Sitting quietly at the base of a pristine valley in the mountains of north-central Costa Rica is a tiny, secluded annex of society, a place almost hidden from the world, offering the escapism of a utopian novel combined with all the modern conveniences of a Holiday Inn.
The hotel – though it should really be classified as more of an open commune that offers daily cleaning service and a minibar in each room – is set up to provide visitors with a variety of different vacation options, many of which can be realized on-site.
The massive, impeccably maintained Lands in Love property that surrounds the buildings looks like a snaking golf course set amid primary forest, where a wild slice might send a howler monkey crashing to the jungle floor.
But as the staff is made up of animal lovers, golf is not an option.
Located about 45 minutes south of La Fortuna and 1.5 hours from the capital, Lands in Love/Tierras Enamoradas Hotel & Resort was founded three years ago by 18 Israeli friends united by the concept of animal-friendly living and a desire to lead better lives. Though they’re all vegetarians and delight in sharing their ideals with interested guests, the air isn’t thick with the frustrated angst you might find if PETA opened a hotel.
“We didn’t do it for the business,” says Yanis Ephod, the head of reception. “We did it to come to Costa Rica and build a home with our friends.”
And while they don’t force their beliefs upon guests, they do take pleasure in their deftness at deceiving taste buds into believing soy is beef. (My own existence as a carnivorous animal was called into question when I mistook their soy meatballs for delicious, butchered chop.)
The 260-acre property consists of three main structures and a small pet hotel. The reception center – a long, one-story building containing a game room, a lounge area that resembles a sofa emporium, a bar and the main restaurant – sits at the lowest point in the valley, flanked on one side by a pool and hot tub. At a higher elevation sit 33 rooms, all with patios overlooking the dense valley full of strange sounds and beautiful examples of Costa Rica’s biodiversity. Along the main road are the adventure center and the roadside café.
The sprawling property allows for a very private experience.
“When it’s fully booked, people say it doesn’t feel like there are a lot of people here, because it’s pretty big and spread out,” says Naama Ariel, the head chef.
At the same time, if people want to interact, the main building has common areas, the pool and a small space set up for local musical performances.
Even in its seemingly extreme seclusion, the hotel offers a wide range of adventure opportunities, biodiversity tours and day trips to places such as the ever-active Arenal Volcano, about 45 minutes north of Lands in Love. The tours provide adventure lovers with the adrenaline they’re looking for, accompanied by fun, comic relief from the lively staff.
The close-knit community that runs Lands in Love makes a concerted effort to welcome each guest into a warm atmosphere filled with new options. The uniqueness of the place has drawn many repeat guests, the staff says. And with the beauty and diversity that’s offered here, it’s not a surprise.
Getting There, Rates, Info
From San José, take theInter-American Highway west
and turn right at San Ramón. Go 32 kilometers on the road toward La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. Look for the Lands in Love signs. The hotel offers an airport shuttle service.
Double-occupancy rates are $80 a night in low season and $94 a night in high season, including full breakfast. (Costa Ricans and residents pay $80 in low season and $92 in high season with three meals a day included.) For animals, the pet hotel costs $15 a night.
Sample prices for activities offered: canopy tour, $45 foreigners/$30 Ticos and residents; canyoning, $65/$45; horseback riding, $35/$25. Other trips include rafting, hiking in the cloud forest and tours to various attractions.
For information and reservations, call 2447-9331 or visit www.landsinlove.com.