A concept hotel true to its ethos.
By our 2nd morning of our 12 night stay at Canaima, we felt more like guests of friends than customers. Juan Carlos and Alexia's genuine hospitality was warm, relaxed, professional and heartfelt. We got a clear sense of how passionately they believed in their hotel as well as how much they wanted to share this still relatively less trodden corner of the Nicoya Peninsula. The website and Facebook page pictures most definitely capture the rooms and surroundings realistically.
The highly personable approach of Canaima underpinned our entire experience from our initial enquiry, tips on arranging our transfer from our first accommodation in Quepos to even calling us up the day we were arriving with Montezuma Expeditions to let us know that they had arranged for a 4x4 taxi to pick us up once we had arrived in Santa Teresa. The fishing trip from Mal Pais was so good we did it twice: we caught quite a lot of fish which the fisherman filleted and prepared for us. However, the real bonus was a close encounter with a large group of dolphins and several turtles, plus the swim in the "offshore jacuzzi." Other highlights include quad-biking to Cabo Blanco, Montezuma, Isla Tortuga (heard that we were lucky to be visiting out of the main season, as the beautiful beach can feel over-crowded), solitary strolls to Playa Hermosa and exceptional sushi at Koji Restaurant. Let’s not forget the extraordinary experience of almost living in the forest canopy together with howler monkeys and surround-sound orchestral majesty of the numerous resident birds.
We were able to spend days doing absolutely nothing - Canaima certainly helps you zone into that state very easily. The sunsets are amazing, no two were ever the same. This is a place to unwind with like-minded individuals - the other guests we met were friendly, interesting and cool. The spacious Balinese inspired rooms are as just as lovely as they appear on the hotel’s website. The ceiling fan in the room was certainly adequate for a comfortable night’s rest. We asked for an extra fan and this made a huge difference whilst chilling out in the seating area by the floating/hanging bed. The pool and jacuzzi were perfect for cooling off after our days out or upon return from our surf lessons with Juan Carlos, who executed these in a highly professional manner – with the added advantage that we felt we were in the safe hands of someone we knew we could trust. Our room and the surroundings were kept spotless throughout our stay.
Sure there are surf shops in town and a fair share of atypical Costa Rican eateries in Santa Teresa but Canaima's location off the main road makes it easy to avoid the odd loud crass non-locals. Some of the nearby ‘Sodas’ provided authentic Tico gastronomy with atmosphere. If you feel like cooking, the supermarket has a surprising cosmopolitan selection of ingredients on offer with a decent range of fruits and vegetables.
Make sure you read up about the area – it’s definitely not a pedestrian tourist destination. It is a surfer hotspot but the beach front is long so it never feels crowded; we were often virtually the only people on the beach. Staying here also allows you to experience the best of Costa Rica - wildlife, nature reserves, boat trips, canopy tours etc. However, it was the genuinely warm welcome that Juan Carlos and Alexia extend that made Canaima truly memorable.
We left somewhat divided - should we tell everyone about it, or should be keep this place a treasured secret, too precious to share with the masses? Over a week after our return home, we are still daydreaming about Santa Teresa and Canaima.