Monte Azul

Chirropo National Park, Osa Peninsula & South, Costa Rica Book from US$498

Recommended awaiting i-escape review
An upmarket bohemian eco retreat with 4 stylish casitas, hidden in 100 acres of cloud forest, in the remote southern highlands
Rainforest retreats are what we know and love Costa Rica for. But for rainforest retreats with an art gallery, a Californian vibe and fantastic food, you'll want Monte Azul. This 4-casita hotel is tucked away in the Talamanca Mountains of southern Costa Rica and is a perfect romantic hideaway, offering privacy, seclusion and gorgeous bohemian style. Located 4km from Chirripo National Park, you can certainly visit rain and cloud forest, zipline, go white-water rafting and surf at the beach, but the real joy of this place is its unique art-based activities. There's a contemporary gallery on site, and the artist-in-residence runs a variety of courses (including monotyping, screen printing and paper making), often attended by a set of intrigued monkeys.

Much of the food grown on the 100-acre plot feeds its guests, including coffee and creamy goat's cheese, and the restaurant's Latin American fusion food receives rave reviews from all who visit. Couples looking to get away from city life, hike to waterfalls for a wild swim and return to sublime service, a restful ambiance and an in-room massage need look no further. We haven't visited yet but know by its reputation that you won't be disappointed.

Highs

  • The romantic, super-private casitas are perfect for honeymooners
  • Fantastic adventures to be had: white-water rafting, swimming in thermal pools, ziplining, cheese making and art classes
  • Guided nature walks to see spider monkeys, sloths, teeny-tiny tree frogs and hundreds of bird species
  • Personal and attentive service
  • An utterly unique experience, at one with both art and nature; there are some good-value packages to get the most out of both

Lows

  • A 3.5-hour drive from San José airport, but this is the payoff for being somewhere blisfully remote
  • No children under 15
  • No TV or radio in rooms but you can request an iPod dock
  • Rates don't include service - an additional daily tip is suggested by the management - and late check-outs incur a huge fee per hour (unless previously agreed)
  • There are no other eateries within walking distance, though rates do include all meals

Best time to go

The temperatures are spring-like year-round. December and January are the beginning of the Dry Season and the forest is still quite lush. February and March can be very dry. The rest of the year is what is called the Green Season, typified by bright, sunny and warm mornings and rain in the afternoons or evenings. September and October form the peak of the rainy season with the lowest number of travellers, and the hotel is usually closed for these months.

Our top tips

Some essentials to pack: suncream, proper shoes (not flip-flops or sandals), insect repellent and wet weather gear. The weather can be unpredictable...

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 4
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • 15+ year olds welcome
  • Closed: 1 Sep 2016 - 31 Oct 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

The 4 modern casitas are set well apart from one another and camouflaged in the forest, reached via private trails past tall banana plants and tropical foliage. Inside, their sleek and minimal design enhances the natural delights around them, with semi-glass walls and a large terrace with chairs so you can relax to the sound of the river and enjoy your private garden.

There are no TVs or radios - though you can request an iPod dock - as the focus is on getting away from it all. As well as a queensize bed (twinned on request), you get a small seating area, a shower bathroom, and a small kitchenette stocked with the hotel's coffee, a coffee maker, a hob and a fridge. You can ask for your cupboards to be filled with local goodies in advance, and you'll also find a welcome tray with Monte Azul's own goat's cheese, feta and fruit.

Each casita is slightly different: Verde has a larger garden area, and although Naranja’s garden is the smallest, it features 2 large boulders, a sculptural bamboo fence and a babbling brook. Celeste has direct access to the river trail, as does Verde, and they both face the river below. Amarilla faces the mountains and has a small creek running through its garden.

Each casita is very private and very special; they are designed for couples. The little details raise them above classic rainforest cabins: fine Egyptian linen, fresh tropical flowers by your bed, handmade soap in the shower, and plump cushions on the wooden chairs on the terrace. All art on the walls is by artists-in-residence and is for sale.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee maker
  • Fan
  • Grocery shopping
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Safe box in hotel office
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Twice-daily maid service
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Guests stay on full-board rates (excluding alcohol), and the hotel restaurant, Cafe Blue, gets great feedback. For breakfast, there's plenty to choose from: fresh fruit, gallo pinto (rice and beans) and plátano maduro (fried bananas), cheese blintzes with mango sauce and cashew fruit butter, and fresh eggs with homefries and crispy bacon.

The à la carte lunch and dinner menus can be served in your casita, or in the restaurant. Monte Azul bake their own bread, make their own desserts and grow so much fresh produce that meals are delicious, as well as being inventive. Soups may be lemongrass chicken with rice noodles or carrot vichyssoise; starters include fresh beet salad or wasabi tuna ceviche, and for mains you'll be tempted by baked snapper in a shrimp cream sauce, ginger pork skewers over jasmine rice, or perhaps filet mignon over grilled watermelon. All-day snacks such as ceviche, fruit, cheese plates and pancakes are available as room service (extra cost). The creamy chevre is all made on site (you can attend cheese-making sessions if you want to know more) and the local coffee, Quick Monkey, comes direct from Monte Azul's plantation.

You'll find a kitchenette with a small store cupboard, hob, fridge and sink in your casita and will be welcomed with a platter of local goodies. You can request for your cupboard to be filled with local food in advance of your stay if you want to self-cater a few meals, or pick up groceries from the farmers' market in San Isidro de El General, 30 minutes away, where you'll also find alternative eateries.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Cooking classes
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Welcome platter
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Hike the 5km of rainforest trails surrounding the hotel, then book a deep-tissue massage to soothe tired muscles
  • Go horse riding and head for the Nauyaca Falls, where you can swim. The hotel can arrange guided treks, with a stop at a tico restaurant
  • Guided nature walks are a great way to discover the reserve's big and tiny animals and learn about the colourful flora and primary rainforest. You can also take a tour of the Chirripo Valley with a local guide, or go kayaking
  • Bird-watchers will be in their element, with 231 different species on the reserve, including honeycreepers, turquoise cotingas and the white crested coquette
  • Visit the on-site modern art gallery and meet the artist-in-residence; you can sign up for art classes of various media, including monotyping, screen printing and paper making
  • Head off on a day trip to the thermal pools in the Talamanca Mountains, where you can relax with a view of the forest
  • Go ziplining in the Hacienda Baru private reserve near the coast, or tackle the class II and III rapids on the Sauvegre river with a tropical white-water rafting expedition
  • Hit the local beaches, where you can surf or sunbathe (depending on the weather). The concierge can suggest the best beaches for the time of year you stay
  • Take a cheese-making class, do a tour of the coffee plantation, or sign up for a cooking or cocktail-making class at Cafe Blue. The organic farmers' market at San Isidro de El General is also worth a visit

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Accompanied children aged 15 and over are accepted, but this is really a romantic hotel. Exceptions are made if you book the whole place in its entirety (sleeping 8 in 4 casitas).

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Monte Azul