Casa Chameleon was just terrific. A great experience that we will never forget. It’s taken us a while to write this review, but the memories are still fresh. I have no hesitation in singing the praises of Casa Chameleon and will continue to recommend this amazing destination.
We decided on Costa Rica for our honeymoon (nov 06’) after a lot of research. We considered bora bora, Caribbean, Europe…really everywhere and found Costa Rica to be the best option – a great combination of adventure and luxury, in a country that is beautiful and ‘gets’ tourism. We spent 2 weeks, the first just outside Tamarindo at Los Altos de Eros (awesome), the second week in Mal Pais at Casa Chameleon. We flew from Tamarindo (short flight to Liberia, small plane from Liberia to Tambor). I recommend flying if this is your course – the roads are brutal (yet exhilarating) and the flight is easy. We rented a car from Budget (just a couple miles from Tambor airport and they pick you up right at the airport), and drove to Casa Chameleon (30-40 min). A beautiful drive and consistent with the adventure theme of the week.
We arrived at Casa Chameleon, the entrance to which is s steep mountain road, which was under construction when we arrived. Picture two concrete ‘train tracks’ scaling up the hill. That was the road. Our jeep handled it just fine and we pulled in through two large wood gated doors. The main house is beautiful and we were greeted by Bobbi and Anthony, and led to our room. Really Casa Chameleon isn’t a hotel in the classic sense. The rooms are stand alone bungalows/houses each with their own privacy and stunning views. The location of Casa is one of its strongest points, atop a mountain, about a mile from the ocean, with singular views. More on the accommodations in a sec. First Bobbi and Anthony.
Bobbi and Anthony
Amazing hosts. They are a young, laid back couple who own the property and made a tremendous, yet totally non-intrusive effort to make our stay pleasurable. My wife and I were taken aback by Casa at first. It was a bit of an adjustment after the pampered luxury of our first week (read spa treatments, chauffeuring everywhere). Mal Pais is pretty remote, thicker jungle, less developed and unstructured. After the first day of acclamation my wife and I did all we could to embrace the freedom, independence and sense of adventure Mal Pais requires to get the most out of your stay. This was made markedly easier by Bobbi and Anthony. They arranged day trips, gave us directions everywhere, arranged for ATV rental (highly recommended), and personal chef. They gave the honeymooners all the privacy we needed, but were never inaccessible. We even had dinner with them one night at Mary’s (best restaurant in town), and some visiting friends of theirs, which was a blast. Bobbi even took the time to set-up internet access on my laptop (which made a few brief appearances during the trip to email pictures to family– after all you are here to get away!). She navigated the Costa Rican tech support to get us hooked up, which was a testament to her commitment to her guest’s happiness (and her patience!). In short, Bobbi and Anthony were the perfect hosts, and their staff was very pleasant. I know they just started to hire some more folks, so the service is probably even more developed today. On our visit, we were given the, by now famous, walkie talkies to make any requests. We abstained from using it much (we are pretty low maintenance despite our high nyc standards).
We did use it for breakfast every morning. We woke up way early every morning (no curtains to block sun, which was our only real complaint but also a positive in that it got us up early to enjoy a full day of adventure). Bobbi and/or Anthony would deliver breakfast to our room/balcony. Bobbi’s juice drinks are amazing -fresh pineapple smoothies are the bomb. Banana pancakes were solid as well. The kind, chill energy of these hosts was also a plus and made the stay ultra relaxing.
As far as other meals, we opted for a few lunches and dinners from the private chef. Wise move. We were lucky enough to have Billy and Yada. A warm couple who we related very well to. Billy’s meals were terrific, and this is from two New Yorkers who make it their mission to visit the finest restaurants. We are food snobs. Billy made some coconut cake that was amazing, lobster rolls, plantain pie (unique!), delicious chicken/fish dishes, and other dishes with an Asian and Hawaiian flair. We had the first meal on our balcony, found it buggy, and had the rest in the outdoor kitchen area with Billy/Yara whose company we enjoyed.
We also dined out a few nights. Mary’s is by far the best restaurant and just down the road from Casa. This is the one restaurant that was up to standard, so we found ourselves there most every night for dinner/drinks before retiring to our room for some private time (wink).
Lots to do in Mal Pais, but you have to make your own adventure. The thing we enjoyed most about this week was just exploring, and the freedom to cruise around, find hidden, empty beaches, observe the amazing wildlife, jungle roads. We rented a jeep. A 4x4 is a must, and manual (stick) is suggested. The roads in Costa Rica are atrocious. In Mal Pais they are particularly bad. Picture mine fields of pot holes, where rains will tear away whole sections of road (leaving treacherous ditches), narrow roads, rivers running through them, and aggressive drivers who have home court advantage. Actually found it to be exciting (kind of a daily adrenaline rush, maybe not so much during the few downpours but otherwise fun). You never really know what is around a corner in Costa Rica, a truck pulled over, cow, giant lizard, so you need to be alert. During the first day, we actually decided to drive to PLAYA HERMOSA (one of the most beautiful beaches me and my wife, who is from PR, have ever seen). We stopped in the road, and backed up to take a flick of a gorgeous road side waterfall. And didn’t notice that an entire section of the road was missing, and backed the car right off the road, leaving our back right tire 3-4 feet down off the road, resting on a water pipe. With 3-4 feet between our tire and the road above, we were fairly screwed. Luckily a kind Costa Rican family stopped, and helped me build a road connecting our tire to the road (using rocks and sticks) and then towed our car out with their own. Just one example of the warm qualities of most locals. Anyhow, we ended up renting ATVs for the next three days, and found this the absolute best way to get around locally, using the jeep for destinations further away. The ATVs handle the roads much better and are way fun.
Curu Preserve and Isla Tortuga
Bobbi and Anthony suggested and arranged this day trip which was incredible. It’s about a 45-1hr drive to Curu. We park and find ourselves in a wooded, jungle, canopy area right off the beach. We’re wondering “where the heck are the monkeys we heard all about”. We had seen plenty of howler monkeys during our 1st week, but wanted to see some white faced monkeys. No sooner did we say that, than we looked up to find a pack of about 30 monkeys descending on our position. So playful, jumping within 2-3 feet of us on branches above. It was a 20 minute close encounter. We also saw large groups of parrots flying above, many lizards. The wildlife was a huge highlight of the trip. We hung around, and then our guide took us out to sea. A great boat ride, and then a stop to snorkel, and then to Isla Tortuga, a small island with warm water and a great beach. Our guide cut up some coconut, pineapple, and other treats for us. We then walked around the island, said hello to the resident boar, went for an extended swim, and eventually headed back to Curu. It was a must do day trip.
We also spent a day ATV’ing to Montezuma. An awesome jungle road ride, with great wildlife, rivers that must be crossed via ATV. Mountain roads with breath taking views.
Playa Hermosa is beautiful. And it was empty which made for a romantic getaway. There are plenty of beaches nearby with great tide pools for snorkeling (Bobbi/Anthony will supply gear and advise on best time/tides). This was the best. I would also recommend Langosta Paraiso, a small restaurant past Hermosa with fresh lobster for very ridiculous prices (ie cheap!). A great ATV ride there as well – a narrow road, along the beach with waterfalls, and some great wildlife.
Lastly, sunset at the beach just down the road is beautiful. You can walk out on the rocks as the tide comes in and there is a cliff tree where all the storks fly in at sunset. Some great pics were taken there. There is also a cool beach bar there for drinks/music.
This is the jungle. We went just at the end of rainy season, so we had some serious downpours at night. Some the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen. It was the beginning of November, so if you go then, you might not get the best weather. We were lucky enough to have 4-5 perfect days, and only a few that were cloudy/rainy. I heard Nov/Dec/Jan is much drier. Anyhow, the bugs are on steroids. As city wimps, we found ourselves closing the balcony French doors at sunset, lest our room be descended on my bugs of all sort. Outside of that, it was totally fine. There aren’t any screens, so a mosquito net for the bed might be a nice addition for some folks if they are bug-a-phobes.
Bring cash. The local ATMs are always down. Closed one about ½ hr away. American dollars accepted everywhere.
The rooms, bungalows are very nice. The view from the private balcony is just amazing. The jungle is all around, many large lizards in trees nearby, and magpie jays (large bluejays with head ploofs) all around. We actually left some bread crumbs on the balcony and they made a visit. Very beautiful creatures. We saw some howler monkeys from afar. It’s really a 24 hr zoo. The balcony is where we spent much of our time. Great hammock, perfect breeze, ocean view. The bed was big and nice, standing shower very cool. Actually check that- one of the best showers ever. An awesome shower head over head, large stone standing shower with terrific canopy view (faces same way as balcony). Small fridge sink, enough to accommodate crackers/snacks/bears. Casa also has a cooler in the outdoor kitchen stocked with Gatorade, water etc for a fair price (no gauging here). The only room upgrade I can speak of is better beach/pool towels, better curtains/shades in case you do want to sleep late, perhaps optional screen balcony doors.. But remember, this isn’t Beverly hills, its Costa Rica, and this as nice as it gets, which is a beautifully crafted room, well decorated, with an astonishing view. Also Casa has a very nice small pool atop a mountain, overlooking the ocean. Great for a late afternoon dip. They also have shaded hammocks by the pool. Lovely.
All in all, Casa Chameleon met and exceeded all of our expectations. Not quite what we envisioned, it was actually better. If you take the time to explore, you will have an awesome time! Go!
Morgan & Melani.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Chosen as one of the "Best 101 Hotels in the World" by Conde Nast Publications' Tatler Travel Guide, Casa Chameleon hotel Mal Pais is a favorite with honeymooners and couples looking to relax and unwind in an enchanted adult only environment. Casa Chameleon is vacation as it should be: a warm welcome, rich privacy, authentic experiences, and endless adventure. Regardless of which Casa Chameleon Hotel you find yourself enjoying, you can count on handcrafted cultural experiences and endless adventure. At each Casa Chameleon property, it is our priority to help you slip seamlessly into the best of local tradition and cuisine-from cooking fresh-caught seafood side by side with our in-house chefs to paddling the coastline to sipping a nightcap in your private pool. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Agoda and Odigeo so you can book your Casa Chameleon Hotel reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Casa Chameleon Mal Pais
- Casa Chameleon Hotel Costa Rica/Mal Pais