Small outdoor pool and terrace for sunbathing on-site
Easy access to an open-air bar and restaurant, with more lovely views
Rooms are cleaned daily and have stocked mini-fridges
Some rooms have air-conditioning and/or hammocks
Lawn space for reading and mingling with neighbors
The owner, Javier, often joins fellow surfers out on the waves
Free Wi-Fi and parking
Not all rooms have air-conditioning (only fans in some)
The steep setting -- especially at night -- requires caution
No coffee on the property; basic bathrooms have few toiletries (soap only)
Outdoor privacy is non-existent
This budget-friendly eight-room hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean was opened in 2001 by an Argentinian couple who keeps the place clean and simple (they also live on-site). The picturesque lawn -- great for sunsets -- is located above surfer town Santa Teresa, and guests stay in shape by hoofing it back and forth to Playa Carmen's beach and steady waves. Low-priced rooms (either with fans or air-conditioning) do not have TVs or much outdoor privacy, but each is equipped with a private bathroom and mini-fridge. A walking path leads to an outdoor pool and open-air restaurant, but the natural, unfenced property is not safe for little kids or those who have had one too many cocktails.
Somewhere between a hostel and hotel, with kind service from the on-site owners
A black-and-white Buenos Aires Hotel sign can be spotted in town leading guests up a hilly road by which other small hotels and hostels can be reached. Keep on driving all the way to the top. Once parked in the driveway, Javier -- a surfer who indeed looks like a surfer -- will come out for a greeting. If dropped off in town by a shuttle, he will come down on his ATV and provide pick-up service. If it weren't for the hotel, the road here wouldn't exist at all -- Buenos Aires is the highest property; there are no neighbors, and vast ocean views prove it. Javier will assist with luggage and show newcomers around the simple grounds, as well as offer local information about the town. (Most guests have already had e-mail interaction with him, since he handles the reservations.) The friendly Argentinian and his long-time girlfriend (and their gentle dog) not only run the place, but also live on-site. There's not a whole lot to explore: the rooms share outdoor space with individual tables and chairs (the bottom floor has hammocks, too) and the lawn has a smattering of chairs and tables, some areas of shade, and perhaps a surfboard or two left behind from repeat guests. From here, there is a nature trail that leads down the hill to the pool (under repairs during our visit), which shares space with a restaurant and bar open to the public.
The relaxed vibe of the hotel offers few interruptions, especially during the day. If not at the beach or hanging by the pool, guests sit on the lawn and read with the sound of birds and waves in the distance. During sunset, neighbors -- a mix of surfers, backpackers, and couples -- might mingle over cans of beer. Lights wrapped around the mature palm trees come on during dusk for a little ambiance where some might play some music over a game of cards. This is the extent of the nightlife on the property -- between surfers trying to get a good night's sleep and the fact that the owner's live on-site, the party scene is pretty tame.
A steep walk from an authentic surfer town and Playa Carmen's steady waves
Hotel Buenos Aires is located in Santa Teresa at the southwestern tip of Nicoya Peninsula. The out-of-the-way location is suited for those seeking authentic Costa Rica, for the difficulty in arriving deters most conventional tourists who favor paved roads and bigger resorts, say in slightly commercialized Tamarindo or Jaco. Roads in this part of the peninsula -- a common conversation piece -- are dirt and gravel with some deep, jarring potholes, which pick up the dust in dry season. Some love it, some do not, but make no mistake -- this is one of the area's defining cool characteristics, which might take some getting used to.
Guests may want to consider renting a 4x4 vehicle or ATV to get around the area -- both preferred by the locals -- but it is not necessary, especially for surfers. Playa Carmen, down the hill, is the hottest spot in the country for international surfers, and instructors can be arranged from the hotel. The beach and town of Santa Teresa (with cool bars and restaurants) attracts good-looking expats from all over the world: South American (many from Argentina), European (especially Scandinavians) and Americans here all seem to have been plucked out of a surfer magazine.
Visitors can arrive via a multitude of ways -- and no one way seems easier than the next. One option is to arrive to Liberia International Airport, rent a vehicle, 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 to the smaller Tambor Airport, and then a 45-minute taxi to the hotel. Another is to arrive via San Jose and take the Puntarenas ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera. Another ferry makes rounds between Jaco and Montezuma.
Eco-friendly rooms have mini-fridges and walk-in showers, but no coffeemakers or TVs.
The two-story building has eight guest rooms that are exactly the same size. Each has a firm double-sized bed dressed in nothing but sheets, sans even a box spring (some rooms also come with a separate Twin-sized bed). Room decor is simple with bright painted walls, wood furnishings, and mini-fridges stocked with a few beverages like soda, beer, and water (sold at low prices; cash only). Basic bathrooms have walk-in showers with low-flow water pressure nozzles and bar soap, but no shampoo or conditioner. Sliding glass doors open up to a patio table and two chairs in a shared space that connects with the neighbors.
Rooms on the bottom floor have terra cotta tile floors, oscillating fans (in lieu of air-conditioning), and hammocks on the porches. The top floor rooms have wood floors and ceilings, as well as air-conditioning units. These also benefit from a slightly better view of the ocean. Daily housekeeping is provided.
There is no kitchen nor coffee served on-site. There are two places in town that serve coffee early in the morning.
A refreshing pool, and restaurant just a short hike away
Though it was under repair at the time of our visit, Buenos Aires has a small rectangular outdoor pool (and shower for rinsing off) for guests who want to beat the heat without walking all the way down to the beach. There is a small terrace with a handful of sun loungers, too. Though attached to a privately owned restaurant and bar, use of the pool is exclusively for hotel guests. The restaurant, Brisas del Mar, is popular with both locals and travelers in Santa Teresa. It serves breakfast and dinner six days a week in a laid-back but chic lounge setting that overlooks the ocean with tables in the sun or in the shade. The vibe is family-friendly and yet also romantic. Guest often come here for morning coffee before walking all the way down to the main strip, which has several more options for food and drink.
The hotel staff is limited to two people (the owners) who are often around to assist with local information, transportation, and activities. Javier does not provide lessons, but he will often join guests who are going surfing. This is a great way for travelers who are new to the area to learn the best surf spots in the area. The owners are passionate about the environment and they have developed recycling programs and eco-friendly initiatives.
Wi-Fi and parking are free.
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