Contemporary family-run hotel with affordable rates
Infinity pool and terrace with gorgeous views
Walking distance to the beach, restaurants, and a grocery store
Suites and Condos have kitchens and private patios facing the ocean
Surf lessons, rentals, and excursions available
Honor bar with fresh coconut water, wine, and beer
Yoga deck and mats (though no regular classes)
Night security and daily housekeeping
No restaurant or breakfast served
Not the most private layout; expect to see and hear the neighbors often
Reaching the beach requires a walk, which is steep
No TVs in guest rooms (a pro for some)
An avid surfer and his wife (both American) opened this mid-range boutique property in 2007 to capitalize on stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Six Standard Rooms and Suites wrap around an infinity pool, while two enormous three-bedroom Condos are great for families or groups. Units have kitchens, kitchenettes or mini-fridges, and guests are a short, but steep, walk to the grocery store, dining options, and beach. The hotel's laid-back guests can rent from a large collection of surfboards and boogies boards, or use the open-air yoga deck for self-practice. Those looking for a beach locale within the same price point might consider Villas Hermosas.
A rustic, cozy spot in the hills -- ideal for families, couples, and yogis
The cheerful white structure of Casa MarBella has a Spanish-style roof and tropical plants that give it character, along with a four-legged friend often taking a snooze in the shade. Past the entrance is a bamboo office area loaded with boogie boards and surfboards that's staffed during the day -- sometimes it's the owner himself when he's not in the ocean. Jim, a surfer from Florida, came to Costa Rica and bought the land in 1999. This property was built from scratch, and he and his wife's personal touches can be found throughout. An open hallway leads to the infinity pool and terrace that are surrounded by most of the guest rooms. There's also a small area indoors with an honor bar, coffee pot, games, and books.
The hotel's intimate layout encourages guests (we encountered Londoners, Americans, and Canadians) to get to know one another when they're not hitting the beach or exploring. This is easy to do considering that most guests naturally flock to the pool area, especially in the morning and at sunset. After dinner, save for a few people having a beer or late swim, the ambience stays hushed, partly due to the nighttime security guard making regular rounds with a flashlight.
Walking distance to town (and the beach), but an ATV is recommended
Case MarBella is located in the town of Santa Teresa on the southwestern tip of Nicoya Penisula. The area is perfect for those seeking authentic Costa Rica, as the difficulty in arriving deters most conventional tourists. Roads in this part of the peninsula are dirt and gravel, with some deep, jarring potholes. Some love it, some do not, but make no mistake, this is one of the area's defining characteristics. To arrive at Casa MarBella, guests first take a gravel road from town, and then turn into an even more narrow stone driveway with steep gradient that will make city slickers sweat. A free, flat parking area soon appears with space for several 4x4s and ATVs.
Guests should consider renting a 4x4 vehicle or ATV quad to get around, as preferred by the locals. There are several activities nearby, though surfing predominates. In fact, this is the hottest spot in the country for international surfers, and there are a number of surf schools and instructors in the area. The town of Santa Teresa is just down the hill from Casa MarBella, and its cool restaurants and bars attract good-looking expats from all over the world. Non-surfers need not worry as there are plenty of other activities like snorkeling, diving, and wildlife tours. An ATV will provide freedom to explore these beaches and activities, as well as nearby towns like Montezuma.
Arriving to Santa Teresa can be done in many ways. One option is to rent a car from Liberia International Airport, and make the five-hour drive through a mix of paved and rough roads. Another option (perhaps the best one) is to take a commuter plane from Liberia or San Jose International Airports to the smaller Tambor Airport, and then a 45-minute taxi to the hotel. Other options include a ferry from Puntarenas to Tambor, though ferry times are not always reliable. Another ferry makes rounds between Jaco and Montezuma, which is an ideal option if looking to check out a few different parts of the country.
Contemporary and cheerful accommodations including multi-room condos
Eight units consist of three types of rooms: Standard Rooms, Suites, and Condos. The property opened in 2007, and decor is a blend of contemporary and rustic elements, with sea-green accent walls, contrasting dark woods, and decorative stonework. Bright, tropical textiles provide pops of color. The owners utilized local materials like stone and wood to create bathroom sinks and stone showers, doors, and window frames. All units have air-conditioning, orthopedic mattresses, refrigerators (some are mini-fridges), coffeemakers, and a helpful book of information about the hotel and the area, but no TVs. Past guests have complained about thin walls and a lack of privacy.
Four Standard Rooms come with either a queen-size bed and a twin bed, or just a king-size bed with a kitchenette. These open up to the infinity pool and do not have private outdoor space. Two Suites feature two queen-size bedrooms each, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a private balcony made of teak wood. Views of the Pacific from the balconies are magnificent, and each comes with a table for two and a hammock. There are also two enormous bi-level Condos that provide more luxury than other units. These have three bedrooms and two bathrooms (one on each level), a large fully-equipped kitchen, living area, and big terrace facing the ocean. Housekeeping is provided daily in all units, but guests should keep in mind that there are no TVs.
Surfboard rentals, yoga mats, and a discount at the restaurant next door
The hotel's best feature, since it is not on the beach, is its infinity pool and what appears to be a hot tub. The water temperature, though, is the same as the pool since this area of Costa Rica is hot and humid year-round. Lounge chairs are scattered around the water as well a few steps below on a sunny deck facing the ocean view. This is a popular place during sunset when guests often have a drink and take a dip before dinner. Guests, if not making meals in their in-room kitchens, can check out the closest option right next door, Brisas del Mar. The restaurant gives Casa MarBella guests a discount for breakfast, and is a popular place with locals for dinner and drinks. Free coffee is offered throughout the day. The honor bar has a cooler stocked with beer, wine, soda, and canned cocktails, but the hotel only accepts cash during check-out -- be wary of this fact as the only two ATMs in Santa Teresa frequently run out of money on the weekends.
The open-air yoga deck is a great space for enjoying morning coffee with more excellent Pacific views. Mats are available for self-practice anytime it the deck is not being used for retreats or massages, which can be arranged. Casa MarBella does not have a regular yoga schedule, but other small hotels within walking distance, do. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.