Ellen Weathers, The Tico Times, San Jose, Costa Rica, October 14, 2011
Travelers seeking a blend of serenity and adventure should consider a visit to Tambor Tropical Resort on the Nicoya Peninsula, a region considered by National Geographic to be one of the world's healthiest places to live.
Tambor Tropical was built in 1995 after owner Mark Nelson decided to model a hotel after his home. He commissioned a Montezuma-based architect to help, and the result was six two-story bungalows made almost completely of wood.
"The buildings are made of 13 types of wood," explained hotel manager Juan Carlos Cruz. "It's mostly teak, which grows really well in this area."
The wood and layout of the bungalows makes Tambor Tropical feel less like a resort and more like a quaint home in paradise with a Swiss Family Robinson-like charm.
The octagonal rooms feature a sitting area with a sofa, a small bar and spacious showers. The rooms are not equipped with television or phones so that guests tune themselves to the surrounding nature. Even if TVs were available, they couldn't compete with the nearly panoramic views that allow guests to enjoy sunrise and sunset through the extended panel of windows overlooking each bungalow's wraparound patio.
A large tiled pool and Jacuzzi anchor the property. Steps away is a thatch-roofed bar that serves fresh fruit cocktails and food ranging from appetizers to filet mignon. The fish tacos, shrimp nachos and any of the burritos are tasty choices and are served by a thoroughly gracious and charismatic staff.
A 20-minute walk down the tranquil beach will land guests at Tambor's pier, where fishermen gather every morning. The resort recommends that guests visit the pier to purchase fresh fish that can be prepared in their room's fully equipped kitchen.
These fishermen and the food they provide are one of many reasons that National Geographic designated the Nicoya Peninsula one of five "blue zones" in the world, which means the area is home to healthier people with longer life spans and happier outlooks on life. Other blue zones are Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Ikaria, Greece. For their project, researchers analyzed diet, life span and physical activity.
Active lifestyles prosper in Tambor, and guests will quickly see it is a place where days are best spent enjoying the area's countless outdoor activities.
"We're located close to Curu National Wildlife Refuge, the beach and waterfalls. You can do canopy tours, go kayaking, visit Tortuga Island or go horseback riding. There is something for everyone here," Cruz said.
Interested guests need only inquire at the Tambor Tropical office. Cruz said the staff aims to coordinate day trips and expeditions with local guides instead of the larger tour companies that have settled in Tambor in the last few years.
"I think when you do something, like a trip to Tortuga Island for example, it's better to go with someone who is from the area. Not only does that mean you get a lot of interesting information, but it also contributes to our economy directly," Cruz said.
Guests are also encouraged to participate in volunteer opportunities organized by the resort, by spending a few hours working with children at the Tambor Bay School, a newly opened facility that focuses on English education and providing students with skills necessary to excel at the university level.
"We want our guests to experience as many aspects of life here as possible, so we invite them to visit the school and share information about their home countries and what they do for a living. This is a small community, and there is a world out there that many of these children long to understand," Cruz said.
If sugary sands, prime surfing conditions and entertainment for children are priorities, perhaps Tambor is not the place. Tambor Tropical belongs on the itinerary of those seeking adventure, gentle waves, cultural exchange and naps in a breezy bungalow
By land, take the new Caldera Highway or the Inter-American Highway from San Jose west, following signs to Puntarenas. From here, board the ferry to Paquera, about 35 minutes from Tambor. For ferry schedules and prices, see www.navieratambor.com.
Buses from San Jose to Puntarenas leave every hour beginning at 6 a.m. from the Empresarios Unidos station at Calle 16, Avenida 12. (Note: Buses leaving between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. take the Caldera Highway route, which is about 1.5 hours. Buses leaving before or after this time frame take the Inter-American route, about 2.5 hours.)
Rates at Tambor Tropical range from $160-$220 plus tax. For information and reservations, call 2683-0011 in Costa Rica or (866) 890-2537 toll-free in the U.S., email [email protected], or visit www.tambortropical.com.