Calm vibe is not the best for families with small children
This intimate, Balinese-inspired resort has 10 villas (one- and two-bedrooms) on the north edge of Santa Teresa. It's no wonder that Pranamar specializes in yoga and surfing -- it has, arguably, the best yoga studio in town (with daily classes), and is within walking distance of some of the area's best waves at Playa Hermosa. Between these activities (hiking and horseback riding are also possible) there is a peaceful pool and breezy beach for hanging out with a drink from the tiki bar. Guests can dine on healthy fare at Buddha Eyes (à la carte breakfasts are included), which turns romantic at night, before heading back to authentic villas made mostly of local wood -- just make sure to close the shades. Couples seeking more privacy should consider neighboring Florblanca Resort.
A healthy and peaceful, routine-style vacation for couples and retreats
Pranamar is a small resort, but both the restaurant and yoga studio are popular with locals as well as guests staying at other hotels, which helps keep the common areas livelier than they normally would be. A wooden sign from the gravel parking lot points to an indoor reception area, and it may take several minutes before getting the full attention of the front desk staff. When checking in, guests should receive a welcome juice and assistance with luggage. Villas are situated along a pathway that leads to one side of the resort. The other path leads to the restaurant and yoga studio -- all of which have attractive open-air spaces with a distinct Indonesian feel. Locally sourced wood provides a stark contrast against vivid green plants surrounding the property, and the cozy layout invites photographs. Susan and Greg, the owners, are perhaps not as warm and fuzzy as other hotel owners in the area, but these Californians have good taste. They share a deep love for Bali, and the resort's design and furnishings have been inspired from their trips there.
Between daily yoga classes, surfing at Playa Hermosa, and several other activities in the area, guests are spread out during the day (in rainy weather, there are books, laptops, and games on offer). The resort has a good-natured yogi vibe, even more so than other resorts in the area, due to the number of group retreats that come here. During sunset, drinks can be ordered at the Tiki Bar. Then, candles are placed all around Buddha Eyes, which the pool that turns purple-hued at dusk. Groups could be sitting at a communal table sharing a buffet-style meal as part of their package -- perhaps taking away from some of the romance -- while non-retreat guests order from an à la carte menu. After dinner, the bar closes early and things stay hushed, as most head back to the quiet of their villas to drink tea on the patio while listening to the sound of the waves. In the morning, early-risers hit the restaurant for breakfast before yoga. After yoga, it's back to the surf board. And so it continues -- it is a dream routine for many who come here.
It should be noted that guests receive three gratuity envelopes at the end of their stay: one for the restaurant, one for housekeeping, and one for the front desk, which might make for an awkward check-out procedure.
A short walk along the beach to some of the best waves in Costa Rica
Pranamar is situated away from the crowds at the far end of Santa Teresa in the southwestern tip of Nicoya Peninsula. The out-of-the-way location is best 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 during dry season. Some love it, some do not, but make no mistake, this is one of the area's defining characteristics, which might take some getting used to.
Guests will likely want to spend part of their time exploring the area via an all-terrain vehicle or bicycle, but it is not necessary, especially if sticking to a routine at the resort. There are several activities nearby with surfing taking center stage. In fact, this is the hottest spot in the country for international surfers, and the hotel offers surfboards and qualified instructors (for a fee). The town of Santa Teresa (with cool bars and restaurants) is a five-minute drive away, which attracts good-looking expats from all over the world, many of whom seem to have been plucked out of a surfer magazine.
Visitors can arrive via a multitude of ways. One option is to arrive to Liberia International Airport, rent a vehicle, and make the five-hour drive (follow a map, not the GPS) through a mix of paved and rough roads. Another way (the easiest and most expensive) 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. Rental cars from this airport can also be arranged in advance. Other options include a ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, though this route makes for a long travel day. Another ferry makes trips between Jaco and Montezuma, though getting to Jaco will require a two-hour drive from San Jose.
Authentic screened-in units with Asian flair (some with kitchens and outdoor bathrooms)
Pranamar has 10 villas made with local wood and bamboo. They have tasteful and authentic Indonesian furnishings, and screened-in windows and doors to allow in ocean air. The property's layout is cozy, but accommodations are built rather close to each other, and there is not as much privacy as one might hope -- especially for couples. Some guests may have to be careful where they are dressing or what they are doing, especially in bigger units that have several windows in all directions. Noise might be heard from staff members, especially landscapers doing their pruning early in the morning, or neighbors conversing. Guests in some units are also asked to close the glass doors over the screen doors at night to avoid having critters come in.
Four villas surround the pool in two-story buildings with two bedrooms (either both King-sized or one King-sized and two Twins), and living rooms with mini-fridges. Open-air bathrooms have standalone granite stone bathtubs surrounded by tropical gardens. Each of these poolside villas have two verandas (the ground-floor leads to the pool).
Three Bungalows are the only one-bedroom options in the resort, and they are built with sustainable pinewood and have living areas with built-in sofas. Two Oceanfront Luxury Villas sit directly in front of the beach, meaning stunning sunset views. They each include a fully-equipped kitchen, two huge verandas, two bedrooms (King-sized, and two Twins) and two bathrooms (one that is outside with a garden shower). Similar in size, there is a separate two-bedroom house -- another option for families and groups.
Sheets and towels are scented, and bedrooms are air-conditioned. Villas are equipped with hammocks and a selection of three teas: Green, Yoga, and Sleepy.
Hands down the best amenities here are daily yoga and breakfast for guests, both of which are free.
The relaxed and healthy restaurant Buddha Eyes is open for all three meals in an open-air wooden structure with a bamboo ceiling and bright pieces of contemporary art. Though not required, shoes are typically removed at the entrance. Everyone at the resort receives free breakfast, served à la carte with coffee and juice. Menus focus on organic and locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood, with Asian and native influences. The restaurant is open to the public and does see some extra activity after yoga class, when it serves fresh juice and smoothies. Dinner is popular and romantic, thanks to candlelight. Cocktails, beer, and wine are served from the tiki bar and restaurant. Room service is also available.
Next to the restaurant is the picturesque, free-form pool that meanders through the center of the property in three sections with a little walking bridge to the yoga studio. There are a few sun loungers and day beds, but most tend to hit the beach, since this sometimes breezeless area can get hot during the day. The beach in front of Pranamar is naturally beautiful, and a little rocky, but there are tidal pools for exploring. Guests can take long walks in either direction, especially at low tide, and sunsets are not to be missed. The beach area has shaded sections with hammocks and lounge areas. Hermosa Beach, with whiter sand and safer swimming and surfing conditions, is a short walk away. The hotel has a great collection of surf and long boards, and can arrange instructors. Standup paddleboard tours, horseback riding, and guided hikes are also available.
Yoga is of utmost importance at Pranamar. Since it is included in the rate (a rarity in Santa Teresa), many guests participate in daily classes. Drop-in options are also popular with locals, especially on Mondays what the resort jokes that everyone comes in for "Detox Mondays". The stunning yoga shala is spacious (perhaps the biggest studio in town) and has great natural light from all sides. Resident yoga teacher, Nancy Goodfellow, is often the one to conduct daily classes -- when she is not there, another qualified teacher takes over.
A small spa on the edge of the resort offers 60- to 90-minute massages using organic and locally-sourced oils and lotions. In reception, there is a gift shop with locally-made jewelry and clothing items. Free parking and Wi-Fi is provided.
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