meeting sandy beach is as lovely as the view of the ocean, and the beach can be glimpsed from nearly everywhere – the hammocks, the restaurant and many of the rooms.
A newly renovated public balcony area above the restaurant provides glorious sunset views over the ocean, and free lounge chairs and boogie boards are available to guests. A word of warning, however: the beach has no lifeguard, and riptides can be strong, so be sure to use caution when swimming, surfing or enjoying other water activities.
The Pelican Hotel hosts special events such as parties and weddings. The grounds include a large outdoor barbecue and a smaller beach bar. Johnson says the hotel sponsors a charity surf tournament to benefit a San José orphanage every November; a bus is hired to bring about 50 children from the orphanage to the hotel for a day of beach enjoyment, with the hotel providing lunch and a variety of games and activities for the children, including beach soccer, volleyball and surfing.
The Pelican is not only child-friendly, but also pet-friendly. Johnson has a beautiful family of Australian blue heelers – a mother and two puppies that live on the property. If you like dogs, they are worth the visit in and of themselves.
The guests of Pelican Hotel are a diverse but devoted group. During The Tico Times’ visit, a mix of Germans, Canadians and U.S. citizens enjoyed the tranquility of the hotel.
Sandra Pope of the U.S. state of Vermont expressed what was a common sentiment among visitors: “It’s our favorite place in Esterillos, but don’t tell anyone!” Getting There, Rates, Info
The Pelican Hotel is in Esterillos Este, between Jacó and Quepos on the central Pacific coast. From Jacó, head south on the Coastal Highway for 25 kilometers (past Esterillos Oeste and Esterillos Centro) and turn right at the Esterillos Este sign. Drive over the small airstrip and turn left. The sign for the Pelican Hotel is 400 meters down the road, posted on a large mango tree. Buses between Jacó and Quepos will stop along the highway near the Esterillos signs.
High-season rates at Pelican Hotel are $50-70, including taxes and continental breakfast. The hotel accepts all credit cards, but the restaurant is cashonly. Specials and discounts are offered during the low season.
For information, visit www.pelicanbeachfronthotel.com or call 778-8105.