Tree-shaded trails run along the beach for bikers and joggers to explore
Free Wi-Fi, iPods, and parking
International calls are free for the first 14 minutes
Water purifier in restaurant allows guests to have clean drinking water
Some rooms do not have air-conditioning
Swimming pool is small and directly beside a buggy frog pond
No fitness facility
Beach waters may be rough for swimming
The 14-room Hotel Banana Azul is one of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca's smaller properties. The upper-middle-range hotel is tucked away along the Costa Rican town's popular surf beach, Playa Negra, just a five-minute drive from Puerto Viejo's central town area. Banana Azul, situated along a rain forest and the beach, has lush foliage, agouti, lizards, and exotic birds. Room decor will vary depending on the room type, but they are generally spacious with bright or deep wood color schemes, clean bathrooms, and private patios with hammocks. The main pool is small, so the hotel's selling point is its beach club, which includes a restaurant, bar, and lounge on the sand. While there's no fitness facility, visitors can enjoy free Wi-Fi, parking, international phone calls, a full breakfast buffet, morning coffee, bike rentals, iPods, and boogie boards for the beach.
Charming, peaceful, and intimate with Costa Rican flavor
Take a small step away from Puerto Viejo's busy central town stocked with bars, shops, entertainment, and a strip of hotels, and find Hotel Banana Azul: a more private, self-sufficient enclave. The quaint and quiet hotel encourages laidback living. Even the signs leading up to the beach demand passersby to loosen up and take on a relaxed state of mind. Banana Azul is composed of just a few buildings in one main area with direct access to Playa Negra, or Black Beach. Because of Puerto Viejo's picturesque characteristic of bordering both beaches and the jungle, rich green foliage and little gardens run all throughout the property. There are stone and boardwalk-style pathways to lead guests through the grounds and down to the pleasantly uncrowded beach club area. It's easy to spot a variety of animals such as exotic birds, agouti, lizards, frogs, and monkeys. Banana Azul has its own protected turtle nesting sites (there'll be little areas roped off with construction tape), a frog pond, and fountains with koi fish surrounding the restaurant and lobby area. The majority of guests are couples on a romantic vacation, but families visit as well.
Along Playa Negra, just a short drive away from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Banana Azul is located in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, one of Costa Rica's southeast coastal cities within the province of Limón. The small town is extremely diverse with a rich Caribbean culture. Banana Azul lies along Playa Negra beach, and is approximately two kilometers from the main town area (about a five- minute drive). Other beach options along the coastal strip good for surfing, snorkeling, or lounging include Playa Chiquita, Playa Cocles, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo. Aside from the restaurants, bars, shops, and party spots present in Puerto Viejo, other places worth visiting include the Jaguar Rescue Center, Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve, Cahuita National Park, and a host of other wildlife and adventure tours such as rafting, chocolate tours, hiking, camping, and horseback riding. It's about a four-hour drive to San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport and a 50-minute drive to Limón International Airport.
Banana Azul offers 14 rooms: Ocean Rooms, Garden Bath Suites, the Howler Suite, Dolphin Room, Sloth Cabinas, Red Frog Suite, and Tree House Apartment -- all varying in size and style. As a standard, most rooms have their own terraces with one to two wooden chairs, a colorful hammock, and a bench or table area made from a polished and shaped slab of tree trunk. Bedrooms come with mosquito nets, a fan (a limited amount of rooms have air-conditioning) and a tube-style TV. Paintings and wooden sculptures adorn the walls. However, depending on the room type, decor is a toss-up. Some spaces are white-walled and breezy with accent furniture in various blue and green hues, while others follow a multi-toned wood scheme with bamboo shelving units, bed frames, and night tables. Some rooms have small, sufficient bathrooms with curtain-less shower stalls, mosaic tiling, and frosted glass brick dividers. Other bathrooms are bright and impressively spacious with two sink areas, a rainfall shower stall, and wide jetted bathtub. The most expensive rooms have ocean views, while remaining rooms overlook the gorgeous garden grounds and rain forest.
Banana Azul may be small in size in comparison to some of its area counterparts, but the amount of activities and services offered here are plentiful. The hotel's most impressive feature is it's beach club, which includes a bar, restaurant, and lounge area along the sand. The restaurant provides a full free breakfast in the mornings and serves lunch and dinner for purchase. Outsiders are allowed to visit the beach club to purchase any of the three available meals. The restaurant area also has a public water purifier, where water bottles can be refilled at any time of the day. Down on the beach, there are many lounge chairs beneath palm leaf umbrellas. In the mornings, free coffee is available right on the beach. Banana Azul offers boogie boards and board games for leisure time along the shore. Beaches in Puerto Viejo are known for their strong rip tides, so caution is encouraged when venturing further out into the water. There is a lone massage hut out on the sand for relaxing spa treatments.
For foreign travelers, international calls made from the hotel are free for the first 14 minutes. In the lobby area, there's a separate desk dedicated to setting up tours in the area, such as snorkeling, hiking, rafting, and chocolate tours. There isn't a fitness facility, but there are several trails along the beach and in front of the hotel that can be explored on foot or via bikes (which are also available to borrow). In addition to the standard free Wi-Fi and parking, Banana Azul also lends iPods to guests.
The hotel's main pool is located on a stone island directly beside the restaurant. There are a few lounge chairs and umbrellas and a submerged lounge chair in the water. A whirlpool sits above the pool and a small waterfall cascades between the two bodies of water. Though the seating area is a nice addition, it's beside a buggy pond with tadpoles and lily pads; a slim ledge makes it tricky to access. The entire pool area is a bit small, so swimming and lounging on the beach would be a better bet and offers more direct sun.
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