The heartbreak refers both to the heart-rending beauty of Monte Azul, and the sadness I felt having to leave. I stayed there (casita Amarilla) for 8 nights, and when I booked I was a little nervous that it would be an awkward trip for a solo traveler not on a honeymoon, as so many people who reviewed seem to have traveled for that reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone was so welcoming and I really felt like I left with new friends in Costa Rica. It was easy to chill by myself when I wanted to in the casita, or to commune with nature while hiking on their trails, and just as well to hang out with the wonderful folks who work there. Also, because the staff were all from the surrounding communities, I sometimes saw them while I was out and about on neighboring roads. I felt like a quasi-local seeing folks in the streets, who cheerfully greeted me and stopped to chat. I had absolutely no problems with service of any kind. The restaurant service was attentive, accommodating, and friendly (e.g., Maritsa and Paolo) and the food was ridiculous. The chef prepared vegan meals for me after a brief discussion when I arrived (with Carlos to translate) about my likes and dislikes. Every day, and every meal was something new, inventive and delicious. Honestly, after a few days I was having to put breakfast off later and later because I was cumulatively so full of all the wonderful meals! Breakfasts for me started with fruit bowls or fruit shakes and then an entree ranging from Gallo Pinto to chalupas to a sautee of spinach and mushrooms with potatoes. Dinners were 3 or 4 courses (soups of note were black bean, chayote, carrot and squash) and when I could manage to partake of desert, they had me covered there too--anything from tropical fruit sorbets to vegan cakes, made by Randy. For my last dinner Randy made chocolate chip cookies at my request, with a few extra for me to take on the plane home. Amazing. I loved having the kitchenette, which I used for light lunches (e.g., fruit), snacks, and I also cooked one dinner there. It had pots, pans, utensils and other stuff you would need (even a peeler!) but one suggestion might be a small container of olive oil.
The physical beauty of the hotel and the amazing grounds is difficult to describe in words without resorting to pat clichés, so I'll say it was stunning and leave it at that. I asked if it was too late for me to become an artist so I could be invited to work in the studio! It's even more impressive because Carlos and Randy designed everything there, from the furniture to the casitas to the plantings. I loved hiking their trails, which varied in technical challenge, and walking on the surrounding roads (Bring a hat--the sun is no joke up on the mountain roads).
I didn't have a car--I came and went under the expert driving of Alex Hernandez of Alajuela Tours--so I basically stayed at the hotel and vicinity. I could have stayed longer, the time flew. My only excursion was a guided trip to the San Isidro farmer's market, which rocked. The guide (also named Carlos) was super friendly, knowledgeable, and helped me choose stuff to buy for the casita kitchenette. Bird watching with Andres was another highlight. With his expertise (and uncanny bird calls) we spotted about 25 bird species in 4 hours. I also did soap-making with Randy, which was fabulous. Note that as a solo traveler you will pay more than the standard price, which is based on 2 people. Finally, I had the privilege of meeting two of the artists whose work is featured at the gallery (and all around the hotel), which was an unexpected pleasure. Melissa, the gallery director, was wonderful, showing me not only the work they have, but also the processes used to create many of the pieces and just talking about the philosophy underlying the gallery and their residence program.
I didn't swim in the river, it was way too cold! Mesmerizing to look at though. Oh, and the wildlife on site--adorable Capuchin monkeys, too many birds to mention, and the frogs/toads that lulled me to sleep. Monte Azul was an exquisite place to be unplugged (though I did have wifi if I wanted in my casita), relax and rejuvenate, and I hope I am fortunate enough to be able to visit again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- About Monte Azul Boutique Hotel. Monte Azul Boutique Hotel is located on a private reserve in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica near the country’s highest point, Chirripó National Park. Equipped with four luxury riverside "casitas" and amenities and activities tailored to any type of traveler, Monte Azul provides an authentic experience for those looking to explore the nature and culture that Costa Rica is renowned for. In its short time, Monte Azul has achieved recognition from organizations like Condé Nast and TripAdvisor for elevating the standard for sustainability and style. About Monte Azul Center for Art and Design: The Monte Azul Center for Art and Design was established in 2005 with the vision of creating a haven where artists could come and express their creative nature while being inspired by the extraordinary beauty and peace of the Costa Rica highlands. The facility hosts select pieces from early and mid-career artists who produce some of the best work in Costa Rica and abroad. In addition to being a unique destination for art lovers and collectors, Monte Azul also offers travelers the opportunity to learn artistic skills like etching, monotyping and more. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Monte Azul Hotel San Isidro De El General
- Monte Azul Costa Rica/San Isidro De El General