My wife and I have been to the Mal Pais areas for three straight years (February 2010, 2011, and 2012). In two different hotels, we have had an amazing first experience, and confusingly upsetting experience the second time. Moana Lodge was one of the two hotels where we encountered this experience. This review has been a long time coming.
In February 2010, we rented a car in La Fortuna and made the trek to Montezuma. Very nearby was Mal Pais/Santa Teresa. We had no hotel booked, and were lucky to notice the interesting Moana Lodge from the street below. We were also fortunate that they had a junior suite available. The excellent experience at Moana Lodge was a major reason we returned to Mal Pais the following February. The owner, Aiden, was very kind and very helpful. The room was incredibly unique, with a fabulous layout, the smell of the wood, a high end bathroom, and suberb views. Sadly, the equally impressive looking restaurant was closed, as they were between chefs. Nontheless, we were still served a top notch breakfast with great coffee prior to surfing. We spent a lot of time by the pool area; it was private, clean, and high end. An all around near perfect experience.
We had high expectations for our second stay, in February 2011. Immediately, however, something was glaringly different. It was the staff. Aiden was no longer working the front desk; we only saw him once (we think), helping out in the restaurant. We excitedly told the lady at the front desk that it was our second year in a row there. She was cold, flat, and unfriendly, not just when we first arrived (which was confusing enough), but when we mentioned a few of the concerns we encountered this time around. A major disappointment was the pool area. For some reason, the lights were shut off very early, and we were unable to get them turned on. Frustratingly, it was impossible to get a hold of any worker there; we spent far too much time ringing the doorbell and waiting, on several occasions. When we went down to the pool the next day, it was surprisingly unkept, not just in the sense of the leaves floating in it, but the general grossness of the pool floor. Neither my wife nor I felt comfortable entering the water. When we presented this concern, we basically got a blank stare. Nothing. A real disappointment.
The junior suite was again impressive looking, however this year it was showing some wear. The worst part was the bathroom. Not only was there an issue with the faucet (it actually fell right off the wall), but a horrible stench kept coming from the shower or toilet area, so much so that we had to block the terrible smell in by closing the bathroom door (which was doubly off-putting when you actually had to go into the bathroom). Again, no apology, solution, or hint of concern from the girl at the front desk. There was also a long trail of ants from one end of the bathroom to the other. Even leaving was a bad experience; we were in a rush to get to the airport (which they knew ahead of time), and we could not find the girl to checkout. We left in a panic.
Then there was the restaurant. This time it was open. The staff at the restaurant simply did not acknowledge us when we entered, and we stood for quite a while with no pleasantries. Dinner was mediocre at best. The next morning, after my wife told the waitress several times that she was allergic to bananas, she found bananas in her breakfast, and had to then deal with her reaction to them. The waitress was in no ways apologetic.
I only rate the experience as high as average because of our earlier stay. Needless to say, we did not return to Moana in February 2012.