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!
- 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