We spent a full week at El Silencio in celebration of our First Wedding Anniversary, and we highly recommend it.
Our suite was cozy. We visited during the "green season" (read: rainy season) but did not mind the frequent sprinkles and occasional downpours (usually in late afternoon). In fact, the rain and accompanying clouds at eye level when viewed from the leather-backed rocking chairs on our suite's porch lent a decidedly ethereal atmosphere to the landscape.
The restaurant was one of the highlights. El Silencio's imaginative chef, Marco, who trained in San Francisco, fuses Asian and Indian influences onto a foundation of typical Costa Rican fare that results in fresh, beautiful dishes nearly always adorned by a spicy, edible nasturtium blossom. Marco proudly and enthusiastically takes every opportunity to educate guests about his fusion cuisine and the organic garden from which he derives about 30% of his ingredients. The restaurant offers expansive dining windows: three hours at breakfast, three at lunch and two for dinner. Don't expect great variety in the meat department, but no matter: the means of preparation are so varied, the ingredients so fresh, the free-range chicken so tender, we never tired of the selection. The wine list is not extensive but offers some interesting Chilean and Argentine selections, which proved to be good values. The wait staff is very friendly and considerate (on our anniversary, they set up a secluded table for two by one of the stone fireplaces) and, regardless of your language skills, we recommend engaging them in conversation. Martin was our favorite; he never seemed to tire of explaining the dishes and offering cultural context to the meals and drinks we selected.
I'm not much for spa treatments, but we were impressed by El Silencio's spa. The building is well-isolated, open and airy, with a quasi-Asian decor. We opted for the tandem Swedish massages combined with hot stone treatments, and later my wife enjoyed the Costa Rican mud massage.
Our one disappointment was the lack of established activities. The eco-concierge program is a work in progress. Ours was very friendly, but when we wanted to visit the famous Arenal Volcano were told that the resort had not yet worked out an arrangement. Likewise the organic cacao plantation at Tirimbina Reserva Biologica but, when pressed, our eco-concierge arranged for a driver to take us to the plantation (which was worth the trip, and cost). Granted, the resort was in operation all of seven months when we visited, but one would think the activities would have been established before the resort opened.
Below are a few recommendations that we offer prospective guests and El Silencio's management based on our experience. We urge readers to base their decision on whether to visit El Silencio on the above, not on the few glitches we highlight below. El Silencio is a unique, special, truly wonderful place to visit, and we have been recommending it to friends ever since.
The recommended attire is "cozy casual"--perfectly appropriate and comfortable, but the restaurant is nice enough that we found ourselves wanting to dress up (just a little--chinos rather than jeans for instance) at dinner.
Don't waste valuable luggage space on an umbrella; suites are furnished with golf umbrellas for walking the grounds and ponchos for hiking. But do pack a pair of slippers; the stone bathroom floors were frigid, and while the bathrobes were thick and soft, they do not come with slippers.
All of the suites enjoy privacy, but request one on the periphery for maximum seclusion (ours was Suite #1, high and off to the left side, the one pictured on their website).
El Silencio really is a resort for adults. Take seriously their age restriction (we were surprised toward the end of our stay to see a family arrive with a toddler). Everything about the place spells peaceful relaxation. Even older children—unless they are very serious about nature—could be bored.
Speaking of nature, if you are interested in birds, as are we and so many who visit Costa Rica, buy a copy of Garrigues & Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica ($20 on Amazon, $40 in-country) and pay close attention to the elevation ranges contained in the descriptions. You will see a discrete set of species that will help you round out your life list with birds that you will not find at Costa Rica’s lower elevations.
If it's mammals you seek, El Silencio has very few. We thought we heard Howler Monkeys, but sightings of Howlers and Spider Monkeys are rare on the resort property.
For El Silencio:
Our one major suggestion: information, information, information. Most upscale resorts assemble a folder or binder of information and place it in each guestroom. Likewise, for the spa and restaurant. The spa menu lacks descriptions of each treatment. The restaurant menu and wine list are great, but a listing of soft drinks and cocktails would be helpful (we didn't discover until halfway through our stay, for example, that the wait staff will happily blend fresh fruit into juice drinks, at no extra charge).
Keep developing new activities and training your eco-concierges. Presumably most El Silencio guests visit mostly to relax and not be as active as they might be were they to visit busier resorts, but during a weeklong stay we certainly expected to engage in some activities besides spa treatments and hiking the resort’s grounds. We didn't know, for instance, that there is a national park (Parque Nacional Del Agua Juan Castro Blanco) nearby until we walked into the village and encountered a very helpful gentleman who told us about it.
Relocate, or lower the ringer volume on, the spa's telephone--a seemingly very minor point, but it is audible and distracts spa patrons from truly relaxing and escaping civilization.
One more, very minor suggestion: vary the restaurant's music a little. The music is fine and perfectly fitting for the setting, but it seemed as if there is only one CD mix playing continuously (we had to laugh when we heard the Latin-inspired acoustic version of "Stairway to Heaven" twice during one dinner when the CD looped around).
- Also Known As:
- El Silencio Hotel Bajos Del Toro
- El Silencio Hotel
- El Silencio Lodge Costa Rica/Bajos Del Toro
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- El Silencio Lodge & Spa is a planet-friendly sanctuary for soft adventure and inspired wellness. Ideal for nature enthusiasts who wish to enjoy an intensely uplifting experience. Silencio, Spanish for silence, is befitting of an enchanting destination where daily stress hushes and the sounds of nature bloom. A mystical cloud forest, crisp mountain air, hidden waterfalls, a healthy menu, spa, yoga, and premium amenities offer an ideal retreat amid Costa Rica's pristine central volcanic region. ... more less
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