Quiet and intimate
Close to the beach
The not so good:
Not right on the beach
In a sleepy part of the country
Need a car to go out to the places you want to see
The Villas de la Bahia is set in an area on the outskirts of the village of Tambor. It seems as though about 20 years ago someone thought that a residential development in the area would be the ticket to eternal fortune. He was wrong. So now there are a number of paved streets laid out with curbs and sewers and tree lined boulevards with street lights that come on at night - but almost no development on the lots. The cattle roam across this area grazing on the grass contained by the concrete curbs.
In one part of this area, the Villas de la Bahia set up shop, erecting a number of cottages. The upside to this lack of development is that the only noise in the area comes from the wildlife in the area - almost none from man.
On the property, there are 5 cottages surrounding a good sized pool, which is about 4 feet deep. There is a 6th cottage that faces a garden and a 7th cottage is under construction.
All of the cottages have the same basic design:
On the main floor is a kitchen (with refrigerator, microwave, electric frying pan, rice cooker and sink - no stove or oven), an eating area with 4 chairs, a living area with love seat, coffee table, two chairs and a small television and a 2 piece bathroom.
Upstairs are two bedrooms, and a 4 piece bathroom, each entered from an open veranda. The bedrooms have double beds (one of the cottages has a double bed and a single bed in each of the two bedrooms). Ceiling fans are mounted to keep the rooms cool.
There is no airconditioning, just the fans in the bedrooms and a fan on the lower level - we didn't find this to be a problem at all during our stay - the rooms were comfortable for temperature.
The upstairs veranda runs the full length of the front of the cottage, and two hammocks are put out here. There are also two hammocks out on the front porch of the cottages. Much time was spent by our group in these hammocks.
Each of the cottages also has a charcoal grill - for some it's located in a specially constructed grill/outdoor sink area behind the cottages, and the rest have smaller, portable grills out front.
The cooking facilities were a bit limiting, but we amazed ourselves with how versatile we could be with the electric frying pan and rice cooker - we cooked lots of beans and vegetables with the rice cooker (which I had never imagined doing before we got there), and it worked out great!
If you don't want to cook, there is no catering at the villas, but there are several decent restaurants within a 10 minute walk of the Villas, and there is a pizza shop in the village that will deliver. Also within a 10 minute walk is the village supermarket, which has all the necessities. If you want a larger selection, you'll need to drive into the inland town of Cobano to visit the Mega Super. Cobano also has the only gas station in the area. Cobano is about 12 kilometers away.
The beach in Tambor was a bit farther away than I was expecting, but was still only about a 10 minute walk away. The beach at Tambor is great for kids - when the tide is out, the slope is so gradual, that you have a wide, clean sand beach without rocks, and the water gets deeper quite gradually, giving a good size zone for small kids to play in. The ocean is also very gentle here and I had no qualms about allowing my 2 year old daughter to play in the surf. The sand is a darker shade, but it was lovely nonetheless. The beach here is not suitable for snorkelling - too cloudy - nor for surfing - no waves of any size, but for a fun day playing in the ocean or suntanning, it's perfect. The beach is enormous, being probably 50 meters wide at low tide and stretches for miles, so crowding is no issue.
When the tide is in, there is not much beach to work with, and what there is has large pieces of driftwood, so make sure you go when the tide is out. During our stay, this was basically during all the daylight hours, so it worked perfectly for us.
The Villas and Tambor are located reasonably conveniently to the hotspots in the area - Montezuma (hippy town with great restaurants, nightlife, beautiful beaches and waterfalls) is about 30 minutes away (20 kilometers - but you can't drive very fast on the roads), and Sta. Teresa/Playa Carmen (world renowned surfing beaches) are slightly further away (35-40 minute drive). But you will need a car, preferably a 4x4 for handling the roads in this part of Costa Rica. There is a car rental location only a 5 minute walk away (Budget Car Rentals, pickup at Costa Coral hotel in Tambor). And you can get to Tambor by air for about $85 from San Jose. Tambor has the only airport on the Southern half of the Nicoya Peninsula.
The staff at the Villas are friendly and accomodating, but the housekeepers speak no English, so if you don't speak Spanish you may need to communicate through the manager, William, who is on site from 9:00 to 5:00 (or thereabouts) each day. William will also put you in touch with tour operators in the area if you want to go for activities, like visit Isla Tortuga (island with beautiful beach and good snorkelling), go horseback riding or just to arrange transport. William is very friendly and can give lots of information.
One thing that might have put us off about the Villas de la Bahia if we had known about it was that there is no hot water in the cottages/villas. This actually wasn't an issue at all. It was just a little bit cool - approximately the same temperature as the pool - so showers weren't uncomfortable at all. As for the water quality, I don't know if it's recommended to drink the water here, but we all did, and no one got sick from it. YMMV.
There is wireless internet at the Villas, but their connection (and I suspect the whole village's connection) is probably down about 40% of the time.
Overall, the Villas was a great place to stay, especially for our group of 14 people. We had 3 of the cottages and were quite happy with them. They aren't luxury accomodations, but they are very comfortable, and quite pleasant to spend time in and around. Highly recommended for people looking for pleasant, inexpensive accomodations in a quiet setting.