We recently spent a week at Rancho Pacifico outside Uvita in Puntarenas, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and had one of the best vacations ever. The owners, Garrison and Silvia Krause, have created an idyllic mountain-top retreat amidst the rainforest, overlooking the Marino Ballena National Park. The property is small and intimate, with only 10 suites and villas, situated so as to afford a considerable degree of privacy for the small number of guests. All of the accommodations are beautiful, well-appointed in a minimalist but luxurious style, designed for maximum comfort, and almost seem to spring naturally out of the tropical environment. The common area, comprising reception, bar/lounge, and dining room, is a contiguous open-air space, with fabulous views of the surrounding mountains, forest and coast. The beautiful pool area is adjacent, with a smaller infinity pool on a lower level. The design and placement of the property is such that you don't feel like you're in a compound surrounded by nature, but rather that you are part of the environment itself. (They also have a policy of upgrading guests at no charge if better rooms are available. We began our stay in a deluxe balcony suite, which was very nice, though somewhat small. After a couple of days we were upgraded to a larger suite, and then a day later to the fabulous Treehaus Villa.)
The one possible drawback is that it is rather isolated. Uvita is in one of the more remote parts of Costa Rica, and takes a bit more effort to get to, as opposed to the more accessible and populous tourist areas. Rancho Pacifico itself is on a mountaintop at an elevation of about 2,000 feet, and to get there from the town you have to travel up a very steep and winding dirt road. On the other hand, if it was easier to get to, it might be over-run with the kind of tourist types with whom we don't necessarily want to share a vacation. And once you do get there, it's like you've discovered a private paradise. (The only other downside, for some, is that it is adults only, and not a place for families with children - but hardly a problem for adults looking for a romantic and relaxing getaway.)
Given its location, activities on the property itself are limited, though there are some good hiking trails, one of which leads down to a waterfall. They also have an excellent spa, with a wide range of offerings. So while onsite you may have to content yourself with lounging at the pool, or relaxing on your balcony, mojito in hand, gazing at the lovely vistas - which, when you think about it, is not a bad way to spend at least part of your vacation. However, numerous activities are available offsite, within reasonable driving distance and easily arranged by the staff. You can choose from surfing, kayaking, diving, zip-lining, mangrove tours, and much more. The NatGeo tour, on a small boat down the Rio Sierpe, is a must, enabling you to get up-close and personal with monkeys, birds, crocs, and other denizens of the rainforest. We particularly enjoyed the horseback riding. Touristy horseback riding is often a disappointment; but in this case, we had good horses, well-equipped and properly cared for, and an excellent guide. Finally, there are miles of beautiful beaches, undisturbed and natural, and largely deserted.
The Costa Ricans are famed for being pleasant, friendly and hospitable, and the people at Rancho Pacifico lived up to that tradition in every way. Garrison, formerly a producer and on-air host at PBS, and Silvia, a doctor and former Miss Costa Rica, were the most gracious of hosts. Their managers, Alex and Adriana, were superb, ensuring that every need and request was fulfilled. When we first arrived, Adriana said something unusual, that her "friends" would attend to our luggage. Her choice of words at first seemed a bit odd, but we soon understood what she meant. The rest of the staff were her friends, and like her family; and their warmth and friendliness were immediately extended to us. Ronny, Vianney, Mel, Oval, Mattias, Ana, and the rest of the staff were caring and helpful, attentive and efficient, and at the same time relaxed and friendly. With a staff-to-guest ratio of one-to-one, there's no shortage of people to help you out with whatever you need. And when you're there, you feel less like "huespedes" - hotel guests - and more like "invitados" - friends invited into the home. (If you don't speak Spanish, that won't be a problem, as most everyone is bi-lingual - though they're happy to converse in Spanish as well, which helped us to improve our own linguistic skills.)
Then there's the food. Dining options in the Uvita area are limited, and the difficult drive up and down the mountain makes popping out for a bite rather challenging. So you will probably find yourself eating most of your meals at Rancho Pacifico's Whale's Tail Club. We have usually found such a situation to be problematic, as most hotels and resorts cannot meet the challenge of providing consistent quality coupled with interesting variety for an extended period of time, meal after meal after meal. Eventually, you're bound to be disappointed. But not so at Rancho Pacifico. We have eaten in many fine restaurants around the world, and the food here can hold its own with the best of them. Alex, who also doubles as Executive Chef, is a master of regionally-inspired cuisine. The menu for breakfast (included with your room) and lunch is generally the same, but has considerable variety. The menu for the four-course prix fixe dinner changes nightly, and over seven days not a single dish was repeated. Every meal we had was great, with the quality, flavor, inventiveness, and presentation being consistently excellent, and everything fresh, healthy, and locally sourced.
The small size and intimate setting enables you to become better acquainted with the other guests. Frankly, there are some places we've stayed where that wouldn't necessarily be a plus. But at Rancho Pacifico, we found the other guests to be a delightful collection of fellow travelers. Maybe it was just a fluke, but we somehow think that this is a place that attracts a certain type of person, people we'd like to spend time with; or maybe there's something about Rancho Pacifico - the beautiful setting, the relaxed atmosphere, the warmth and generosity of the staff - that brings out the best in people. Whatever it is, we will certainly return again, and encourage anyone who has an opportunity to do so to visit this exquisite gem which exemplifies the Costa Rican motto, "La Pura Vida". Muchas gracias, Rancho Pacifico, y hasta luego!
Bob Janas and Lois Aaron
West Hartford, Connecticut, USA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.