Playas del Coco is a town of options. It can be a place of relaxation. Long, sunny days on the crescent bay. Calm water, soft, cinnamon sand, palm trees, kids and families at play in the park. Sipping coconut water the big task of the day.
It can be a party. Nightfall brings loud, raucous music on the main drag. Tourists and locals come out to play. Bar lights dance, liquor flows, night becomes tomorrow morning.
Beyond land is the sea. Scuba diving and surfing in the Pacific. Sharing the water with turtles, tropical fish, rays and sharks. Exploring the aquatic wonderland.
With its location on the northern Pacific coast of Guanacaste province and proximity to some of Costa Rica’s chief tourism hot spots, hordes of tourists visit Coco for a few days or weeks as they dabble in the activities that suit their fancy.
For 15 years, one tourist favorite to call home for a few days has been La Puerta del Sol hotel, about 250 meters north of downtown Playas del Coco. The quaint, colorful hotel is owned and operated by Italian Alessandro Tolo. Each of the eight large rooms on the small, well-groomed property has a big comfortable bed, spacious bathroom, air conditioning, private patio, refrigerator, coffeemaker and cable television. The hotel also offers a larger suite and apartment, usually reserved by honeymooners, families or guests staying longer amounts of time.
“We know people come to Playas del Coco on vacation from their work and busy lives to relax and unwind,” Tolo said. “We designed this place to allow them to do that.”
The half-hectare, gated property is an oasis from the constant movement of the small town. Entrance into La Puerta del Sol is immediately soothing. The only noise to be heard is birdsong, or the breeze rustling the palm fronds surrounding the central hotel pool.
“We get a lot of families and couples who come to visit parks, scuba dive or go on day trips around Guanacaste,” Tolo said. “We often find that after a few active days, some people choose to spend the day here at the hotel, either relaxing in their rooms or lounging around the pool.”
Tolo said most guests are couples in search of a romantic beach getaway or families out to explore the wonders of northwest Costa Rica. Some of the more popular day trips from the hotel are to Santa Rosa, Rincón de la Vieja, Palo Verde, Las Baulas and Arenal Volcano national parks, as well as Nicaragua, only an hour and a half’s drive away.
Scuba divers looking to explore Coco’s renowned waters also frequent the hotel. La Puerta del Sol assists divers in arranging tours, lessons and transportation. Travel time is about five minutes from the front gate to the beach, from where divers are picked up and whisked off to sea.
On the popular travel website TripAdvisor, guests rave about the La Puerta del Sol’s immediate access to scuba diving and the assistance they received in choosing the right waters to explore.
Another lauded aspect of the hotel is the food, prepared by Tolo himself. Born and bred in Rome, Tolo is known around Coco as a master chef. His restaurant, El Sol y La Luna, on the grounds of the hotel is considered one of the finest dining spots around. Tolo makes his own pastas from scratch and serves it up alfresco to hotel guests and town residents.
“I’m from a family that wakes up early in the morning to prepare dinner for that night,” Tolo said. “Most of my afternoons and nights are spent in the kitchen.”
Playas del Coco is 45 minutes west of Liberia, Guanacaste’s capital city and home to Daniel Oduber International Airport. Buses between Liberia and Coco run every hour. Taxis are available from Liberia as well as the airport for $10-$25. From the main street of Playas del Coco, turn right at the Lizard Lounge restaurant and bar, about 200 meters east of the beach. Continue straight for about 250 meters until you see the sign for La Puerta del Sol on your right. Turn right onto the small side street and the hotel is on the left.
High-season rates are $100 double occupancy for a room and $130 for a suite, plus tax. Continental breakfast is included. Children under 10 stay free with their parents. For information and reservations, call 2670-0195, email [email protected] or go to www.lapuertadelsolcostarica.com.