After spending 10 nights at the Red Palm Villas for our honeymoon in July, I owe the owners, Mike & Jess, his staff and his wonderful family an outstanding review. Words can not describe how exceptional and special the villas and property are at RPV. Located just 50 steps from a spectacular beach and covered by the shade of almond trees at the north end of Santa Teresa beach, we can’t imagine a more magical property in the area. If the majestic location is not enough, Mike, Jess and his staff extend world-class hospitality that is never intrusive, but completely dependable, always coming from a place of love and respect of their fortune in sharing their spectacular location with their guests.
A lot of 5 star reviews have been written about RPV here on tripadvisor. I have read them, both pre & post honeymoon. After returning, I find myself a bit conflicted, as I am sure others have. With only 24 reviews out here, 23 of which are 5 star, should I hold back? Maybe water down my review out of my fear of “word getting out” about RPV? Anybody who has stayed here will undoubtedly wish to return. At this stage, it’s still relatively undiscovered. After you meet the owner, hear his story, experience the hospitality, and breathe-in the place, you just know that not sharing it would be wrong. So, I will try to add more detail on RPV, the surrounding area, including the amazing local eateries (we never cooked a meal), add a few links to other helpful sites to set your expectations on the area, and share a bit of our experience.
We stayed 6 nights in the Lotus Villa, also called the Honeymoon Villa, and then 4 nights in the Hummingbird Villa. Both are remarkable accomplishments of architecture. For both villas, imagine 2 story, open loft styled, “jungle luxury” beach villas (they are both under the immense almond trees on the property that run down to the beach line, making the villas feel completely secluded, yet also entirely open to the ocean ). They are both located so close to the beach, the waves provide a constant acoustic lullaby. Can’t imagine it? Here are videos of the Honeymoon villa. Doesn’t do it justice, but gives an idea…
Fresh, local floral arrangements are in sight at every turn, as well…even in the outdoor shower. In the Honeymoon villa, a massive, beautiful floral arrangement welcomed us as we looked out over the shower wall taking in perfectly framed, landscape views of the best wave break in the area.
We loved the Honeymoon Villa, but the Hummingbird, the second villa Mike built on the property, is sublime. I can’t describe all the details. Here’s another video with a short night tour of the villa…
Hummingbird became our favorite. At night, especially via candle-light with the superbly designed lighting dimmed, the details and character of the place explode to life.
Both Villas have an open air bedroom on the second floor and an enclosed bedroom with AC. If you don’t like the warm, open air and dark nights with waves crashing in the background, the enclosed rooms provide reprieve from the elements. Having both options is great.
Red Palm Villas is in a Category of its own – This is not a B&B
I almost missed discovering RPV on tripadvisor. This is not a B&B as you would traditionally define a B&B, especially in the USA. It’s mis-classified. Since the property does not have a 24 hour reception or restaurant, tripadvisor categorizes it as a B&B. It’s really in a category of its own, but may be best described as specialty, luxury lodging. It is completely unique. Don’t let the category fool you. It’s so private and in such a spectacular location, it becomes easy to understand why it’s a hit with the celebrity set that discovered the Santa Teresa and Mal Pais area, including RPV.
Surfing & Tide Pools
Red Palm Villas is located directly in front of one of the best surfing spots in Santa Teresa. Rocky reef does lie directly in front of the property, although it ends just steps south of the property. Santa Teresa is a more intermediate to advanced surf break with strong waves. About a 15 minute walk south of RPV, the waves at Santa Teresa are slightly calmer and free of large rocks/reef. The waves directly in front of RPV break on an outer reef, making this peak one for experts, especially on the double over-head bombs that were rolling in our first few days there. No worries, though…grab your morning coffee and step down to the beach to lounge in the chairs and watch the experts ride. Better yet, at low-tide, skip the chair, walk to the exposed rocks, find yourself one of many tide pools, have a seat in the warm waters (80 degrees+) and watch the surfers from there. The tide pools were our favorite spot at sunset, as well. They are perfectly located for a great view of the sunset and right in front of RPV.
Playa Hermosa is a great beginner beach break. No rocks, soft sand bottom. Good as high-tide goes out. At high tide, the water does come all the way up to the tree line, where a lot of debris gathers. So the beach may look “dirty” the first time you see it. Also, leave your valuables at home. At low-tide, the beach appears endless and deserted. This is a great learning beach and definitely feels very isolated as little development is continuing in Playa Hermosa, which is a 5 minute drive from RPV.
Playa Carmen is in between Playa Hermosa and Santa Teresa in terms of wave strength and a bit more crowded as it is close to the main intersection where the road to Mal Pais and Santa Teresa meet in town near the recently built “mini-mall” with the pharmacy.
Overall, Santa Teresa is a surfing town. Although you have the canopy tours, beach horseback riding, ATV tours, fishing, etc, it’s the warm water, excellent waves and beautiful beaches that has brought in the international wave riders. Thanks to that, culinary influences managed to follow making this far more than just a dusty town, wave riding destination.
Amazing Culinary Influences
Although both Villas are equipped with kitchens, neither my wife nor I wanted to cook during our honeymoon. We’re New Yorkers, living in Manhattan, lucky to have some of the best dining surrounding us. This is our second trip to Costa Rica (first to Nosara in ‘July, ’07). We find ourselves happily impressed by the cosmopolitan influences, variety and high caliber of cuisine in Costa Rica. In fact, so many of our memories return to surprising flavors of so many unexpectedly romantic meals, from fresh sushi, grilled locally caught snapper, Argentinian grilled pork shoulder, steak or Ahi tuna, Israeli Falafel, to great coffee and banana bread French toast for breakfast with a bowl of fresh fruit, including the sweetest bananas (no kidding, CR bananas are ridiculous), pineapple, papaya, and watermelon with fresh mint. . Culinary influences from Germany, France, Costa Rica, Argentina, Japan and Israel cover just the meals we remember.
At RPV, you can arrange for a local chef to come in to prepare dinner in your villa. We didn’t do this, as we chose to explore the local spots. Mike and Jess offer many excellent recommendations for food. My surf instructor (Mark from Kina Surf Shop—great guy who improved my surfing big time), also gave us some great recommendations. I will list our favorite spots below, but I will try to add each into tripadvisor so others can review, as well, over time.
Just up the beach from RPV…
Milarepa. Fairly priced, excellent cuisine. Fish tacos are excellent and they serve great French-press coffee to start the morning. Milarepa have villas and an infinity pool, but their restaurant is really the best part of the property. We went for breakfast and lunch, but didn’t try them for dinner. They also had an excellent barbecue on Sunday afternoon. The mango trees aside the restaurant are the feeding ground of a group of howler monkeys that are fun to watch, as well. Depending time of year, you may need to call first for dinner, as they close if they do not have dinner reservations.
Florblanca (Nectar) is just two properties over from Red Palm Villas. Florblanca is the only full service luxury resort in town. It is very nice and the food is excellent. Although, I will say, Red Palm Villas is a far better location on the beach. You can not swim, or surf, at the beach in front of Florblanca. The resort is small, but does offer yoga and pilates classes with master yogis in an open air studio overlooking the ocean. They also just opened the Bambu Spa. The spa is pretty spectacular, especially at dusk. We splurged on the couples massage. Highly recommended. We loved Florblanca’s restaurant and ate many meals there, happy to return each time as the food was consistently excellent. It’s on-par with mid-priced Manhattan restaurants, making it the priciest in the area, but it is excellent, consistent and romantic. Cuban cigars, fine liquors and great mixed dinks are also available in a very chill resort environment.
In Santa Teresa…
Tres – German operated, exploring raw food creations and beyond. Great fresh juices, smoothies & shakes. Their cold soups are amazing (had the beet soup and the cucumber & celery with fennel). Patrick and his girlfriend, currently operating the restaurant, are very cool and serve food with a lot of love. Try his onion bread (it’s dehydrated and uncooked). Great creations. This became our favorite spot for lunch.
Brisas del Mar – Quite popular for it’s American size portions of seafood, steaks, chicken and vegetarian dishes. Food is very good, along with individual pitchers of sweeet mixed drinks, like the Watermelon Coco Loco. All served up in a small, cozy, & chill Chinese-lantern-lit dining area under the open-air thatch hut.
Ukikyro-Excellent sushi and Japanese fusion food from the former chef at Florblanca. Red snapper sashimi with a fresh lime & mint sauce made us recall Nobu (yes, no kidding). Surf & Turf roll was amazing.
Alma-Argentianian, with great fish and meat and red wines. Liked it a lot, although desert is not their specialty.
Las Piedras – Argentinian grill. Pork ribs, steak, chicken all done parilla style. Argentinians take their meat very seriously, we were happy to discover. It shows here. Although, the Thursday night we went, the meat was overdone and a bit dried out. Flavors were right on, though.
Kika-Argentinian operated. Local spot with great energy and two cool guys running it. The food and red wines were delicious and the guys operating the restaurant recently built a stage where they can grab their guitars & bass, have friends set up drums and play music and keep the drinks flowing after dinner on the outside patio.
Vista del Mar-Down the road in Mal Pais, and up a steep climb, you find Vista del Mar, where an infinity pool is positioned perfectly to overlook the coastline of beaches for an other-worldly sunset experience. The pool bar serves drinks while you savor the brilliant sunset. They also offer a parilla-style grill, but you buy your food and cook it yourself. We stayed for drinks, then went to Las Piedras where they grilled the meats for you.
Soda Roca Mar-We ate here our first night upon arriving. It is just south of RPV right on the beach. There are many small café styled restaurants offering low price, quality food. They’re called “sodas.” Soda Roca Mar seems geared toward the surfing set to grab a big, simple meal and drink after a big day battling waves. Fare is pretty good, with large portions at low cost. They make a good mojito, as well.
What You Need to Know about the Area
While searching youtube for Mal Pais/Santa Teresa after our honeymoon, I found this video from an expat couple in Costa Rica. Thee guys have a lot of info on Costa Rica and give their spin on the Santa Teresa/Mal Pais area in this short video. So, I will let them tell you more about the area…
Mosquito repellent is a must, esp. if mosquitoes like you. They like my wife and me. Shady spots, esp. under tables in the morning, or evening, are feeding grounds, so cover below the waist, particularly. Sleeping in open air does require spraying down before going to bed, else you awaken a large, itching, red welt. This is Costa Rica and you are essentially in the jungle on the coastline. During the rainy season, which we caught at the front end in July, we understand the mosquitoes are more prevalent.
Water is a precious commodity and RPV is an eco-friendly property. All used toilet paper goes in the garbage. Some may not like this. However, if you manage your own septic tank, you can appreciate this position.
Petty theft does occur in Central America. Leave valuables back in the villa safe. Our first day, we ventured to Playa Hermosa, bringing two books, towels and a Frisbee in a cheap tote. My wife had our camera, taking some shots while I was surfing. She placed the camera in the tote and walked to the surf to cool down. She turned around to see a local sprinting down the beach. He slowed to grab our tote, then lept into the jungle. Fortunately, this happened at the beginning of our trip, rather than the end. More amazingly, Mike called his brother-in-law, Jimmy, who was flying down in two days, with the rest of Mike’s family as they were coming to the property for a yearly family reunion. Mike asked me to send him the model of a camera and he could ask his brother-in-law to stop at Best Buy before flying down. So, without ever talking to Mike about it, I emailed him a camera model recently recommended to me, and he calls Jimmy and leaves a message on his answering machine explaining our situation and leaves our camera model details. A day later, Jimmy shows up with his wife, Mike’s Mom, brother, wife and niece, and the camera, exact model, that Jimmy picked up at Best Buy, last minute, before flying down from the States. Amazing. So, all shots come courtesy of Jimmy, via the support of a quick-thinking, and incredibly hospitable, Mike. Jim, thanks again, man…you preserved the memories of our honeymoon.
We could not more highly recommend Red Palm Villas. If you have even a morsel of adventurism in your blood, you like the beach, love good food, want to turn off the outside world and escape to paradise, Mike has created the place you need to be.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Private Beach - Dramatic Views - Luxury Villas Steps From The Water Fully Staffed for honeymoons, weddings, family and couple vacations. 3 restaurants and a spa 1-3 minutes walk on the beach. Swim, surf, boogie board, snorkel, horseback riding directly in front. Offering complete elopement & wedding packages and services. Voted Top 10 Resorts in Costa Rica to get married at. Call Toll Free 888 405 0201 ans let us help you reserve a spot with us. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Red Palm Villas Hotel Santa Teresa
- The Red Palm Villas Costa Rica/Santa Teresa