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“Playa Negra & Pura Vida!”
Review of Hotel Banana Azul

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Hotel Banana Azul
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 13 November 2013

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!

Room Tip: The Howler Suite has the best views of the ocean and a bathtub for two. Ocean Room #2 is very noisy...
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  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank polaroid-girl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 13 November 2013

While we didn't stay at this hotel, our beach house next door has a reciprocal agreement for use of the pool, restaurant and beach facilities. Also, we were in town for a beachfront wedding, and our guests did stay at Banana Azul.

This hotel is by far the best-equipped in Puerto Viejo! The rooms are extraordinary, crafted out of native woods, beautiful mosaic tiles, and many with private or semi-private balconies and patios. (See attached photos of the Red Frog room, where my friends stayed, below.)

The common facilities are beautifully designed, immaculate (quite a feat on the beach at a place hosting several native dogs and cats) and luxuriously landscaped. The pool is a refreshing jewel in the midst of a tropically manicured setting, and it's just steps from the open-air restaurant, which features both local fare such as the Tico breakfast as well as European-style dinners. The tuna sandwich is spicy and heavenly, and the lobster dinner was unlike any we'd ever eaten!

Staff is remarkably helpful and friendly. Not that American-type polite/friendly, but genuinely warm and welcoming. Also, the Gecko Tour desk in the lobby is open into the evening and extremely helpful in organizing whatever tour you might want!

Lounge on beach chairs and order a drink from the friendly staff at the beach cart. Take a rinse in the outdoor shower. Order a daquiri in the open-air restaurant. We didn't have a bad moment here!

Room Tip: The Red Frog room is only steps from the restaurant but still feels secluded and isolated. One of th...
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  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank Heidi M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 November 2013

We visited Costa Rica in October, the rainy season for the Pacific Coast of the country. We were unhappy with the beach hotels recommended by our travel company for the Carribean coast, and selected Banana Azul based on Trip Advisor reviews. Also it was the only hotel in the area that we could find that had rooms with good ocean views (we learned while we were there that this is because of strict zoning regulations in the area). Since proximity to the ocean and ocean views were important to us, we chose this hotel and were happy with our choice. Banana Azul is on a beautiful stretch of beach. We walked for several miles and only passed a handful of people. The water was perfectly clear and relatively calm while we were there. The food at the hotel was pretty good and very reasonably priced. We were only there for two nights and didn't make it into town to try any other restaurants. We stayed in the Howler Suite, which had a beautiful deck with a hammock overlooking the ocean. The room itself was a bit small, and could have used additional fans to combat the heat since there is not air conditioning (nor is there any common space that is air conditioned). The rooms are less private than what we are used to at a hotel, but we had fair warning of this from the website and the Trip Advisor reviews. Going into it with the right expectations, it was definitely a trade off worth making for the beautiful beach.

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank cl2003
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 November 2013

Great location (although Playa Preta is not a hot destination in guides, this beach is beautiful, desert, with clear and clean water, perfect to swimming, and, if you are in Banana Azul, you will stay in a confortable beach chair, with great on-beach service and chilled coconut water), confortable rooms and awesome garden and atmosphere. However, what makes this hotel unique is the staff. Very friendlly, helpfull and kind, they do their best to make you feel home (specially amenable to our gluten-free diet: they had cereals and the best sandwich we have ever had with a gluten-free bread). They helped us with tips and info about what to do, and I'm sure we explored the best of the region (you can rent bikes there and be in Punta Uva in 20-25min). Highly recommended.
Tip: if you are travelling from Panama to Costa Rica by car, be sure you have the list of docs needed to cross the border.

Room Tip: The apartment is awesome.
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  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank jgb_sp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 November 2013

We stayed 2 nights at this lovely hotel and liked it a lot. The rooms are clean, charming and with a balcony. The staff is very friendly and helpful and the food is just wonderful! There are birds and hummingbirds everywhere.
The beach is nice and we would have loved to stay a little bit longer - next time.
The only disadvantage is that it is far away from everything.
Nevertheless:
Pura vida!

Room Tip: Chose one of the rooms on the second floor
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  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank traveler_traveler215
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 November 2013

We had just traveled over 5 hours from La Fortuna and welcomed at the hotel with a free drink. Our room wasn't ready but we enjoyed a nice lunch while we waited. The staff and the owner, Colin, were very friendly and made us feel welcome. We stayed 3 nights in the Garden Bath Suite. It is beautifully decorated and the plush pillowtop mattress was very comfortable. I had brought my own pilllow as someone noted their pilllows are hard. This was accurate. We loved the convenience of this room as I could wake up, grab some coffee and fruit and walk right back into my room if I wanted.

The last night was spent in the Ocean room upstairs. I actually loved this also as we had two small fans with the doors open. I felt like I was sleeping in outdoor luxury. I slept better this way than with air conditioning! However, my husband didn't sleep too well as he was anxious about animals joining us! This room was very humid, however, and the bathroom is a bit small.

We enjoyed their meals and drinks so we ventured out for only 1 meal in the town. It was so relaxing there we didn't want to leave. We also loved swimming in the ocean as the waves were relatively mild since it was October. The water was very warm but also very salty so my eyes burned some. Make sure you grab some bug spray however, if you want to lounge on the chairs. There are little tiny sand flies that like to get you.

Overall a wonderful place to visit and would absolutely love to return.

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank dbldecker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 November 2013

Pro's
Not right in the middle of the town.
Town less than a mile away. You can drive, walk or even rent s bike.
Tour company right on-site and every helpful.
Food ... breakfast, lunch and/or dinner was delicious.
Staff is like family, I will miss them.
Books, bug spray and lotions to use.
Beach is clean and cozy.
I love all my new dog and cat friends.

Con's
For a child free hotel there were kids almost ever day.
Take into consideration it's so humid...the floors in the lobby are very slippery at night.... dangerous!
We understand the structure of this hotel, but I think the staff may need a refresher. The area you are banging things aroung at midnight and then again at 5 AM is right by my head...

Pura Vida

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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1  Thank Shanna1780
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Hotel Banana Azul

Address: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Region: Costa Rica > Province of Limon > Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#1 Romantic Hotel in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
#1 On the Beach Hotel in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Price Range: £46 - £116 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Hotel Banana Azul 3.5*
Number of rooms: 22
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

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