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“Home Away From Home”

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Gilded Iguana Hotel
Ranked #19 of 24 Hotels in Nosara
Reviewed 31 October 2011

After a five hour van ride with a driver that only spoke Spanish, driving down into the dirt roads to the little town of Nosara was a relief. We pulled up to the Gilded Iguana with daylight to spare and brought our bags through their yard and into the open café and bar area, which also serves as the check-in desk. I had researched the area intensely before decided on the Gilded Iguana for our “surf” portion of our Costa Rican adventure. It was located so close to the beach, the walk was easy – which was essential to our ‘no rental car’ trip. For those who are looking for a ritzy ‘high end’ escape, look elsewhere. If you want a truly Costa Rican “Pura Vida” no-strings-attached, relaxing, ‘make yourself at home’ place to stay, you’ve found it with the Iguana.
The Iguana is located down the dirt roads in the quaint town of Nosara. Though there are occasional Yoga Spa’s, most of Nosara constitutes of small hotels and surf shops. It’s always quite, but the people are amazing. It’s perfect for those that want to get away from the tourist of Costa Rica and relax. We were immediately welcomed with a “hello darlings!” from the infamous Di – a waitress/receptionist known for her hospitality, as you can read in other posts. She showed us our room, which was steps away from the dining area on the right.
The room is simple but spacious; complete with a ‘kitchen’ sink and mini fridge if you’d like to get your own food from the market down the street. The décor was minimal except for a mural of howler monkeys gracing one of the walls. The large bed was extremely comfortable and sleeping was great, despite the lack of AC. Most of the room is shuttered screen to alleviate the heat issue. It works extremely well and the shutters are fine for privacy at night. Two fans were in the bedroom as well as one in the bathroom for added comfort. The bathroom was small but adequate. You are not able to flush toilet paper because of the laws of sewage in the small town but this isn’t a problem because the excellent maid service takes out the trash every morning. They also leave you two towels each: a white one for showering, and a colorful one for the beach. Our room even had a small balcony with deck chairs. These were perfect for the Tuesday nights with live music. We had a front row, but private seat overlooking the diners and the band if we didn’t feel like venturing down ourselves.
The main area of the Gilded Iguana is the dining area. A beautifully decorated open, but covered, room is painted with iguanas and stylish décor. There is always someone to wait on you with the best menu and food items I have ever had. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are served. I recommend the Yogi Special (fresh yogurt, granola and skewers of fruit) for a light breakfast, Smoked Fish Dip or Guacamole and Chips for snacks, any of their burgers or sandwiches, and the Penne a la Vodka (get a whole serving I swear you’ll finish it and still want more!) for dinner with a Triple Chocolate Brownie for dessert. But those are just suggestions. Try everything. Also – their fresh fruit smoothies are perfect for any time of the day. This restaurant area is not only the dining area, but also the hangout – complete with wifi. You can sit and read, check your email, watch television, or chat with the others staying at the Iguana and in town (all the locals also seem to know that the Iguana is the best place to be. Especially on Tuesday nights!).
The best thing about this hotel is how laid back the staff and visitors are. Room keys can be left on hooks inside the kitchen door so they don’t get lost – the phone is open to use whenever you’d like. Information on anything is always at hand from anyone on the staff – or the owner, Joellen, if you catch her on her computer at the bar. (When we asked about bus passes for our ride home, she even got them for us and had them waiting at the bar the day we left!) There’s an area of hammocks (or you can string up your own) out back where you can always find people lounging with a good book. The pool is small but perfect after a day at the beach, and there is also another round (think tiki hut) bar on the opposite side of it if the dining area gets too crowded. There is always free fresh coffee and water by the main area as well, which is just an extra plus! There is no stress here. The way of life is slow. Live it up.
The beach,Playa Guiones, is a very short walk, littered with orange and purple tree crabs that sputter away when you walk by. Even at high tide, there is plenty of beach because there is usually no one there. Surf schools can be seen in the distance to the left, but the beach is long and spacious enough to fit everyone. The water is warm but isn’t tropical. No blue water, just amazing waves! Nosara is huge for surfing and the breaks here are known to be amazing. Even beginners like me can handle it, though, depending on the tides of the day. You can rent surf boards at the surf camp located in the Iguana’s back yard or down the street. Both shops are pretty good prices and have good boards. Sharks are uncommon, though we would always be surrounded by schools of fish when not catching a wave. The beach is great for walking during sunset. The bugs aren’t bad, and the surfers even build little palm tree huts to rest under if the sun gets too bad. On that note, make SURE you wear sunscreen and keep applying it throughout the day. A burn from the Costa Rican sun is bad. I had tan lines from the ten minute walk to and from the beach to check the surf at nine in the morning.
The wildlife near the Guilded Iguana is good! Iguanas can be found on warm days in the yard off the restaurant, along with smaller lizards, and the occasional cat or dog that likes to hang around. (Sushi the cat is my favorite. Very smart and will be your new best friend if you let her.) There are also the infamous howler monkeys. They will wake you up at night, but it is simply part of the Costa Rican experience. If you want a close up look, head down the road to the right of the Iguana and listen when a motorbike goes by (they hate them and will howl in response to the noise). Sometimes they come almost down to ground level and you can get some good pictures. If its turtle season, I recommend getting to Ostional. (If you go by ATV getting there is an adventure as well!) We went on the beach at night (bring a red LED light!) and watched the turtles come up and lay their eggs. There were hundreds and you can go right up to them, pet them, and watch the entire process up close.
When we were there in August, it started to get dark around nine. Because it is not a city/extremely developed, there is not much nightlife, but take advantage of this. My boyfriend and I would sit out on our porch after dinner with a few drinks, listen to the howlers and go to bed early. My stay at the Iguana was the most relaxing and refreshing sleep I have ever had. We awoke every morning to the restaurant opening and as we’d step down in for breakfast, we’d be greeted with fresh coffee and a sing-song “good morning, babies!” from Di. She’d update us on the news and happenings while she got our orders and we would relax in the morning sun before a day of surfing. If you do want to go beyond the walls of the Iguana, you can. There are yoga institutes, other café’s, bars, and restaurants down the streets. But because we stayed, we felt more like a family and grew to know the others staying at the Iguana with us. As I have stressed, this place is the most relaxed, feel-at-home hotel I have ever been to and I would be back there in an instant if I could. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone and would be more than happy to answer any other questions by email!

Room Tip: If you aren't picky, the rooms without AC are perfect.
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  • Stayed: August 2011, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank LiHarv
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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91 - 97 of 134 reviews

Reviewed 22 August 2011

The Gilded Iguana is a restaurant with some rooms available. What I mean is that this is not a Hotel WITH a restaurant! It was clear from the moment we arrived! the waiters had to "check us in" while they were waiting tables. We arrived at around 6-7 pm and two days a week the have live music. It was the noisiest night ever! My husband and I wanted to relax and rest but we couldn't get to sleep until late at night. We thought it was just gonna be for that night but the morning after the kitchen cleaners were so noisy we were awake since 6am!!!!! They are also building I think it is more rooms so the construction workers were also contributing to this scandal!
We only spend one night out of the six nights we had booked, when I talked to the owner she asked me the reasons and I explained politely that the noise was too much to handle, not to be the obnoxious customer I didn't even tell her how disappointed we were about the hotel and planed to make a discrete retreat. My husband asked for the bill and since we had made a deposit in advanced for the room we thought there wasn't gonna be much to pay but these people knowing we were unhappy costumers even took our deposit and made us pay for the horrible night we spent there!!!!! I guess I should have been more outspoken and not expected any courtesy from them.
I don't recommend this hotel AT ALL! there are plenty of affordable lodging options in Norasa! Drop by for a bite to eat and leave!

  • Stayed: August 2011, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank RuthKobernik
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
costahotelier, Owner at Gilded Iguana Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded 28 August 2011

On occasion some guests do find those rooms that are located next to the restaurant to be too loud for their comfort. It states clearly on our website where they are located, and when I am made aware of noise concerns in my correspondence with guests, I always suggest one of our a/c rooms located behind the pool area which are much quieter. Unfortunately you arrived on one our two weekly music nights (also stated on our website) and were subjected to louder than usual noise from the restaurant, but it does close down at 10:30 pm. The maids have to start early in the morning in order to get all the rooms done and guests in a room without air conditioning will be able to hear voices through the screened windows, the same as one can hear the howler monkeys and birds at 5:00 am. Construction while guests are here is not our policy, but in order to comply with the Ministry of Health's wheelchair access laws, our bathrooms had to be remodeled by the 8th of August. I kept the deposit of $50 that you made to cover the night that you stayed, and did not charge you the cancelation fee for checking out early as you claimed everything was fine. Those rooms maintain 100% occupancy in high season, and most guests leave very happy. Honesty is a good policy and I trust that guests are honest with me when they are asked about their stay, there is nothing obnoxious about being honest when asked.

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Reviewed 22 August 2011

Just came back from a ten day vacation with the family and have never felt so happy after a family vacation. Matt is incredible as is the entire staff. Caught some amazing waves, ate great meals, TOTALLY relaxed (never ONCE) thought about work. Weather was beautiful
(little rain but big deal....if anything the rain was relaxing). NEVER felt
unease about safety for my family
and belongings. There r criminals in ALL parts of the world. Best vacation ever. My six year old can't stop talking about little Chloe and the wonderful families she met.

  • Stayed: August 2011
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Thank sopmad01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 August 2011

Only in town for two nights, but I enjoyed my stay at the Iguana. Nice pool, friendly bar staff and the food was reasonable. The room was clean and I definitely got use out of the air conditioner!!

  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled solo
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Thank TMan1979
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 August 2011

we absolutely love this place- so laid back, lots of friendly people, the local flavor, a stroll to the best beach, wonderful food, economical family vacation- something for everyone in the family. We just love to keep going back! It is a perfect place for getting together for a restful and fun vacation with family or friends.

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled with family
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Thank Norine D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 July 2011

We are lucky enough to have our own property in Nosara and regularly have dinner and drinks at the Gilded Iguana. I don't think we have ever been disappointed at the quality the meals, service and general ambience of the restaurant. Matt and Jo run a tight ship which filters through to all their staff. The specials are always fantastic especially the fresh bass. My particular favourite is the schnitzel - most welcome after a long day in the surf.

Room Tip: Book early
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  • Stayed: April 2011, travelled solo
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1  Thank Charlesstclair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 July 2011

Amazing value and great service/food. A must while in Nosara and playa Guiones. It is located close to beach and has a great pool w bar. Very private and secure. Great live music Tues and Fri nights. I can't say enought great things about the management and staff. The food is local and healthy.

  • Stayed: April 2011, travelled solo
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Thank daggteam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Gilded Iguana Hotel

Address: Playa Guiones, Nosara 5233, Costa Rica
Region: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Nosara
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#5 Family Hotel in Nosara
#7 Romantic Hotel in Nosara
#16 On the Beach Hotel in Nosara
Price Range: £36 - £72 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A landmark at the beaches of Nosara, Costa Rica, The Gilded Iguana Hotel brings casual relaxation, comfort and excellent service to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. One of the most famous and well loved vacation destination hotels in Nosara for surfers, expats, families and adventure holidayers. **NEWS** - Gilded Iguana has been sold to new owners - but is sure to be better than ever for open Nov 2014. All reservations still valid! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Gilded Iguana Hotel Costa Rica/Nosara

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