Colourful Costa Rica is a fantastic option for a family break and, with direct BA flights from the UK starting in May, 2016 is the year to go! The beautifully bright, private villas at Xandari Resort & Spa are just 20 minutes from the airport – a welcome sanctuary for frazzled kids and grown-ups alike after a long flight.
Close to the capital city San José it might be, but hidden away in 40 acres of lush tropical gardens full of walking trails and waterfalls, it feels a whole world away from civilisation. Children are warmly welcomed and there’s plenty to keep all ages occupied, from wildlife spotting to heated swimming pools, river rafting to zip wiring. Weary parents can unwind at the spa, where there’s a hot tub and delicious treatments such as the ‘chocolate delight’ scrub and massage.
Rooms: Forget bland hotel rooms; the 24 villas are bright and beautiful. Designed by architect Sherrill Broudy, they’re all swooping walls, undulating wooden roofs and floor-to-ceiling windows. They also feature bold, colourful paintings and wall hangings by Sherrill’s wife Charlene, inspired by her love of Costa Rican culture. They come in 5 categories but even the most basic (Prima) are very spacious. If you need a bathtub, go for an Ultra Plus villa; the rest have imaginatively designed showers with miniscule tiles. All have huge beds, wicker armchairs for relaxing, and wide balconies with loungers which look over the valley below. Soft drinks in the minibar are complimentary, and each villa has a handy kitchenette with basic amenities (a coffee maker, a small refrigerator, cutlery, crockery, coffee, sugar, tea and bottled water). The largest villa, The Star, has 2 bedrooms plus a full kitchen with a microwave, so you could choose to self-cater.
Food: Dinner is served in the open-sided dining room with views out over the twinkling lights of San José. There’s a choice of Costa Rican specialities and European-style dishes, and a good kids’ menu featuring sandwiches, chicken, fish & chips, pasta and smoothies. We just loved the casados – the ubiquitous Costa Rican dish of chicken or beef (or here, deliciously grilled fish) with rice, refried beans, salad and tacos. We’d also highly recommend the fresh juices and the punchy cocktails. Lunch is a lighter affair and breakfast (included in the rates) is fab – think fresh fruit, juice and hot drinks, homemade muffins and bread, cold meats, hard boiled eggs and granola. Cooked extras can be ordered for a small charge.
When to go: November to April are the best months for sunshine, though note that December to March is high season and gets very busy. The ‘green’ (rainy) season, from May to September, is becoming increasingly popular. During this time it’s sunny in the mornings and rainy in the afternoons. For 2 weeks in late June or early July there’s often a veranillo – a ‘little summer’ – when the rain disappears. The showers are pretty terrible in September and October, but if you’re using this as a starting point for adventures elsewhere, it’s still cosy inside.
Customer review: “The Xandari was a wonderful first night in Costa Rica for us, with amazing views from our villa, great swimming pools and delicious food. The staff made our children feel really special; together with the waterfall trail, we didn’t want to leave.”
Kate, United Kingdom (15.08.15)