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Jaco Hilltop Hotel Big on Views, Hospitality

December 16, 2011

About three kilometers from the bustle of downtown Jaco on the central Pacific coast, ApartHotel Vista Pacifico offers a hilltop oasis with panoramic views of ocean, mountains and fertile farmland.

Canadians Greg Bertrand and Jan Tilston purchased the land where the hotel now sits 18 years ago, when Jaco was still a sleepy beach town.

Initially, the couple didn't like Jaco. "We thought it was dusty, dirty and hot," Tilston said. "But once we saw this hilltop lot, we couldn't get it out of our minds."

When they purchased the land, they couldn't afford to build anything on it. Friday nights in Toronto, Canada, they dreamed and planned for the future. Occasional trips to Jaco were spent camping on their vacant lot, taking in the views and noting the direction of the wind at different times of the day.

Bertrand and Tilston considered building a house on the property, but realized they would need to earn an income while living in Costa Rica. So, they opted to build a hotel. They had always enjoyed traveling and meeting people from different countries; with a hotel, they decided, the world would come to them.

The couple partnered with an architect, but most of the design decisions were the result of their extensive travels. "We incorporated all the different aspects of hotels that we liked into our place and hoped other people would like them too," Tilston said.

Some of these elements include two handicapped-accessible rooms -- the result of traveling with Tilston's elderly mother and noticing the overall lack of adequately equipped rooms. All but two of Vista Pacifico's nine rooms have kitchens or kitchenettes, as the couple always preferred staying in places with kitchens when vacationing with their young children. And, Tilston pointed out, kitchens attract long-term guests. All of the boutique hotel's nine rooms have comfortable beds, hot water and cable television.

To construct the hotel on the hilltop, the couple took two meters off the top to gain more width and built a retaining wall. From camping on the land, they knew the wind changed directions during the day, so they built the hotel at an angle, to catch both the mountain and ocean breezes. Five of the rooms have air conditioning, but the remaining rooms stay comfortably cool.

Bertrand's green thumb has transformed the once barren hilltop into a lush garden area, dominated by a welcoming pool. Wireless Internet is available on the terrace, and guests have access to the poolside barbecue grill, beach and pool towels, and the book and game library.

The couple also is in the final stages of finishing a casita for longer-term guests. The stand-alone, one-bedroom house has a queen-size bed, sofa bed and a kitchen equipped with a dishwasher, stove and oven. They hope to have it open by the end of the year.

Bertrand and Tilston are hospitable and helpful hosts who enjoy meeting new people and are happy to suggest or help arrange activities for their guests. They have a binder filled with area activities, tours and restaurants. Guests can even preorder a one-day supply of groceries to have in their room upon arrival.

Vista Pacifico combines warm hospitality with gorgeous hilltop views and all the conveniences for a complete holiday experience.

Going There

From San Jose, take the Caldera Highway west, following signs to Jaco. Take the first entrance to Jaco, turn right, go 500 meters and turn right again. Take the second left and continue to the top of the hill.

Room rates start at $50 and go up to $154, depending on room type, season and length of stay, plus tax. Monthly rates are available for some rooms. Minimum stays may apply for holidays and special events.

For information and reservations, call 2643-3261 or visit

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