My partner and I just returned from a week in Mal Pais and stayed at Casa Chameleon. We wanted a romantic getaway that included a plunge pool and after careful research and debating many locations, we stumbled upon Casa Chameleon. We booked the romance package and now that we have returned, agree that although pricey, was worth it. While the villas, grounds and restaurant were all fantastic, there are still some improvements that Casa Chameleon can make to ensure that their guests continue to come back year over year. We hope that others will take our comments into consideration to enhance your own experience when you visit this property.
Check-in: After arriving at Tambor airport and an hour taxi ride later, we were greeted by Erika (hotel manager) at the front of the property. Instead of welcoming us, she immediately reminded us that we were early and that check-in was not until 2 PM. She was worried that we would get bored and we assured her that we had plenty of ideas of things to do to pass the time (we arrived at 10 AM). Erika takes you to a pavilion on the property where you get a warm towel and a cool drink with aloe in it and quickly goes through the breakdown. As I previously mentioned, we had booked the romance package and had spent months emailing back and forth with the property to confirm details (activities, times for dinner, dinner choices, etc.) so we were surprised that Erika was not more familiar with our details and asked us to reconfirm a lot of the information that we had provided by email over the course of the weeks leading up to our trip. She failed to give us a map of Mal Pais, additional details on our activities (including that we actually needed to drive and that the hotel had not arranged transportation) or any other information about the town that you would expect a manager to know off hand. Yes, we probably should have asked more questions but when you pay thousands of dollars for a vacation, you do expect a certain level of service. Just before 2 PM, Erika found us by the pool and brought us down to our room.
Hotel Managers: Erika and Juan are the hotel managers on-site. Erika works in the morning and Juan works in the afternoon. Perhaps it was an off week for them (as we read previously how amazing the staff was) but we found both of them to be standoffish and not overly friendly. We had booked the zip lining tour for Tuesday at 1 PM. Since this was included in our package, we were under the impression that we would be picked up at the hotel at 1 PM and escorted to Montezuma. At check-in, no directions or maps were provided. Tuesday, we are waiting outside of the hotel when Erika comes out and tells us that were not only supposed to drive ourselves but that we were supposed to arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the zip lining. These are details that should have been provided at check-in. We were obviously frustrated but did not find that Erika took any ownership in the mistake that was made. We had to re-book for the next day and it was at this time that a map and directions were provided. During check out with Juan, after questioning some charges on our bill, he seemed very annoyed and in a rush to get us out of his office. Also, they did not provide an itemized bill so the charges that were on top of what we pre-paid were a bit of a mystery. Water at dinner, for example, is an extra charge and we knew this but we would have liked to see the line items for each of the charges (especially considering they make you sign a receipt at each meal). At the end of the day, we let him run our credit card for the amount on the bill, even though we were not sure if that was the correct amount.
Grounds: As soon as you pull up, it's clear that the grounds are well maintained and taken care of. Lush gardens of trees and flowers await you. The entire property is just beautiful and we saw staff daily landscaping to make the property look its best. We were very pleased with how secluded we were from the main town but how we still felt that we were in a remote setting all on our own.
Villa: We stayed in villa Pochote and it was exactly like the pictures. Big, airy, nice finishes. The doors all open out onto the private patio and plunge pool. The pool was as expected, refreshing and with a beautiful view of the ocean in the distance. The outdoor shower was nice as well but not as secluded as we hoped. We noticed that the villa above us could see down onto the shower and as well as those coming down the path that knew where to look. Overall, besides some ants and a number of bugs that flew into the villa during the day while the doors were open, the villa was everything we were hoping for.
Food: The food selections and staff at the restaurant were probably the highlight of the trip. Andrea, the waitress at most dinners, is extremely kind and attentive. She made us feel special each night and always was on top of our reservations, order and wine preferences. We definitely enjoyed getting to know her during our 5 nights. Pablo, the executive chef, was imaginative and provided amazing dinners. 2 nights he was out sick, and the sous chef Will, jumped in and provided equally delicious meals. Some of our favorites included fresh white fish in a Dashi broth, seared tuna, a traditional Japanese sushi box and amazing jumbo shrimp with a coconut sauce. Breakfast was also amazing each morning and we enjoyed having options to choose from. Our favorite, by far, was the gallo pinto. We have already purchased a bottle of Salsa Lizano to try to make our own at home. Definitely eat at the restaurant as much as possible (especially if you have booked a package that includes your meals).
Activities: We mainly wanted to relax on this trip and to enjoy the beach and our private plunge pool. We did go to Montezuma (about 30 minutes by car) and thought it was a bigger town that Mal Pais with many restaurants and shopping opportunities. The zip lining tour was also close to here so we recommend heading to Montezuma in the morning to explore, shop and eat before the tour. After zip lining, we recommend hiking down (30 minutes) to the Montezuma waterfalls. There are three falls in all but you should hike to the bottom for the best views and swimming in the pools of the falls. We recommend a car or ATV if you want out of Mal Pais as the roads are quite primitive and the town of Mal Pais was a good 30 minute walk from the property. Casa Chameleon can arrange a massage in your room (we also loved this) and I would recommend it for anyone looking to relax. We did not like beach at the bottom of the hill from the property (Playa Carmen) but did enjoy the beaches in Santa Teresa (10 minute trip). Playa de Hermosa was our favorite (clean, big waves, refreshing and nice for swimming).
Tips: We had a package so a car and meals (breakfast and dinner) were included. However, we were on our own for lunch each day. We really liked the local bakery in town. This is ran by a family from Belgium and has sophisticated coffees, pastries and sandwiches. I recommend you try the croissant with spinach, goat cheese and poached eggs. The smoothies too were delicious - a must to help cool off from the humid weather. The main sports bar, is fun and often crowded. We were there during the World Cup and it was often packed during the games (which also made it a ton of fun to be there). Drinks were well priced and they had a full menu. We ate fish tacos and enjoyed them but also saw that they had some classic American fare (i.e. burgers) that others looked to be enjoying. We found having a car was an easy way to explore outside of the property and allowed us more opportunities to see more of the peninsula.
Weather: A lot of people warned us that the weather in June and July would be very wet. We actually only had 1 day of rain and found that most days it was sunny (through the afternoon) but that clouds did roll in around 3 PM every day. It was very warm with high humidity so we were more sweaty than we thought we would be. Since it is the start of the rainy season, the surroundings were green and lush. We definitely didn't mind the one day of rain (it also cooled down that evening) and would return in June/July again in the future.
Overall, we were very pleased with our stay. Compared to other properties in this part of Costa Rica, Casa Chameleon is definitely the best. The food, most of the staff and the well equipped villas made the trip feel special and luxurious. Costa Rica is a beautiful place and I am looking forward to exploring other parts in the future.
- 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
- Casa Chameleon Costa Rica/Mal Pais