Ellen Weathers, The Tico Times, November 18, 2011
Many hotels struggle to achieve balance between design and comfort. Monteverde Lodge and Gardens, in the north-central cloud-forest town of Santa Elena de Monteverde, has struck this balance with what it calls "rustic elegance."
Walk the gravel road that leads from the main thoroughfare to the lodge, and the forest begins to reveal itself. Here, the birds are louder, and a quick eye may spot a guatusa, a distant relative of the porcupine, scurrying across the path.
The lodge's discreet facade belies the expansive lobby, bar, restaurant and corridors of rooms that reach out into the forest. Once guests have entered the lodge, they are greeted by close views of the surrounding forest from nearly every part of the hotel.
"Rustic elegance" comes alive in the lobby and dining area, where leather couches under cast-iron chandeliers provide a nice setting for enjoying a cocktail in the company of friends or other travelers.
Guests in the forest-view balcony rooms on the second floor can enjoy the mountain-fresh air from each room's small patio. Standard forest-view rooms also have pleasant vistas of the forest but do not include a balcony.
Guests may also marvel at nature from the lodge's various nature trails or from the multilevel garden designed by naturalist Arturo Jarquin and landscaper Sigifredo Altamirano. The rushing river can be heard from anywhere in the hotel, but it can be found only by following these trails.
Head back to the lodge and relax in a Jacuzzi large enough for 15 people. Cold, splattering rain can be heard as well as seen through the Jacuzzi area's glass walls and ceiling.
While the Jacuzzi area depends on flowers and trees for decoration, the lobby, dining room and bar are full of bright photography showcasing the area's flora. It's a pity the same effort to beautify with art has not been made in the guest rooms.
Despite this lack, the rooms are cozy. Getting out of the incredibly comfortable bed may be the most difficult thing you will have to do during a stay at Monteverde Lodge and Gardens. But perhaps a fresh fruit breakfast and endless coffee in the patio dining area may provide the encouragement you need to leave your downy cocoon.
While the reception staff is friendly and helpful, the service and attention from the restaurant crew is superb. A broad menu of traditional, contemporary and vegetarian dishes for all budgets makes it difficult to choose, but servers are on their toes and happy to guide the dining experience.
The almond chicken curry with coconut rice is delicious and comes in a considerable portion that may be difficult to finish. Past guests have recommended the corvina with caramelized soy and parsley. No matter what's for dinner, don't neglect the dessert menu. The white chocolate-filled cannoli are well worth the feeling of being extra full. Unfortunately, rooms are not equipped with mini-fridges, so keeping leftovers is not an option.
Monteverde Lodge and Gardens is neither the fanciest nor the most affordable hotel in the area. But an experience in this hotel engulfed by forest and filled with discreet luxury and tasty foods makes it possible to enjoy the essence of Monteverde in one place.
From San Jose, take the Inter-American Highway west toward Puntarenas. At the Puntarenas intersection, take the road north toward Liberia. Turn right toward Sardinal at Kilometer 133. Take this mostly gravel road up the mountain to Monteverde. Four-wheel drive is recommended during the rainy season.
Transmonteverde offers bus service from San Jose to Monteverde every day at 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (2222-3854, ₡2,445/$4.80). Taxis from the bus stop to the hotel cost about $3.
Rates begin at $158 in the low season (May-June, September-November) and at $178 during the high season (December-April, July-August). Hotel occupancy peaks during the Christmas holiday, when standard rooms jump to $198. The lodge also offers multiday packages including accommodations, meals, transportation and cloud-forest excursions.
For information and reservations, call 2521-6099 or visit www.monteverdelodge.com