Costa Rica’s Pacific jewel in the forest

11th Jul 2006

An ecotourism pioneer, wild Costa Rica is a small piece of Central America spectacularly perched along the Continental Divide between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.Outside of Mexico, Costa Rica has the most developed tourism industry in the region with rain forests and pristine beaches aplenty.

One area that is attracting a lot of interest in travel circles is the Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast. And now a wide range of restaurants and hotels is available in the area—many of the region’s finest sit high atop a forested ridge.

This is one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations because the shimmering Pacific stretches out below, with rocky islets rising from the waves, beaches beckoning, howler monkeys, well, howling, and many of the animals the park is famous for visible from the balcony of any hotel room, as well as the tables of the hotel restaurants.

It is also easy to see why one hotel, the Hotel Parador Boutique Resort & Spa, is easily one of the area’s best - and not just because it lives up to its slogan: “European refinement…warm tropical touch.”

The hotel is also nominated this year in the World Travel Awards in the category of Costa Rica`s Leading Hotel, Spa & Resort.


The hacienda-style hotel—with 60 rooms, many with views, porches or balconies, and some with Jacuzzis—is built on its own peninsula overlooking a coastline reminiscent of Capri, with magnificent rock formations jutting out of the Pacific.

Antiques collected by the European owners are sprinkled about the resort and then there is the stunning Infinity pool.

The intrigue begins almost from the moment you check in to the hotel that is modelled after the traditional Spanish paradores (country inns) and quaint European boutique hotels.

There, for example, is what looks like knights in shining armour seemingly standing guard over a mélange of antique curiosities and period paintings throughout the main building, here a Spanish galleon seemingly sailing out of a ceiling, there what looks like an ancient altar, in between scores of heavy mahogany chests looking as though t hey are about to spout genies waiting to grant your every wish.

Instead of genies, there is an attentive staff waiting to cater to your every whim around the Parador, which boasts an attractive Mediterranean design, featuring oak beams, barrel-tile roof and all the modern comforts in 96 rooms, nine junior suites and a presidential suite all sprawling across 12.4 acres, about one third of which are primary and secondary forests.

The entire property reflects the exquisite taste of its owners, Jan and Marianne Schans, a Dutch couple who spent more than a decade in Spain before settling down to life as expats in Costa Rica because they loved the Pura Vida flavour of a country rich in natural resources.

They picked their site in a densely forested peninsula called Punta Quepos because of its amazing views of the rain forest, beaches, offshore islands and the nearby national park.

They started small, word of mouth spread the news about the fabulous restaurants, service, rooms and views, and the property grew to the point where there is now a wide variety of rooms, from garden to jungle, superior to premium, junior suites to a presidential suite.

But first let’s take a look at what surrounds those rooms: a new Spa “Pacifica,” two Infinity swimming pools with Jacuzzi and swim up bar
surrounded by
nude statues and a mock crocodile, an adults only “Third Life” relaxation
swimming pool with cascading waterfall, a piano bar called Don Juan and a
bar called Sancho Panza, a private dining room named La Reina Isabel, an
informal restaurant known as “El Quijote” and a formal restaurant called La

There’s also a library, conference hall, tennis court, miniature golf, green
areas and nature trails, wireless internet in the main building and
internet stations in the lobby, an antique and decoration shop called “La
Dulcinea,” and an incline panoramic elevator. And a regular complimentary
to nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica’s smallest national park
(three square miles) but its second most visited (after Poas Volcano), a
natural example of why good things come in small packages.

  In the case of Manuel Antonio, the package unwraps into a number of species
catalogued: 184 birds, 109 mammals, 60 fish, and four turtles. Also three miles
coastline, 1,730 acres of primary, secondary and mangrove forest; 12
white sand beaches, coral reefs and rocky coves and abundant wild life.

Bounteous rainforest life

During one four hour period of aimless walking through a forest dominated by
massive ficus and gumbo- limbo trees, for example, people have been known to see spotted two and
three-toed sloths, green and black iguanas, agoutis, all four of Costa Rica’s
species (including howlers and Capuchins), numerous birds of every kind of
feather flocking together and separately, even a boa constrictor.

You can take time out to kayak, snorkel, swim on beaches ranging from Playa
Espadilla Sur, the park’s longest beach, to Playa Manuel Antonio, a half
mile long
beach, tucked into a deep cove. If you check out Playa Escondido, the rocky
secluded “Hidden Beach” and Playa Playita,” you are looking at Costa Rica’s only nude beach
(albeit unofficially so) and climbed the steep path to the top of Punta
(Cathedral Point), a rocky hill draped with deep jungle, pausing at a
point for an unsurpassed view at the park’s islands dotting the Pacific,
magnificent frigate birds circling overhead.

There is also a choice of tours, from white water rafting down the Naranjo or
Savegre Rivers to a kayak or mangrove boat tour through the inland waterways
Damas Island Estuary. You can go horseback riding through a typical Costa
area of Villa Nueva and Londres, check out the crocodiles from the Tarcoles
Rivers or see the Red Macaws at Carara Naional Park. In brief, no shortage
things to do around the Hotel Parador, from canopy tours to catamaran
ocean kayaking to float tours, sport fishing to surfing lessons, jeep tours
iguana tours to butterfly farms. And more.

But there’s also the temptation never to leave El Parador from the spa to the restaurants, to your room with varying views and amenities.
The service is beyond compare, so you probably may just want to hang and enjoy the awesome views while you are being served a delicious cocktail right from your lounge chair.

Unfortunately, I did not have the time to get pampered, but as I took a quick tour of the Pacifica Spa , a sudden state of distress settled in from the relaxation sights, smells and sounds that surrounded me. Tastefully decorated with all the right touches in all the right places, the Spa is definitely the place I could have spend a whole day.  Nestled in the forest, all treatment rooms and lounge area have magnificent views to the gardens and blossoming trees. 

Their service menu is very extensive and offer fabulous wraps and scrubs with a unique protocol. Everyday an original treatment is offered, and made from fresh ingredients from Costa Rica, such as mango, coffee, aloe, and even papaya, just to name a few.  According to the rumours from the guests the therapists are excellent!
The facilities at the Spa include: a lounge area with plunge pool, Jacuzzi, Swiss shower, steam room, lockers, 5 treatment rooms, yoga area. 

Central America’s top presidential suites

If you are able to visit The Parador and if it is not occupied, you will be lucky to get a peak of the impressive Presidential Suite, sprawling over 1851 square feet of space, this suite is truly one of the most magnificent in all of Central America, according to the cognoscenti. It includes a foyer with three independent entrances, one living room and dining room with a granite bar and kitchenette, 
A master bedroom and bathroom with a Jacuzzi and separate shower, and two additional bedrooms each with its private bathroom.

The nine ultra-private Junior Suites are located at the far end of the complex up on a rock; they take on a design as individual villas each with a unique view, different layout, and private entrance. As for service goes… with one simple phone call to the concierge one will be picked up in a golf cart, off course, because of its proximity to the facilities most wish to walk to fully enjoy the surroundings, but the option is always there. 

Amenities in the suites include: king size beds, living area with comfortable leather seating, kitchenette, Jacuzzi, double sinks, terrace. 

Perched upon another large rock, accessible by a panoramic elevator, the Premium Rooms (20) offer 180 degree views of the ocean, jungle and beaches.  They are truly impressive. To fully take advantage of the views, the rooms were designed with large sliding door windows and comfortable private balconies.  A candlelit dinner on your balcony can not be missed, with the incredible stars and full moon nights at Parador. 

The Superior Rooms (30), the newest addition to The Parador and most quoted, (besides the Premium), are the largest rooms, and are strategically located close the facilities, all with beautiful views.

From the Jungle Rooms (20) you are almost guaranteed to see the monkeys playing in the trees or searching for food early in the mornings or late afternoon or at least hear the howling sounds of the howler monkeys.  These rooms are slightly bigger than the Garden rooms and offer a bathtub, private balcony and doors to adjacent rooms.

The 25 Garden Rooms are all available with 2 full or 1 king size bed and have direct access from the terraces to the gardens. It is for this reason, recommended for those who want to be close to nature and have proximity to the main facilities. These rooms are also a good choice for elderly, since they are located on the ground floor and include 4 handicapped accusable rooms.

All room amenities include: free safety deposit box, ironing board, phone, hair dryer, mini-bar, air conditioning, coffee maker, cable TV, electricity
110-120 AC. Services range from 24-hour security to room service, laundry to
Internet, daily maid service to laundry, rental car to concierge, internet
doctor on call and baby sitter on request. And choice of beds, from king to
to full-sized.

There’s more, lots more. But you get the idea that the Hotel Parador
Resort and Spa is a very special place, private and serene and four-star

Information: Hotel Parador Boutique Resort & Spa,

[email protected].


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