Just Back From: Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula


The Hideaway Report’s art director, Kristina Mitchell, recently spent four very relaxing days in Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula. She stayed at Hotel Punta Islita, a terraced getaway that the Hideaway Report has recommended since 1998.

Overall impressions: Punta Islita perfectly fits the category of “hideaway.” It is secluded, pristine and uncrowded with the added bonus of being an ecolodge. Only a few homes dot the surrounding hills, and a small village adjacent to the hotel houses about 28 families who mostly work at the resort. Although it is remote, there is plenty to do — or not do — during your stay.

Insider’s Tip: Reserve a table at the beach restaurant each night, as it serves the best dinners. Book your table at breakfast and make the reservation for 6 p.m. so you can still see the ocean while you eat. Each night, the menu changes, but the setting is consistently memorable.

Our Junior Suite terrace at Punta Islita
Our Junior Suite terrace at Punta Islita - Kristina Mitchell

Favorite moment: When I learned the loud, monsterlike chants coming from the hills early on our first morning were howler monkeys. And then seeing my first “troop” on our first day unexpectedly while on the first tee box of the resort’s executive golf course.

Howler monkey near the golf course at Punta Islita
Howler monkey near the golf course at Punta Islita - Kristina Mitchell

You can’t stop thinking about: How wonderful the view was from the resort’s infinity pool. I wish I could start every morning in it!

Infinity pool at Punta Islita
Infinity pool at Punta Islita - Kristina Mitchell

Favorite meal: Our romantic dinner right on the beach, with a fine bottle of Pinot Noir, a nicely cooked filet mignon and lobster pasta.

Favorite restaurant, museum or sightseeing: Punta Islita includes complimentary excursions, which really make this a great value, especially for families. I probably would have passed on the ziplining and horseback riding, but when they are free, it is hard to decline. On the horseback ride, we watched macaws fly around above us and land on a tree close by — a zenlike moment if there ever was one. Adjacent to the resort is a macaw reserve. The macaws fly around above the resort frequently as a result. Tours are available to see the them by appointment. Other included activities were a monkey hike and bird-watching excursion, which is mostly walking around the resort itself with the help of a local expert spotter.

Where or what to drink: A buffet breakfast and lunch are served in the restaurant near the lobby overlooking the infinity pool, the resort and the ocean. For lunch, the hamburger was surprisingly our favorite. It was large — easily enough to share — and the ceviche sampler was delicious. The resort makes a wonderful assortment of mojitos. Guests can eat dinner at this restaurant or at the beach restaurant.

Complimentary ceviche sampler and mojitos, benefits of booking through Andrew Harper Travel, delivered right to our room
Complimentary ceviche sampler and mojitos, benefits of booking through Andrew Harper Travel, delivered right to our room - Kristina Mitchell

Neighborhood to explore: The nearby town of Islita has two restaurants and a museum. We did not make the time to visit during our stay, but they seemed to make a good impression on other guests.

Day-trip suggestions: The beaches north of the resort starting at Sámara and heading toward Tamarindo are scenic and good surfing spots. The roads are pretty rough though.

Surprising fact: This resort offers the most value of any other Hideaway Report property I’ve stayed at on my travels. I was pleased with how reasonable the prices of the food were especially since you didn’t have a choice but to eat at the resort since it is so remote. The minibar was nicely stocked and moderately priced, too — just $1 for a candy bar!

Brought back: The guide on our monkey and birding hikes was kind enough to take a video of a howler monkey and a blue-crowned motmot on my phone through the enormous telescope lens he carried with him everywhere. It is my favorite thing to show people from our trip.

Blue-crowned motmot seen on a bird hike on the grounds of Punta Islita
Blue-crowned motmot seen on a bird hike on the grounds of Punta Islita - Kristina Mitchell

What to pack: Very little since dress is casual: shorts and T-shirts, a few bathing suits, flip-flops and sneakers, a dress and one pair of lightweight chinos are all you need. We never even needed a jacket, but a light one is always a good idea to pack. Also pack the nice camera, the zoom lens and your phone. The resort has everything else you need.

Anything else?: Bring the family — kids over the age of 8 would be my suggestion. There are plenty of things to experience together and apart. Book through Andrew Harper Travel and breakfast is included. The resort even adds the tips, but we still felt the need to give a bit more as we were so happy with the service.

By Hideaway Report Staff

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