I almost hit a deer pulling into the driveway at Cañas’ only luxury hotel, La Pacifica. Then later, driving to my room, I nearly ran over a paca. The next morning, an entire family of howler monkeys greeted me as I made my way to breakfast.
I now understand why Cañas, a mid-sized agricultural town in the center of Guanacaste, is not known for its wildlife. It’s because all of it has decided to live on the grounds of La Pacifica, and it’s easy to see why.
Originally built as an hacienda in the late 1800s, the 2,650-hectare property was once owned by Costa Rican President Bernardo Soto. The hotel is named after Soto’s wife Pacifica Fernández, who used the farm as an escape from the hustle and bustle of San José. The property has been a hotel for more than 25 years, but the family’s original house, La Casona, still stands on another part of the estate.
Checking in at the front desk, I was assured by Front Desk Manager Davis Marshall that once I got to my room, I would feel like I was in an hacienda. He was right. Tucked away down a dirt road that passes under the reaching branches of dozens of Guanacaste trees, sits a long row of suites, each themed to feel exactly like a 19th century Spanish-style farmhouse.
Whitewashed adobe walls and terracotta tiles accompanied the dark stained wooden beams and barn-door-esque cabinets of my suite. Just in case it didn’t feel enough like a farm, the hotel decorators added a black and white photograph of a tractor right over the bed.
But it is the main building that really hammers in the hacienda style. Constructed from the same dark, sturdy wood as the rooms, the hotel’s lobby is built like a barn. Some of the antique furniture and rusting farm tools that decorate the building came from La Casona, and almost everything else was made onsite in the hotel’s own wood and leather shop.
After relaxing in the lobby’s rocking chairs, I made my way to the hotel’s restaurant, where I munched on homemade bread. Then, two roosters wandered by my table as I feasted on a delicious hacienda steak, topped with green olives, mushrooms, capers and hearts of palm.
Much of what appeared on my plate actually came from La Pacifica’s farm, which has remained functional throughout its years as a hotel. To catch a glimpse of the farm’s cattle, tilapia and organic rice operations, I took the hotel’s farm tour, which is available to all guests for $50 a person.
The tour ends at La Casona, the famed tropical getaway of Pacifica Fernández. The hotel kept the house up as a an elaborately adorned museum for years before it was eventually robbed. Though now abandoned, and home to at least 50 bats, looking at the embellished archways and ceramic shingles you can sense what the old farmhouse must have been back when Fernández roamed its halls.
Just as we were leaving, a beautiful, white owl swooped in through a window.
“Ah there she is,” Marshall said. “The new Doña Pacifica.”
Going there: Hotel La Pacifica is past Cañas off of the Pan American highway. Coming from San José you will see it on your right 5 km before reaching Liberia. It is a short distance from three major national parks: Palo Verde, Rincón de la Vieja and Río Celeste. All rooms hold up to four people, with standard rooms starting at $41 in the off-season and $58 in the high season. Suites, which upgrade to a queen-sized bed, start at $49 in the off-season and $58 in the high season. The larger studios, which come with a living room, start at $80 in the low season and $96 in the high season. Villas, which include a full kitchen and living area start at $59 in the off-season and $60 in the high season.