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Ask anyone who knows me personally — I’m not one to hold back when it comes to indulgences. And in April, with a blissed-out vacation mindset in full swing, my partner and I headed to a setting suitable for proper indulging: Villa Buena Onda, tucked away in the hills of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region.
Opened in 2008, Villa Buena Onda is owned and operated by Namu Travel Group, a Central America travel company that also specializes in luxury travel planning. Formerly a private mansion within a tropical forest, the property was transformed into a seven-room boutique hotel. In addition to the limited number of guestrooms, the hotel’s age requirement of 16 years or older and its airy, curated design evoke the feeling of a luxurious and secluded sanctuary.
During our weekday stay, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that, besides a smattering of attentive employees, only two other couples were around. (When the weekend arrived, however, Villa Buena Onda was fully booked for a destination wedding.) As we lazily stretched out on hammocks, interrupted only by the occasional gulp of cerveza or refreshing dip in the two-level saltwater pool, it often felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
“We receive a lot of guests, predominantly in their mid-30s to early 50s, who are celebrating a special occasion, such as a honeymoon or an anniversary,” said Jennifer Lotz, operations manager for Villa Buena Onda. “These are people who are looking for a quiet, relaxed and romantic experience.”
But the real icing on the cake at Villa Buena Onda is its food. After enjoying the sesame-encrusted ahi tuna over a mixed salad topped with crispy wonton strips as my first meal, I took advantage of every subsequent opportunity to order dishes featuring the locally sourced tuna or other seafood. There are also daily specials, and the menu changes approximately every four to six months to retain guest favorites and add new seasonal dishes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included; alcohol is not.
Guests can taste the fruits of their own labor through a free Costa Rican cooking class taught by the on-site chef, Gabriel Navarette. Navarette invited us into his kitchen and patiently led us through the step-by-step process of preparing tortillas, beef empanadas and rice mixed with black beans and tomatoes, each dish made from scratch. Though my end result didn’t exactly look like Navarette’s own finished dishes, the flavors were still appetizing — mostly due to his hands-on assistance.
“We are boutique and focus on a personalized service,” Lotz said. “We try to make the guest feel as comfortable and at home as possible by going the extra step.”
We did feel at home in our well-appointed guestroom, which featured a large private balcony and a spacious bathroom with ocean views. If desired, guests can opt for a first-floor room with a pool view or a first-floor garden room with a private patio instead. Wi-Fi access and international calls are free.
With only seven guestrooms and for adults only, Villa Buena Onda in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region allows for a peaceful getaway. // © 2015 Villa Buena Onda
The "Poro Poro" room with a pool view // © 2015 Villa Buena Onda
Guest bathrooms are spacious and well-appointed. // © 2015 Villa Buena Onda
The lobby opens to the dining area by the pool. // © 2015 Villa Buena Onda
The two-level saltwater pool with a swim-up bar has tropical forest and ocean views. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Three a-la-carte meals are provided each day and enjoyed al fresco. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
The writer's favorite dish was the fresh ahi tuna salad. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Guests can order Costa Rican pancakes for breakfast. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Hammocks are scattered throughout the property for guests to sit and relax. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Take a cooking class with hotel chef Gabriel Navarette and learn how to make empanadas from scratch. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Villa Buena Onda offers complimentary shuttle service to nearby beaches, including Playa Hermosa. // © 2015 Valerie Chen
Also admirable is Villa Buena Onda’s sustainability efforts. In support of Costa Rica’s goal to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, the hotel uses only LED lightbulbs and glass bottles; is in the process of revamping green areas into dry gardens for reduced water consumption; and sources toiletries that are custom-made from eco-friendly, organic ingredients. Even the hotel’s drinking straws are made of bamboo and thus biodegradable, a small yet thoughtful nod to the environment.
As expected, checking out of Villa Buena Onda was bittersweet, but checking in once again in the future felt very likely.
“We provide intimate service for everyone,” said Shelley Huff, guest services representative for the hotel. “The staff knows the guests’ names from the minute they arrive; nobody has to sign for everything. We get to know who you are, and we would love for you to return.”
- Daily tours available for booking through the hotel.
- Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal and Playa Hermosa are all nearby and accessible via a complimentary shuttle service.
- The hotel is about a 25-minute drive from Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (Liberia Airport).
- Rates start at $158 and are per person, per night, based on double occupancy.
- Commission for travel agents is 25 percent.
Namu Travel Groupwww.namutravel.com
Villa Buena Ondawww.villabuenaonda.com