Although this was our first trip to Costa Rica we decided to skip the Pacific Coast partially because it was the rainy season but primarily because my boyfriend has never seen the Caribbean Sea. The Howler Suite was booked during our dates so we chose the Garden Bath Suite instead (we always seek out accommodations with two person bath tubs, ideally jacuzzi/jetted tubs.) but it was only available for two of our three nights so our first night was in an Ocean Room.
After a five hour drive (via Interbus) from La Fortuna/Arenal we were thrilled to arrive at the coast. We were even more thrilled that our room was ready early. We were shown to Room #2, the Ocean Room next to the Howler Suite. If the only thing you care about is hearing the waves crashing at night this is the room for you. It is a small room with a smaller bathroom with a stall shower. As described on Banana Azul's website, it has no TV or air conditioning (there are fans) and a mosquito net is provided so you can sleep with the french doors open since there is no screen. The only view of the ocean is from the built in bench on the edge of your patio (The only room in that building with a direct view of the ocean is the Howler Suite. I was able to see inside when housekeeping was making the room up.). The patio runs the length of the building and has been divided by removable room divider type things (if you book multiple rooms they can remove them for you). It doesn't feel that private. There was a hammock but it was right up against the divider so you couldn't really sit in it without whacking into the divider. About one third of the ceiling in the room is actually a skylight so there is no way to make the room dark. We actually woke up with sun on us in bed! The security box is basically a night stand with a padlock on it. Note that this room is directly over the bar/restaurant and it was very noisy. You can hear the music from downstairs clearly as the speakers are mounted right under the room. You will here pots and pans banging early in the morning when breakfast prep begins and as a result I recommend you request a different Ocean Room.
On our second morning, when we checked out of the Ocean Room they had the Garden Suite ready even though it wasn't check in time. It was perfect timing as we were headed to the Jaguar Rescue Center for the 11:30 am tour (Don't miss that place… See my review.). The Garden Room was just beautiful! When you enter, the bedroom is to the side and the bathroom is straight ahead. The bathroom has sliding doors that open to the outdoor shower on the patio. The private patio is actually fully enclosed with skylight roofing material that lets all the natural light in but keeps rain out. It had a hammock, chaise lounge and deck chair. There is all kinds of cool lighting options out there for night time and there is a ceiling fan. Of course, there is also the bathtub for two. Not a jetted jacuzzi tub but great anyway. The bedroom has a ceiling fan and air conditioning (we only used it the last day). There is a TV but we never used it. This room has a real safe where you set a passcode digitally and it was large enough to hold a dSLR camera and more. It was a huge relief to get a way from the kitchen noise but there was still some noise in the morning… I think it is from people walking above or maybe on a staircase? We couldn't believe the Ocean and Garden rooms were the same price because the Garden room was so much larger with so many more amenities (but, admittedly, you can't see or hear the ocean).
Since the hotel is so small, the food choices are limited especially at dinner where there seem to be a few items always available and then they cook something different each night. We were there for Fajita Night which was really yummy. Skip the hamburger on the lunch menu even if the craving is killing you. If you like liquid cheese (my boyfriend loves it!) get the chicken nachos. The guacamole was great! There are also some yummy fried and smashed plantains. All the drinks and cocktails are fantastic. I literally had the best coconut water and the best Pina Coladas I've ever tasted. All the blended drinks are made with fresh fruit. No sugary artificial mixers or junk. Make sure to also try their Mojitos. Ok, now my mouth is watering!
The beach is gorgeous. Period. It was practically empty when we were there and it felt like our own private paradise. The water is warm but the dark sand of Playa Negra is extremely hot so be sure to bring footwear. We rented boogie boards from the hotel and had a blast. One of our boards had a rope with a slip knot in place of the leash… hopefully, they've replaced it as it was really hard on the wrist. The beach was so great we never went back into town and since we had done a lot of hard core activity around Arenal we were happy to just relax. When you go to the beach you leave your room key at the desk for safe keeping and you don't take valuables with you.
Wifi connection was excellent everywhere. There are several different networks that serve the rooms, the beach, etc. We never went in the pool. We tried to go into the jacuzzi but it is not heated and it felt cold compared to the ocean so we got out. We didn't but you can rent snorkel gear and bikes. The outdoor "lobby" area next to the restaurant/bar area has board games, books and other stuff available for use…. We played Othello while drinking at the bar. The front desk can exchange money for you. Non hotel guests can purchase access to the "Beach Club" when they book tours with Gecko Trail Adventures but there didn't seem to be hoards of people coming from elsewhere. However, I did see some kids around even though it is supposed to be an adults only property. If I find myself in that part of the country again I would definitely stay there again.
Last but not least: After checking in, we dumped our stuff in the room and walked down to the beach along the elevated boardwalk path. About halfway, near the shower we spotted some holes in the ground. My boyfriend said, "What do you thing made those? Snakes?" Not more than three seconds after I half jokingly replied "Tarantulas?" a huge tarantula scurried back into one of the holes right beside us!! It was amazing! :)
Muchas Gracias to Colin and his wonderful staff! Pura Vida!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Banana Azul hotel is a small and simple hotel north of town on Playa Negra. The small boutique hotel has been created with care using local products and a philosophy that emphasizes relaxation. We cater to adults, 16 years and over. Blooming gardens adorn the property, as does several freely-hanging hammocks, providing the perfect spot for afternoon napping or leisurely reading. A meandering pond inhabited by fish and turtles flows through portions of the property adding a lighter element to the ongoing natural soundtrack of waves crashing against the shoreline. The hotel consists of 22 beautiful guest rooms with private baths, fans (some with A/C), and free WiFi. Most rooms are on the second floor of the main building, and open onto a large veranda with sweeping ocean views and of the garden. Banana Azul offers its guests a quaint restaurant that serves a complimentary filling breakfast, variety of lunch options and refreshing drinks throughout the day and a relaxing three entre dinner option in a romantic atmosphere at night. Caribe Fun Tours is on site to assist with tours and transportation needs and can assist with a variety of package options including visits to the Arenal Volcano, canopy tours, snorkeling trips, and even rafting excursions. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Banana Azul Hotel
- Banana Azul Puerto Viejo
- Hotel Banana Azul Costa Rica/Limon