“A blissful retreat with a tranquil spa, steeped in its own cloudforest reserve: luxurious, silent and just over an hour north of San José”
Everything has been carefully considered: from the fine organic food created by resident chef Marcela Chaves, to the warm, personalised attention from hand-picked charming and attentive staff - your expert eco-concierge will take you walking to waterfalls. The spa is one of Costa Rica’s finest, with its conical treatment room and beautiful yoga space open to the jungle - exemplifying El Silencio's attitude that nothing here should detract from the natural world. Sustainability is the guiding principle. Use El Silencio as a base for the nearby wonders of the Poás Volcano and Arenal volcanoes and Tabacón hot springs, then return to peace and pampering.
- Magnificent valley setting with dramatic views; lie in bed and look out onto cloud forest
- A serious alternative to the famous Monteverde cloudforest - you'll have this forest to yourselves, see many of the same wildlife species, and it's just 90 minutes' drive from San Jose
- Suites and villas are impeccably elegant and sophisticated, but the guiding design principle is contact with nature
- You're welcomed by locals, trained to the highest standards, combining natural Costa Rican warmth with professionalism
- Luxuries abound: expect private hot tubs on the balconies and L’Occitane toiletries, plus top-notch spa treatments
- Imaginative cuisine created from home-grown organic ingredients
- Hard to think of any. Isolation might trouble some: if you’re looking for nightlife, El Silencio isn’t for you
- Price: there are cheaper ways to experience the cloudforest, but in all Costa Rica it’s rare to have such close contact with nature yet no crowds
- No TV in the rooms - though there’s a dedicated room with widescreen TV, cable and a good selection of DVDs for entertainment, should you need it
- Not a place for families with young children (only over 8s accepted), due to the closeness of fast-moving water and the overall tranquil vibe
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Spa Hotel
- 15 suites + 2 villas
- Restaurant and bar
- Over 8s welcome
- Open all year
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
Love of the environment has influenced everything about the design of these beautifully comfortable and spacious Suites and Two-Bedroom Villas. They're all similar in design, and all are set on the hillside above the main reception, offering a perfect view of forest and mountain.
Inside, natural materials abound: polished hardwood floors and headboards, and woven bamboo lining the pitched roof. Huge picture windows bring in vast and vivid views of trees, ferns and birds flitting around, so that you feel utterly connected to nature. And nothing in the design conflicts with the beauty outside: colours are neutral creams and dark brown, with splashes of quiet green and a simple rug for colour.
Beds are kingsize and the most comfortable we have ever slept in, with feather pillows (but ring your eco concierge if you’d like something different) and softest Egyptian cotton linen. Those in the Two-Bedroom Villas (Villa Quetzal and Villa Trogon) get an additional ensuite twin bedroom, and a huge dining area. While both the Suites and Villas come with grand living areas that have 2 capacious daybeds (that can act as single beds) to sprawl on and gaze at the view. There's good lighting in the form of lamps on tree trunk bases, and the effect is definitely more sophisticated than rustic.
The bathrooms are particularly stylish - large, with rainhead showers, polished stone walls and floors and twin basins. L’Occitane toiletries complete the feeling of pampering. There’s also a complimentary minibar and a coffee maker (which does tea too). Best of all though, your balcony has 2 leather and hardwood rocking chairs for you to take in the sunset, and a hot tub or Jacuzzi (screened for privacy) - wonderful at night, or just after you wake to watch the sun kissing the trees on the hillside as it rises. There’s satellite TV, WiFi, a safe, bathrobes and a hairdryer too; and phones by the bed.
If the 5-minute walk down to the main area would drench you in heavy rain, just pick up the phone and someone will come to collect you in the electric golf buggy.
- Central heating
- Coffee / tea making
- Extra beds
- Safe box
Everything you eat at El Silencio has something special about it. Chef Marcela Chaves is on a mission to give Costa Rican ingredients some global recognition and sophistication - such as the peach palm (somewhere between a sweet potato, a macadamia nut and a water chestnut) which filled our ravioli - but also to recreate international dishes with a local twist.
His success lies in presenting a limited menu for each course, which nevertheless lays a dazzling array of flavours and influences before you. He makes the most of the hotel’s organic kitchen garden and locally grown food, and draws on other tropical culinary cultures, with nods in the direction of oriental cuisine. Everything is beautifully presented, making creative use of edible local flowers such as the delicate garnish of nasturtiums on our ravioli of beetroot: orange sitting next to vivid deep red. The result is unique, sophisticated, and visually delightful.
At dinner, we loved the rich, almost piquant broccoli soup, and the El Silencio salad with delicious organic vegetables and a fragrant lime coriander dressing. Los Bajos Chorreada crepes with sautéed vegetables were good, the chicken kebab really superb. Red meat is eschewed in favour of more healthy chicken, vegetables and locally caught fish. The great thing about Marcos’ cooking is that you can eat all 3 courses and not feel over-full. Stay here for a few days and you’ll feel healthy and cleansed - without suffering. An excellent list of Chilean wines is available to buy from; soft drinks and juices are included in the rates.
Breakfast is a treat, with some surprises. We loved the lassi with garam masala, ginger and fresh fruit, and the power shake with fresh fruit and granola. Costa Rican staple gallo pinto burrito is delicious here, as are the multi-grain pancakes with fruit and maple syrup.
The dining area is a long, glass-walled wing of the main reception area, with attractive rattan chairs and woven grass mats on the polished tables. Service is excellent and there’s a little stove to keep you warm on chilly evenings in the 'green' season. It’s wonderful gazing out at forest and the river as you eat; breakfast on the deck, any time of year, is an uplifting way to start the day.
If all this elegant food becomes too much, the staff recommend you try dinner at one of the very informal local eateries in the nearby hamlet of Bajos del Toro.
- Coffee / tea making
- Organic produce
- Vegetarian menu
- Stroll up the trails to see 3 waterfalls tumbling through rainforest: your eco-concierge can accompany you and tell you all about the rich plant and bird-life. The first is gurgling La Melodia, the second is (inappropriately) El Silencio, and the third is named La Promesa, after someone had a vision of a bridal couple here. Honeymooners won’t be the only ones to find it extremely romantic
- El Silencio is Monteverde cloudforest without going to Monteverde - you can see quetzals here in April and May, as well as many other exotic species
- Plant a tree and be given a certificate. Your trees will be looked after - a great way to mitigate the impact of getting into a plane and coming here
- Book into the Esencia Spa as soon as you arrive: conducted with ritual care, my 'El Silencio Purifying Revival Massage' with Fatima was without doubt one of the best I’ve ever had, enhanced by the magically designed conical room which, the architect/owner claims, channels the rainforest’s energy. Indulge in facial treatments for all skin types, using natural local ingredients, and body wraps with tropical fruit, local volcanic mud or coffee
- Try a yoga class in the superb open-sided space in the spa (available on request only)
- UNESCO named Sarchí (30 minutes from here) as a world heritage site for its handicrafts and brightly painted traditional ox carts, created when Costa Rica started to export coffee and bananas. Today it’s a pretty commercial place, but worth a trip if you want to ship home leather and hardwood rocking chairs, which you might. Also here is a botanical garden and you can go on a tour of the Naranjo coffee cooperative owned by over 200 people
- El Silencio’s land makes an important biological corridor between Juan Castro Blanco National Park and Poás National Park. After a scenic drive through coffee plantations and pastures with grand views, you’ll reach the Volcano. From the car park it’s a 5-minute walk to one of the world’s largest active craters and there are great views over to the Caribbean and the Pacific. Trips here could also include La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Dokka coffee tour
- Just an hour away is Sarapiquí, offering white-water rafting, canopy walks, zip wires and horse riding, and a totally different climate. Your eco concierge can come with you at no extra charge
- The Arenal volcano is worth the long day trip - it’s 1 and 1/2 hours from here - but the hotel tour includes the Tabacón hot springs and dinner
- Travel from El Silencio to luxury sister hotel Punta Islita, for a taste of beach life on the Nicoya Peninsula
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Horse riding
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
This isn't really a child-oriented place; there’s no swimming pool, and no TVs. That said, children over 8 with a keen interest in nature are welcomed.
Family friendly accommodation:
The Two Bedroom Villas are the best option as they have a double and a twin bedroom, as well as 2 single daybeds. Suites are also well set up for families, with 2 single daybeds in addition to the kingsize double (note that only 2 children can be accommodated per Suite).
Babysitting is available is by arrangement.