We spent 3 night at Villa Blanca, the ranch of the former President of Costa Rica on a Groupon/Travel by Jen package and it was a very enjoyable and unique experience.
It’s on top of a mountain, surrounded by ranchland and cloud forest. You can actually see Arenal volcano from there on a clear day, but being in a cloud forest area, the best we ever managed was the lower half (which is more than we saw when we stayed in La Fortuna, right next to the volcano).
The staff were exceptionally helpful and friendly and interesting to speak to.
We stayed in a small stand alone villa, a “casita”, which had a fireplace. The room was fairly basic but nice (we really liked the fireplace) and the bathroom was quite nice. We had a view of the forest out back. It was quite cool there and foggy at night, so we lit a fire every night and sat in the rockers and drank wine. The room also had very good WiFi. You can also drink the water here (and everywhere else we went in Costa Rica, which was a nice change after several years of going to Mexico).
Villa Blanca raises cattle and grows organic food, all of which they serve in their excellent restaurant. Villa Blanca is a long way from anywhere, so the restaurant on site is really the only practical option, and while it was on the expensive side I have to say it was some of the best food we’ve had. Traditional Costa Rican food is not very exciting, but the food at Villa Blanca was uniformly good, often creative and attractively presented.
First night there was apparently a full moon and there were more moths and a bigger variety than I’d ever seen, including a variety of huge ones. After the first night we never saw even a quarter of that number. In fact, the whole time we were in Costa Rica, there were surprisingly few bugs. We stocked up on bug spray before we went, but never had to use it.
The next morning we did a nature walk on the property with a guide named Warner who was excellent. He showed us how they grow the food there in a green way and even how they make their fertilizer used. Then we went into the forest. 100 yards into the jungle there was a huge tarantula in the middle of the path. Near the main building there is an area that has hummingbird feeders, called the hummingbird gallery and there were at least 30 of them buzzing around and we saw at least 5 different kinds. The guide took all but one of the feeders away and had us hold the last one and after a few minutes the hummingbirds were landing on us to drink from the feeders. It was very cool. They’re surprisingly noisy little buggers when they’re chasing each other around. We went back later in the afternoon and there weren’t near as many hummingbirds, so morning seems the best time to see them.
Later that day we went on a horseback ride arranged by the hotel. My wife was terrified being on the horse, but the guide (who’s a cowhand on the neighboring ranch when he’s not guiding) was really good with her. At one point during the ride we were attacked by a loose stallion that was “aggressively interested” in the mare I was riding. It got to the point where the guide gave me the reigns to his horse and had me try to get away while he stalled the stallion. He hit it the face with a stick and it still wouldn’t back off. We eventually got to a fenced area where we could close it outside of the gate. I didn’t mind the incident at all. I never felt in danger, the guide did a good job handling it so it merely added a little excitement to the ride.
The next morning we milked the cows, which turns out to take some technique. Then we had a couples hot stone massage. My wife said it was one of the best massages she’d had and couldn’t get off the table at the end of it.
There were excursions you could take to Arenal or Poas volcanoes, ziplining, etc, but we never left the property except for the horseback riding which started on the property. Villa Blanca was our 3rd (and final) stop in Costa Rica. We mostly decompressed before heading back home after a very active first 2 stops in Manuel Antonio and Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna. We walked around on the self guided forest trails, played pool or simply hung out in the game room which had a 360 degree view of the surroundings. They had happy hour from 11-4pm and had movies in their cinema at 5:30pm and 8pm.
Getting to Villa Blanca from the airport in San Jose was an adventure of it’s own. We rented a car and the first thing I learned was to stay in the left lane on the highway (when there were actually 2 lanes) because there were broken down cars and stopped trucks & buses in the right lane all the time. And a double line doesn’t mean don’t pass (at least as interpreted by drivers (including me after a while).
It’s about 1.5 hrs from the airport, but it took us a bit longer as it was slow going getting away from the airport due to traffic and it gets dark around 5pm there and once we got in the mountains there was a steady fog. Once we got off the main highway to head north to Villa Blanca, it was all 1 lane roads in each direction. There were pedestrians, bicyclists and goats, etc. in the road to keep things interesting as well. The roads themselves were in good shape. The biggest challenge is that the streets don’t have names and there aren’t signs announcing which town you’re entering, making navigation challenging. Once you get through San Ramon, though, there are signs to Villa Blanca.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Just over an hour's drive from San Jose International Costa Rica airport (SJO), eco-minded travelers from all over the world have reveled in the beauty of Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel, located within the Los Angeles Private Biological Nature Reserve & Research Station in the Canton of San Ramon. The hotel is ideally situated as a gateway to Arenal Volcano and the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Here, you're immersed in one of the world's most precious and complex jungle ecosystems - the cloud forest. This boutique mountain hotel is nestled on 75-acres of gentle rolling hills, with well-appointed "casitas" and Honeymoon Suites, each with their own fireplace, and surrounded by acres of lush botanical gardens. Originally owned by former president Rodrigo Carazo Odio and First Lady, Estrella Zeledon de Carazo, Villa Blanca has become a renown and cherished Costa Rica destination. The architecture reflects the original farm village concept, with a welcoming Hacienda, offering guests exceptional Costa Rican hospitality, premier dining, a private theater, conference facilities, and pampering spa menu. Also quite unique is a replica of a 14th century Roman wedding chapel, La Mariana, with its hand painted ceramic ceiling. Choose from a variety of nature-based activities, including horseback, zip-lines, and user-friendly guided trials, plus excursions to Arenal and Poas volcanoes, hot springs, and rural-cultural tours. This is the Costa Rica where those who "travel well and travel right" want to go. Please feel free to visit our sister-site, one of the most prestigious Manuel Antonio hotels, Si Como No. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hotel Blanca Cloud Forest
- Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel And Nature Reserve Costa Rica/San Ramon