“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”
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.
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.
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)
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.