After a wonderful time at El Mangroove, the next leg of our trip required us to travel from Guanacaste, which is a province in the northwestern part of Costa Rica, down to the Uvita Village on the southern coast of Costa Rica, some 200 miles away. We opted to fly from Liberia into San Jose Airport which is in the center of Costa Rica. We could have caught a connecting flight into Quepos from San Jose which would have put us just about 45 minutes from Rancho Pacifico, but instead a wonderful local expert, Mariana VanGinkel (that we had met at the New York Times Travel Convention just weeks earlier), had offered to pick us up and drive us the 3 hours from San Jose to Uvita.
We thought this would give us a chance to see a different side of Costa Rica and get a chance to connect with Mariana. Mariana is a local expert in Costa Rica, she plans private picnics with gourmet food and service in some of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica, including Tortuga Island. Mariana truly embodies the Costa Rican spirit. She is well-spoken and knowledgeable, and her insight into her country's history and roots made for great conversation. An instant friendship was formed thanks to her super outgoing and fun attitude.
Being able to spend a few hours with her provided us with an experience we will never forget, from stopping off the road at a local street side restaurant for a Pipa (Coconut drink) to making a stop at her family's beachfront hotel and restaurant for ceviche and margaritas. Mariana and her guided tours are a MUST for anyone wanting to experience the true Costa Rican lifestyle and not just a cookie cutter vacation in a beautiful country. We cannot thank her enough for the amazing hospitality, laughter, and experience.
Rancho Pacifico is nestled deep in the lush hills of Uvita. We arrived at the base of the hills in the late afternoon. The problem was that a 4x4 vehicle, which we did not have, was required to navigate the dirt road and steep terrain. Fortunately for us, Uvita is a small town and tight-knit community, so we stopped at a restaurant to contact the hotel and figure a way up the hill. While we had trouble contacting the hotel due to bad cell service, Mariana spoke with the cooks and servers behind the counter and found that one of the cooks knew the Rancho Pacific0 (RP) driver who took guest up and down the hill. Within a few minutes, our driver had arrived to pick us up.
Pulling into RP, most of the hotel is hidden from the road behind a wall of trees and wildlife, but as you approach the check-in desk at the center of the hotel, the beauty unfolds. The walk opens up to reveal a beautiful pool that runs along the hotel's living spaces, restaurant, and bar, all of which are outdoor. It provides a serene and exclusive feel, coupled with an unbelievable view of the coastline.
We didn’t want to waste any time and were looking forward to a sweet drink at the bar, which had a very inviting feel. We decompressed after the long day of travel and enjoyed the sunset and cool air. I'm not sure if it was that part of the country or the elevation, but RP definitely had a cooler climate and seemed to be a little less humid than what we experienced in Liberia. After a few drinks and some conversation with the staff, all of whom were very accommodating and pleasant, we headed to our room.
The first thing we noticed as we entered the room was the large French doors out to the patio. While the focal points of the rest of the hotel are the amazing views of the coastline, the room faces the rolling hills of what seems like endless rainforest. These French doors are lined with only a screen and no glass. This gives you a sense of being one with the nature that surrounds you. The Costa Rican breeze and sounds of wildlife help to put your mind at ease and provide a very peaceful environment. We had a great little kitchenette off of the patio which included a mini fridge and sink. The bathroom was large for the room and was beautifully covered in a light stone tile. The highlight of the bathroom was the romantic shower made for two that also gave you a head to toe view of the lush rainforest. As we settled in and unpacked we could hear the conversations of the howler monkeys and exotic birds below.
As the evening night swallowed up the sky we became hungry and excited for dinner. We had heard great things about the cuisine at Rancho Pacifico and specifically Chef Alex. The kitchen is located right off the dining room and lounging area and has an open view that allows you to see the preparation for that evening's feast. All of the guests slowly trickled into the dining area around 6:30-7:00pm, but dinner is served from 6-9pm.
The evening had such a relaxed vibe, with only 12 villas at RP it creates quite an intimate scene. The bar, dining area and lounge all blend together which encourages socialization with the other guests. The bartender prepared cocktails as we mingled and the staff brought out gourmet finger foods. After a few minutes, we moved into the main dining area and sat down with a wonderful couple we had just met, Tim and Cheri from Shreveport, Louisiana. One of our favorite parts of traveling was meeting so many awesome people like Tim and Cheri and sharing the experience with them.
Our server described the evening's menu, each night at RP chef Alex prepares a unique, multi-course meal with bold yet local flavors. Tonight he had a 6-course arrangement that was highlighted with a flaming octopus entree. Though a lot of time and effort does go into these extravagant plates, Chef Alex and staff are always willing to accommodate any food allergies and/or likes and dislikes.
When we rose the next morning we realized that this was going to be our only full day at Rancho Pacifico and we wanted to take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings and all that RP had to offer. We started with breakfast in the dining room. Our table was perched above the rainforest and seemed to overlook the entire jungle, as we sipped our coffee and stared out upon the morning sky we planned our day.
We decided to start with a hike. Karla, with guest services, had told us about a hike to a little waterfall that was fun and invigorating, so we started there. The path of the hike starts right on the grounds of Rancho Pacifico. Cool bamboo walking sticks are provided. If you don’t take one, you may regret it on your way back. The first half of the hike is completely downhill, with wide paths and rope to help with the steep areas, the further you travel, the deeper the forest gets.
Eventually, the trail comes to an end and there is a clearing in the dense forest brush, where a small waterfall (which is really just a large rock wall with water lightly cascading down it) greets you. Regardless of size, it still does offer a refreshing atmosphere and a cool little place to take some pics! We rested a bit and caught our breath, then we started back towards Rancho Pacifico. The hike back is mostly uphill and we definitely sweat! We couldn’t get back to our room fast enough to change into our swimsuits and jump into the cool infinity pool.
After cooling off we wanted to continue exploring. Karla had suggested going to “Whales Tail” which is down the mountain and also part of Marino Ballena National Park. Every guest gets one free transport to any excursion while staying at RP, which was a great perk that we did not get at our previous resort. The driver took us down the mountain through Uvita which was such a treat. As we mentioned before, it is such a quaint, tight-knit village, and we got to go through the neighborhoods on our way to Marino Ballena. A long row of shops and bars lead to our destination and it only cost $6 to get in. It's about a half-mile walk down the beach to get to the Whales Tail, which is a popular spot for tourists and pictures. The water from the ocean comes in from two separate sides and as the tide goes in and out it reveals the rocks beneath it which looks exactly like a whale's tail! The water was incredibly warm, like a Jacuzzi! We left the beach area and walked around the town and did a little shopping while we waited for a cab to take us back up to the resort.
When we got back up to RP it started to rain, thunder, and lightning. The thunder shook our room and the sounds of the rain in the rain forest were almost musical. We wanted to enjoy the rain and took our iPad down to the pool area and sat on the couches under an awning and watched a movie! Our intent was to go back to the room, shower and head out to the social hour with other guests and dinner.
Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into our plans when my husband started to feel very sick. Whether it was from a long day of physical activity in the sun, adjustment to the elevation, or a bug, we don’t know. I headed down to the dining area during dinner to possibly order some food for myself in the room and learned quickly why Rancho Pacifico is such a wonderful resort. The manager, Alex, offered to bring us some chicken broth and rice. He could tell I was a little worried and brought me a chilled glass of champagne to relax with while he put together a full care package for my husband. Medications, electrolytes, chicken broth and rice were given to us and I cannot explain in words how much it meant to feel so cared for.
Being in a different country and getting sick can be a scary ordeal, but Alex and all of the staff were absolutely amazing and it put my worries to rest. Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy dinner on our last night, but we did get to see that beyond the beauty and the elegance of the resort, why Rancho Pacifico is such a special place.
Rancho Pacifico makes for such a romantic and peaceful getaway. It has a unique way of making you feel like there is no one else around. Their open air concept and mix of luxury and relaxation provide just what you’re looking for awhile with that special someone.