Xandari Resort & Spa

Alajuela, San Jose & Central Valley, Costa Rica Book from Book from £156 per night

A welcoming hotel with colourful villas amid 40 acres of tropical gardens, with a spoiling spa, delectable Costa Rican cuisine and breath-taking views over San José
Just a 20-minute drive from San José airport, you ascend into the jungled hills above the valley and up into another world: colourful modern architecture surrounded by exotic flowers in the lush gardens of Xandari. Here you find the labour of love of Californian architect Sherrill Broudy and his painter wife Charlene; this secluded hilltop resort provides a welcoming and unique experience.

Rooms are spacious individual villas, with high curving wooden ceilings and white walls that act as a backdrop for Charlene’s vividly coloured paintings and eclectic wall hangings. Each villa has its own generous balcony with rattan recliners so that you can lie back and take in the sun, or just gaze out at the valley spotting birds swooping from tree to tree. Have a massage in the spa’s beautiful jalapas, wander along trails through the jungle to secret waterfalls, plunge into the Jacuzzi-with-a-view, and feast on locally produced food in the restaurant. Xandari is a wonderful introduction to Costa Rica for families, couples and friends alike.

Highs

  • Secluded feel: each room gives you acres of private space, and the resort is set in beautiful gardens with 4km of walking trails and bamboo groves
  • Close to the airport: spend the start or end of your trip here (we think 2 nights minimum) discovering hidden waterfalls and getting pampered
  • Spa with interesting treatments such as a 'chocolate delight' scrub and massage, as well as 3 heated outdoor pools and a spectacular array of activities on offer
  • A warm welcome from charming, friendly staff, and good, locally produced food
  • The views from the rooms' private terraces across the tropical gardens and down to San José are stunning

Lows

  • Villas are very basic and some fittings look a little cheap, but we spent the majority of our 2014 revisit on the terrace or exploring the grounds
  • The décor is lively rather than restrained: imagine Matisse meets Gaudí meets Picasso. We grew to enjoy it, however
  • The small dining area and bar space can get crowded in peak season
  • Admirable lack of heating and air con in the rooms from an environmental point of view. But bring pyjamas if you’re coming in the green season (May-September)
  • Sliding patio doors have ventilation holes that may allow some little creepy crawlies in - don't forget you are amidst 40 acres of tropical gardens (reception can provide bug spray)

Best time to go

November to April are the best months to visit in the 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 this is when you should get out and make the most of the surrounding area - 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 rain is pretty terrible in September and October, but if you’re using this as a starting point for adventures elsewhere, it’s still cosy inside.

Our top tips

We'd come for 2 or 3 nights at the start of your trip, and then maybe again at the end, which gives a nice feeling of familiarity before you leave Costa Rica. Xandari is very close to the airport, and a much more appealing alternative to San José hotels.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 24
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Art Studio
  • Yoga Studio
Room: Prima Plus

Rooms

Xandari's warm and welcoming accommodation is the antithesis of bland, soulless hotel rooms. Here, each of the 24 villas is individually designed by architect Sherrill Broudy. His signature swooping walls and undulating wooden roofs reflect the garden's organic shapes and "the gentleness of the Costa Rican people". These dynamic spaces are naturally cooled (heat drifts upwards to the ceiling) by the floor-to-ceiling windows that also bring in tremendous views of the valley below. Furniture is carved from local woods, and there are lovely details like stained glass windows and plants.

The villas come in 5 categories, but even the basic Prima rooms are very spacious. Prima Plus rooms are larger and have sitting areas. We were in an Ultra room, which was enormous! Only Ultra Plus rooms have bathtubs, which are beautifully set with views onto their private courtyard garden. There's also a 2-bedroom villa, The Star (sleeps up to 6 adults and 2 kids in 1 kingsize bed, 2 queensize beds and 2 single sofabeds), with a sitting/dining area and a walled garden. Prima #20 is a circular, thatched wooden hut, and is the only room to lack a valley view; it is, however, incredibly popular amongst birdwatchers as it looks directly into the thick undergrowth (please request on enquiry).

The all-white villas are decorated with a wall of bold colour, as well as vivid paintings and wall hangings by Sherrill’s wife Charlene - all inspired by her delight in Costa Rican culture. Each villa is entirely individual, but all have comfortable kingsize (or twin) beds, wicker armchairs for relaxing, a desk for writing, and a wide balcony with a view over the valley below. You also get loungers for sprawling and gazing at the birds flitting from tree to tree. Costa Rican textiles are used everywhere, though the bed linen is simple white cotton, and your bed will be adorned with tropical flowers when you arrive.

Bathrooms have showers. Some of them imaginatively designed as organic pods; others have a curved turquoise wall which continues outside into the private courtyard garden, making it seem like an outdoor shower. All are decorated with miniscule bright tiles.

You'll also find a minibar with complimentary soft drinks, and a kitchenette with basic amenities (a coffee maker, a small refrigerator, cutlery, crockery, coffee, sugar, tea and bottled water). The Star has a full kitchen.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan (on request)
  • Hairdryer
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner is served from 6pm to 9pm (later in high season). The darkened dining room is spread over 3 tiers, all are open along one wall to the valley; once darkness falls, it’s a pleasure to look out over the twinkling lights of San José. You'll need to wrap up from May to September, and do ask staff for a blanket if necessary.

The menu offers a good choice of Costa Rican specialities as well as simple European-style dishes - most containing organic produce grown on Xandari’s grounds, and all fresh and delicious. The chef has been with Xandari since the beginning, and his standards are high. We loved the Casados - the ubiquitous Costa Rican dish of chicken or beef (or here, deliciously grilled fish) with rice, refried beans, salad and tacos, all served on a banana leaf and wooden platter. Our chocolate macadamia cake was delicious, too.

During high season (December-March) you can’t reserve for dinner, so you might have to wait for 30 minutes for a table. However this gives you the opportunity to enjoy a cocktail in the lounge, or you can consider room service as an alternative. Make sure you try the caipirinhas and mojitos - both superb; the fresh fruit juices are also sublime. Order a plate of guacamole and salsa with homemade corn chips to stave off hunger pangs.

Lunch is uplifting: you can properly appreciate the view during the day and the Pura Vida salad is superb. The menu is much lighter than the evening one, and features a range of sandwiches and tacos, as well as some snacks; we really enjoyed our chicken enchiladas and fresh, crispy salad straight from the gardens.

Breakfast (included), served 7-10am, is great. You get a plate of fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, strawberry, banana, watermelon and mango on our visit), fresh orange juice, tea or coffee, homemade muffins and bread (thick with crunchy macadamia nuts), a plate of cold ham or chicken, hard boiled eggs, and homemade granola. For a small extra price, you can order a standard cooked breakfast, eggs any way, or pancakes.

Those in The Star have a full kitchen (oven, microwave, fridge/freezer), so you could opt to self-cater if you wanted.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take the Doka Coffee Tour to learn how coffee is dried, roasted and processed. Tours last 1 hour and leave several times a day
  • Visit the Poás volcano: the National Park of Volcán Poás is only 45 minutes from Xandari. Peer into the steaming turquoise caldera lake of one of the world’s largest active craters. There are great views over to the Caribbean and Pacific too. The trip lasts 4 hours, departing at 8am for the best views
  • For an adrenaline rush, try zipping along the rainforest canopy on 14 cables high above the trees - a total journey of 2km. For those who would rather keep their feet on the ground, there are also nature trails. The trip lasts for 5 hours, with departures at 8am, 11am or 2pm
  • Explore La Paz Waterfall Gardens, one of the favourite attractions in this region - there are 5 waterfalls thundering through forest-clad ravines on the slopes of the Poás volcano. It's quite a long way down to the falls, and note that the long climb up is too much for some - maybe not to be attempted with jet lag
  • Visit the hummingbird garden, with 26 of Costa Rica’s 57 species, and take a self-guided tour
    • Take a hike to the falls within Xandari. Anyone can do these walks, except the west trail, which is steep. If you're feeling brave, take a refreshing dip!
    • Relax at the spa. Recover from your flight with superb treatments in Xandari’s beautiful jalapas - thatched treatment rooms with private Jacuzzis and a wide, open window onto the view. The Costa Rican coffee scrub and wrap will exfoliate you as never before. There's a yoga room, too
    • Wander through the hotel’s gardens and greenhouse. See organic food being grown for the kitchen (tomatoes, lettuces, chilli, peppers, bananas, oranges) or examine the glorious flowers and plants all around; the hotel offers guided tours if you want to explore deeper
    • Sit and bird-watch: the hotel’s gardens are full of stunning Costa Rican birds, including squirrel cuckoos, motmot, goldfinches, tropical kingbirds and various hummingbirds

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Private guided tours
    • Rafting
    • Swimming
    • Well being
    • Wildlife
    • Yoga
    • Zip-wiring
  • Kids

    Children are welcome at Xandari, and will like the bright interiors and fun sculptures around the property. Lots of families stay over Christmas, and during July and August. And you're just a 20-minute taxi ride from the international terminal.

    Best for:

    All ages

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Nearly all rooms can accommodate 2 children but we recommend the Ultra and Ultra Plus rooms for families, as they are the most spacious. The 2-bedroom villa, The Star, can sleep up to 6 adults and 2 kids in 1 kingsize bed, 2 queensize beds and 2 single sofabeds; it also has a full kitchen with a microwave.

    Baby equipment:

    • Baby cots
    • High chairs

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Children's meals:

    There's a kids' menu of sandwiches, chicken, fish & chips, pasta and smoothies.

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Lovely well-maintained botanic gardens to explore
    • Three good-sized heated pools
    • Grounds teeming with birdlife and lizards
    • 4km of walking trails with waterfalls
    • Orchards to pick your own fruit for breakfast
    • Two goats (Twinkle and Sparkle) to befriend and turkeys strutting
    • Ping pong room
    • Art studio
    • TV room and some games

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Poás Volcano
    • La Paz Waterfall Garden
    • Rainforest canopy tour
    • Zoo Ave - small bird and mammal zoo
    • River rafting (for older kids) on the Pacuare River
    • Centro Neotropico & Tirimbina Biological Reserve
    • Rainforest aerial tram
    • Botanical gardens

    Families Should Know:

    The pools are unfenced

    Distances:

    • Airport: 20 minutes
    • Hospital: 15 minutes
    • Supermarket: 10 minutes
    Kid Friendly: Ultra Villa

    Location

    Xandari Resort & Spa is in Alajuela, just 20 minutes from the international airport at San José. San José is is the capital of Costa Rica, located in the country's central valley.

    By Air:
    San José Juan Santamaria International (7km) is Costa Rica's main airport so you are almost guaranteed to be arriving there after your international flight. Liberia (195km) is the other main airport in Costa Rica, but since it's so far away it's unlikely that you'll be making the journey from there directly. Click on the link below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

    From the Airport
    As the hotel is quite hidden, transfers are recommended - see Rates. If you're feeling adventurous, you can hop in a taxi.

    By Car:
    Though Xandari might not be easy to find, it's possible that you will want to pick up a car from the airport and drive yourself - see our car rental recommendations.

    Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

    More on getting to Costa Rica and getting around

    Airports:

    • San José Juan Santamaria International 7.0 km SJO
    • Liberia 195.0 km LIR

    Other:

    • Beach 75.0 km
    • Shops 7.0 km
    • Restaurant 5.0 km

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 2 independent reviews from i-escape guests

    10/10
    Room
    9/10
    Food
    9/10
    Service
    9/10
    Value
    9/10
    Overall

    We had an amazing one night stay (not long enough) at Xandari before flying home to New England. I wish we had stayed there at least two nights - the kids loved walking around the grounds (we only had time to see waterfall #5) and swimming in the pool. The room was beautiful and, to my surprise, my favorite view was the twinkle of the city lights from the hillside at night....breathtaking!! The kids loved watching the planes land and take off from San Jose airport down in the valley. Watching the sunset from the heated Sunset Pool while sipping a delicious passion-fruit / mint/ basil/ rum "house special" drink was lovely. The Sunset pool in particular was great for little kids as it had a large section that was shallow for them to comfortably play, splash and practice swimming (6, 4, and 3 years old). The far end of the pool was far enough away that I did not feel that my kids were annoying the younger or older couples traveling without children.
    The couch in our room (#25) was set up as two twin-sized sleep areas and they provided us with an extra roll away bed. We actually fit all three kids comfortably on the couch area and did not even use the roll-away bed. It was a great set up and we loved the space and size of the room. It felt private enough that if one of my kids were crying, they were not going to disturb other guests.
    The service was also great! Louis at the front desk was knowledgeable and very friendly. The male servers at dinner were great too. I wish the Sunset Pool had a phone to order drinks from, we walked back to our room to do this. Our only complaint about the service (and really the entire stay) was a female server at dinner who was very slow with our order. However, the food was all delicious!
    We did not get a chance to enjoy any of the spa, but I heard that the services are great and worth the splurge (next time!)
    We will be back to Costa Rica again soon and I would love to book a slightly longer stay at Xandari.

    10/10,

    For us, what makes this hotel fantastic is the extensive grounds and the view!

    9/10,

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    Rates for Xandari Resort & Spa

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