Had I wrote this review in February 2011, I would have rated our stay at Casa Chameleon as excellent. In 2011, we stayed in the Villa Vista, and absolutely loved it. We particularly loved the set-up of the hotel, with its outdoor kitchen area and private pool. The chef, Robb, was one of the highlights of the experience; great guy, great food, open to make anything we desired, and more than happy to bring the food to our room if we so chose. It was one of the top few experiences of our lives, so much so that we barely left the hotel, aside from a little surfing and eating at an incredible little seafood restaurant (Soda Piedra Mar) or Burger Rancho. We could not stop talking about Casa to our friends.
It is always a risk to return to a place after such an incredible experience, however, the next time we visited (this past February, 2012), we upped the ante and stayed in the Ultra Villa, which was about double the cost, but we thought it would be worth it considering it was our honeymoon. Though the room overall is quite beautiful, it is certainly not worth double the price, and I would not recommend it to any traveller. The experience, overall, fell very much short of expectations. As soon as we arrived, the changes were glaring. There was a new manager named Jessica. She told us that there were several guests showing up at the same time, and to wait in the new bar area. This would have been fine, however given the length of the delay and the exorbitant cost of the room, we were surprised and confused that they did not offer us a drink on the house. Jessica was not apologetic, nor was she friendly, especially considering the fact that we were returnees to the hotel and it was our honeymoon.
We next noticed that Casa has expanded; we, unfortunately, were not impressed with any of the changes. The wood and the garden areas were not in the same shape as they were one year ago. The quaint kitchen area has been replaced by a more restaurant looking area, and the pool area no longer feels private. Everyone just seemed less friendly. When we eventually got to our room, it was immediately noticed that the room as not properly cleaned, with sugar and other messes left on the stove and counters from the previous guests. I will not argue that the room was probably once beautiful beyond belief, but it is now dated and somewhat run down. Yes, the setup and the view is in many ways second to none, but this room is simply not worth anymore than the other villas. This room is really all about the massive connecting pool. Unfortunately, the deck by the pool is now somewhat shoddy, the pool was not clean (green slime on bottom), and there was a massive colony of red ants that live in the wall beside the pool, making the pool experience far less relaxing than it should have been. We will post pics of all of this to Tripadvisor users. The worst part of this villa was that, unlike the previous villa we stayed at, we were unable to turn the pool on an off at our own leisure. We had to ask Jessica to turn the pool on for us; this was possibly the most frustrating aspect of our stay. Jessica made us feel put out each time we asked to turn it on; even though this was our honeymoon in a $500 a night villa, Jessica maintained that leaving on the pool from early to late, even though we wanted to stay in our villa most of the day and night, was taxing on the hotel. I think it was the complete lack of customer service friendliness and catering that was the most upsetting part of it all. One other important flaw with this room was the fact that it is located under a tree that was full of nuts. When these nuts fell (almost continuously), it sounded like a baseball landing on an aluminum roof. This was a constant, but even more unnerving when the sun came up and the squirrels were feasting; it was a terrible sleep.
For us, however, perhaps the worst part of the stay was the experience at the new restaurant. For some reason, the amazing chef Robb was not there during our stay. We were told that he both had been in a motorcycle accident and that he had gotten married. Ok. His assistant was now the chef. This guy was a nice man, but for foodies like us, the meal was so offensively priced, we felt completely taken advantage of. The music was blaring for some reason. We seemed duped into having a bottle of wine with the meal that was not a nice bottle at all, yet priced extraordinarily high. The appetizer was pita with hummus. The desert was a brownie. The main was below average to average. When you are able to order a much higher quality meal for one fourth of the price at any restaurant down the road, we were almost speechless.
In the end, I am surprised that I rated this experience as high as Average, as my wife and I both left feeling down and disappointed. My rating is only this high because of the fabulous experience the year before. This quaint place is expanding, largely based on the positive feedback from the past. For us, however, it meant a tarp next to out villa and workers building new villas all throughout the day. We were never warned of this ahead of time. I will walk away from this experience remembering the paradise of one year ago, but, based on the lack of friendliness of Jessica and all of the disappointments this time around, we will not be back. To be honest, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa felt different this time around; with security guards at the gate of every establishment and a shadier appearing crowd, this little beach town does not carry the same charm.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Chosen as one of the "Best 101 Hotels in the World" by Conde Nast Publications' Tatler Travel Guide for 2006, Casa Chameleon is a favourite with honeymooners and celebrities to relax and unwind in an enchanted environment. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Casa Chameleon Mal Pais
- Hotel Casa Chameleon Costa Rica/Mal Pais