It seems an odd mix for a Costa Rican beach town: pretty octagonal cabins perched around a two-tier pool and Jacuzzi, nature trails, kids’ games alongside a sports bar and a full-size movie theater all operating inside a development selling land plots.
Welcome to HermosaHeights, overlooking Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica’s Northwestern province of Guanacaste. Owner Richard Levy certainly thought about variety when creating the complex, albeit with more than a nod toward U.S. culture. And, unusual though the combination might seem, it is one that works well for families wanting time at the beach and a place that includes something for everyone.
In 2005, Levy, a former orthodontist from the Washington, D.C. area, purchased 45 acres of hillside that rise steeply from the main road to a summit ridge with sweeping views of Playas Hermosa and Panamá, and the PapagayoPeninsula. If you hike up the trails to the top, you can even peer into Nicaragua.
Hermosa Heights offers 10 spacious, air-conditioned cabins with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, well-stocked kitchen, washer- dryer combo, big flat-screen cable TV, Wi-Fi and roomy verandas. Similar, privately owned cottages in the resort are also available, through the hotel management, for longer rentals. The cabins are attractively jumbled along a twisting and narrow road that is barely negotiable by car. I felt as thought I would scratch the eaves of a couple of units when driving up to my room. Fortunately, there is ample – and flat – parking close by. The centerpiece is the free-form main pool, complete with two water slides and a cascade tiered dramatically beneath the huge circular Jacuzzi and swim-up bar surrounding a central fountain, all set amid lush landscaped gardens. Everything here is in levels, connected by pathways and steps that only add to the charm.
If you don’t wish to go near your cabin’s kitchen, the open-air rancho by the pool provides a typical, if somewhat basic, Tico breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Breakfast is included in the room rate. For lunch and dinner, you can head to the on-site, U.S.- style sports bar or the movie theater’s café.
The beach of Playa Hermosa is a short walk away, but kids can expend their energies on the netted trampoline, basketball court, monkey bars and swings or inside the games room with mini-pool table and table tennis. It might be hard to get the moff the Astroturf mini-golf course boasting 18 challenges under an imposing concrete replica of Arenal Volcano and a huge serpent scaling a tree.
Although Levy’s main business objective is to sell the rest of his 80 land plots, he decided to develop other aspects he felt lacking in his adopted community.
The palatial 100-seat film theater, Embassy Club de Artes, must be the showpiece, and it is an attraction for locals and visitors from further afield. An impressive selection of recent blockbusters is offered every day at 7:30 p.m., with kid-appropriate matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. The ticket price of ¢3,000 ($5.25) includes a soft drink , and the underground bar-café sells a varied choice of tasty snacks. The theater is part of a minimal built by Levy. It includes a beauty spa and gym (hotel guests get a 20 percent discount) plus other retail and service outlets, and adjoins the sports bar and restaurant that offer full meal service.
Playa Hermosa’s curving, protected, gray-sand beach makes for safe swimming, sea kayaking and snorkeling, and anything from Jet Skis to sailboards can be rented from various outlets in town. A new supermarket and ATM operate next to HermosaHeights and several excellent restaurants can be found nearby.
All in all, it’s a family getaway choice with every amenity.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Hermosa Heights is an approximately 4.5-hour, 250-kilometer drive from San José. Take theInter- American Highway northwest
to Liberia. Turn left at the traffic light, go 20 km to the Do It Center and turn right. Turn left after 1 km and left again after 8 km. HermosaHeights is 6 km from this spot, on the left. The road is well signed.
Tralapa (2221-7202) offers daily express buses from San José to Playa Hermosa. Gray Line (2220-2126) and Interbus (2283-5573) both have daily shuttles from San José to all beaches in the area; fares are about $35. Nature Air and Sansa fly to Liberia and from there it is a 20 minute taxi ride.
The rate for a villa (accommodating up to five people) is $165, including breakfast. Weekly rates are offered on request. For information or reservations, call 2672-0112 or visit www.hermosaheights.com.