“A sophisticated hilltop retreat with its own nature reserve, a spoiling spa and exquisite food, plus the Manuel Antonio National Park right on the doorstep”
While many of the country’s hotels survive on kitsch interiors, rice-and-beans cuisine and towels sculpted into swans, Gaia is an oasis of sleek modern design, with a superb spa and an open-sided restaurant to rival any in New York for the quality of its food and service; expect everything from Pacific lobster to Peruvian casseroles. There’s a dedicated concierge for each guest, and a wealth of facilities and outings to entertain you after you’ve visited the park. Floors are stone and polished hardwood, furniture is chic minimalist rattan and cream linen, beds are sumptuous, and bathrooms are sleek. Perfect for sophisticated travellers, families with teens up for an adventure, honeymooners and anyone wanting to combine rainforest wonders with pampering.
- The hotel’s 10-acre private reserve is incredible (guests get free tours); visiting the scarlet macaws who are being reintroduced into the area was a real highlight
- Chic modern rooms to suit a range of budgets, with classy design and every imaginable comfort: plasma TVs, slate bathrooms, supremely comfy beds
- Excellent service from warm and friendly professional staff, plus exquisite food, and views to die for - Gaia truly deserves its 5-star status
- Great location: very close to Manuel Antonio National Park (famed for its wildlife) and within easy striking distance of the coast and the area’s major towns, yet private and secluded
- Top notch holistic spa with inspired treatments, its one of the best in the country - a reason to stay a day longer
- Some may consider the Studios to be small, but we’d have been more than happy in one
- Jungle View Studios lack outdoor space and Studios share a balcony (your area is separated by plants), but there is lots of lounging space by the pool
- No children under 13 permitted, a high for some!
- Beware the Costa Rican service charge and tax of around 24%!
- It isn't a nice walk to the entrance of the Manuel Antonio National Park, but the hotel provide free transfers
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bars (open daily)
- Over 13s accepted only
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
There’s a good spectrum of accommodation within Gaia to suit a range of budgets. Studios are the most compact, and have a shared terrace. The newer (and cheaper) Jungle View Studios, up in the hilltop clubhouse, lack outdoor space but are a good option for bargain boutique. A clutch of Clubhouse Suites were recently added - we're yet to see them personally, but the layouts appear spacious and they have direct access to a dedicated pool.
We were lucky enough to stay in a Suite during our 2014 revisit, which was twice the size of the Studios, with an open-plan living-dining room and its own private terrace. The suites' layout is better, and if you're staying a while we think it’s worth the extra price for the sense of space. Jungle View Suites (in the clubhouse) have the same layout, but overlook the hotel’s nature reserve rather than the ocean; Deluxe Suites feature their own private rooftop terrace, adorned with little shallow pools for cooling effect (though you can’t get into them), with fantastic views of the rainforest and ocean beyond. There's also a pair of Two-Bedroom Villas which have 2 kingsize bedrooms plus living-dining space for 6, spread over 3 levels.
Wherever you stay, expect slick slate-tiled bathrooms with power showers, slippers, bathrobes and hairdryers. Beds have high quality bamboo or Egyptian cotton linens, and there are smart wicker and cotton sofas. All rooms have a plasma screen TV-DVD player (there's a library of DVDs in reception), carefully chosen locally created paintings and impeccable standards of design.
- Air conditioning
- CD player
- Coffee / tea making
- DVD player
- Extra beds
- Plunge pool
- Safe box
- Satellite TV
The restaurant, La Luna, is a truly inspired place (open for all meals). Firstly, it has the prime position in Gaia’s hilltop site: a real king of the castle feel, with panoramic views out over the Pacific coast and Manuel Antonio’s jungle-covered peninsula from its long open sides. The design is cool and modern, with a faintly Japanese touch: tables are black-lacquered, with wooden-slatted table mats, luxurious white linens, abundant glassware and straight linen-covered chairs.
The adjoining elegant bar continues the black lacquer and wicker theme, with tall swivelling stools, and there’s an area of tall palms and squishy sofas to sink into while enjoying sunset cocktails and tapas. You have to try the Pura Vida: local firewater Guaro Cacique added to cranberry, orange juice, triple sec and a splash of grenadine.
The food is world-class and service impeccable. The style is modern Pacific Rim, with lots of typical Costa Rican ingredients like yucca and plantain. We had the best ceviche we have ever eaten here (and we ate a lot of ceviche on this trip): generous strips of succulent fish with plenty of citrus flavour but not at all bitter, and served with homemade tortillas and cayenne aioli. Vegetarians won’t be disappointed either; we really enjoyed our sweet roasted squash and papaya soup. Note the restaurant is open to non-guests in the evening so can get busy in high season.
Breakfast kicks off at 7am (until 11am, included) with the usual buffet array: cereals, yoghurt, granola, cold meat and cheese, and a fruit platter (expect great tranches of mango, pineapple and papaya). You can also order a dish from the hot menu (also included) such as Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros or a cooked breakfast with all the trimmings. If you’re setting off on an 8am trip, you could always opt to have breakfast in your room or on your terrace (extra cost).
You can also order drinks and snacks down at the vertiginous pool bar, which serves light lunches, there's a wet bar section, too - all with magnificent views. Gourmet platters can be prepared to serve in your room on request; you can order items to be ready for your arrival such as fresh fruit and cheese, cold cuts and crackers. Room service is available between 6am and 10pm.
- Coffee / tea making
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
- Popular Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest but most visited, with lots of wildlife to see. Gaia’s own guides take guests on a modest 2-hour visit, which is entertaining, if a little perfunctory. Howler monkeys roar and there are tree sloths in abundance, as well as the famous red-eyed tree frog. The tour leaves early in the morning but you can choose when to return, with the shuttle bus making regular trips to the park entrance. Note that the reserve is closed on Mondays
- Be sure to explore Gaia’s own nature reserve - there are free tours for hotel guests or you can go solo. Our guide, Saul, pointed out birds, lizards and the stunning indigenous plants. We loved that he could instantly recognise birds from their calls. Open daily
- Gaia’s best asset is its compact but superb Terra Spa, it's one of the best in the country, and its main treatment room has a huge panoramic window with views over the rainforest - a reason to stay a day longer. All treatments make the most of organic Costa Rican ingredients: 'Coconut Glow' uses Pacific coconut for exfoliation, and the coffee and cane sugar wrap is great for cleaning the system. Have the algae and mud treatment for detoxing
- Yoga classes are available on request in the yoga studio. There’s a mixture of hatha, ashtanga and restorative poses, ideal for beginners
- A motor-boat trip along the mangrove swamps offers a different range of wildlife, and while it’s a pretty touristy experience, you'll see capuchin monkeys at close quarters
- Pacific Ocean pleasures include dolphin and whale tours, deep-sea fishing and sea kayaking; scuba diving is very popular, too - Gaia can arrange tuition
- Adrenalized entertainment can be found through zip lining, parasailing, river rafting or by taking a mountain-bike tour
- Horse riding along the cliff tops to hidden waterfalls can also be organised
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
- Plantlife / flora
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
- Well being
The property is squarely aimed at adults and only allows guests over the age of 13 (although we’d recommend it to those over 16s).
Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
We suggest families with teens take the Clubhouse Suites which sleep up to 4. They're located in the clubhouse on top of Gaia Mountain and have direct access to the pool.
Kids Activities on site:
- Pool toys in pool area
Kids Activities nearby:
- Catamaran tours with snorkelling and dolphin watching
- Butterfly Garden
- Hiking in the National Park
- Visit the Wildlife Centre of Kids Saving the Rainforest
- For the teens, Jet skiing, ATV´s, horse riding, white water rafting
- Airport: 10 minutes (Quepos)
- Hospital: On call ambulance service
- Shops: 5 minutes
Gaia Hotel and Reserve is on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, about 3km from the port of Quepos (7km), in Manuel Antonio.
Quepos is the nearest airport for domestic flights, but international airlines fly into San José Juan Santamaría International (165km). Or fly to the smaller Liberia airport (263km), which is served by seasonal charter flights from Europe and North America. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
From the Airport:
Many guests take an internal flight from San José, then take advantage of the hotel's free transfer from San José to the hotel. However, if you'd prefer to travel overland, Gaia can arrange a transfer from the airport at San José - see Rates - or you can catch a Gray Line coach to Manuel Antonio, and from there make use of the hotel’s transfer service.
It’s just 3 hours’ beautiful drive to reach Manuel Antonio from San José. But consider carefully if you really want to drive around Costa Rica. The roads can be awful and the signage is hopeless. In Manuel Antonio you really won’t need a car, and you might prefer to arrange transfers if you’re travelling to 2 or 3 destinations within the country. If you do decide to go it alone, make sure you hire a 4-wheel drive - see our car rental recommendations.
By Public Transport:
The public bus (no air-con) goes from San José to Quepos. Once in Quepos, take another bus or get a taxi direct to the hotel.
Detailed directions will be provided when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Costa Rica and getting around
- Quepos 7.0 km XQP
- San José Juan Santamaría International 165.0 km SJO
- Beach 0.5 km
- Shops 0.5 km
- Restaurant 0.5 km