Not Enough Adjectives to Do Them Justice
Avaliou em 2 de Agosto de 2021
I am an avid traveler, domestic and abroad. I review a lot of hotels and restaurants around the world. My preface to this review is this: One - I rarely give five bubbles because I feel there is always room for improvement. Two - When reading reviews to evaluate where I stay, I always take the negative with a grain of *sand, and that is what I recommend you do.
If you are looking for a remote, secluded, get away from humans, pampered like a celebrity feel, book this "hotel". I put that word in quotation marks intentionally. I have stayed in Leading Hotels of the World, and I know what to expect; this place exceeds expectations.
That being said, if you are a diva from the city who cannot comprehend the fact that you are at the tip of a jungle in a rustic country, this may not be the place for you.
From the moment my fiance and I arrived until the moment we left, we encountered maybe eight other humans aside from the phenomenal staff. I like to get a lay of the land when I arrive at a hotel. Please let me describe the lay of the land here: a tiny, appropriate driveway at the top of a RUGGED HILL, followed by a brief check-in experience under a 20' x 20' "reception area" that later became our private wedding dinner covered outdoor area. After we were given our room directions and key, we walked around the corner and there, waiting for just us, was Andy, in a starched white shirt, welcome drinks on a platter, eyes beaming with a smile beneath his mask. Truly, I felt as thogh we had arrived at Fantasy Island, and we were all that mattered to this fabulous staff. The ENTIRE elite stay was this type of experience.
Room: Nicoya. Karen and Katherine moved us to the top of the mountain for the VERY best view of he jungle and ocean, and I am married to the ocean. There are 55 steps to the room, no elevator, etc., and remember, you are in the jungle.
View: I literally cannot come up with appropriate adjectives to describe this "room." Ocean, kind jungle, hower monkeys, tropical birds, NO mosquitos (we lucked out and it had rained, then stopped and this creates a no bug environment if you can imagine that). A/C but full wall of doors that open to your private plunge pool and deck to warm ocean air. Super comfy bed with bug net for bedtime. *NOTE: close the doors at dusk and drop the bug net around your bed - not because there are bugs, truly, I am a bug-a-phobe, BIG time, but if you keep the lights off they simply do not come. I am not exagerating, I left with no bug bites, and a million memories of the perfect combinaion of jungle and ocean. No bug spray needed, ever at the hotel.
We did the elopement package, and from moment one until the second we left, the staff was phenominal. Karen, Katherine, Jose Pablo the GM, Andy, Diego were all FANTASTIC, and remember, I rarely give five bubble reviews. I paniced the day of our wedding becauswe Jose Pablo was nowhere to be found. Where was he? Out scouting the best beach option for our wedding that day, to be sure there were no people and the weather would be perfect for sunset! He personally groomed the sand to be sure it was right. The staff was 100% lock and step for our whole stay and anything we needed was delivred to us within five minutes - food, drink, iron, extra hangers, literally anything we needed. I'm pretty sure Diego was out of breath from jogging up the stairs with our breakfast to our room one morning. I simply cannot rate this staff high enough.
Looking for interracton with other people? Not your place.
Looking for staff who know your name, likes and dislsikes before you walk through the door? This is your place.
This is the sort of rating where I want to keep it to myself so no one ever discovers our most special place on Earth, but that would be unfair to the hotel. Don't consider any other place in Mal Pais. Do not book anywhere but here. I promise you will not regret it. Also, do the long hike excursion and ask for Junior.
Mad kudos to the entire staff for making our wedding week 100% and more than we could have ever imaginged. Message me for questions, as there is so much more to describe about this slice of heaven on Earth!
If you are torn between Casa Chameleon and anywhere else, Casa Chameleon should be your choice
Avaliou em 31 de Julho de 2021
We had our final breakfast, and said our last goodbyes to the amazing staff at Casa Chameleon, this morning (7/31/21). The Reader’s Digest version of our experience can best be said like so - Ladies, if you a re looking for a true white-glove wedding experience you have found the place. Gentlemen, if the special lady in your life presents Casa Chameleon to you as a wedding destination, go with it. Both can rest assured that every single minute detail will be covered by the excellent staff at Casa Chameleon.
All the details of our trip are below, and admittedly it may be wordy, but there is so much to cover. My wife took care of all the details of our trip in the weeks and months after we decided on Casa Chameleon for our private (just the 2 of us) wedding in Costa Rica. She is writing a review of her own which may likely provide more details about the wedding planning. Mine is a first person account of the experience after all the hard work she did to get us there. We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica with ferry tickets purchased and every intention of driving to Mal Pais with a rental car. We decided the day before check in to change plans and take a Sansa Air shuttle from San Jose to Tambor. Even though I was the one who wanted to drive, I am soooo happy we decided to fly, I just had to white knuckle the 25 minutes each way. The staff took care of all the arrangements for us on our travel day, we showed up at the San Jose airport and only had to pay for our flight.
The arrangements made by the hotel included transportation from Tambor to Mal Pais with a private driver. We really didn’t have any clue what to expect so as the road went from pavement to dirt, and then to dirt roads with major potholes I admittedly questioned what we had gotten ourselves into. About 10 minutes before we arrived our driver called the hotel to let the staff know we were about 10 minutes out. I remarked to my wife about the call but didn’t think much else of it. It turns out that call is just the beginning of the world-class experience the friends at Casa Chameleon create for their guests.
We walked through the doors from the parking area to the hotel walkway and were guided to the outdoor reception desk. It was little more than a table under roof with no walls and check in included two quick signatures, that was it. Katherine, our hostess and reception desk attendant, had our bags taken from the private driver to our room while we completed the quick check in process. Afterwards we were led the few steps from reception to the restaurant and pool area where Andy waited for us with a tray of 2 freshly-prepared welcome drinks. If you are old enough to recall, think Fantasy Island type of welcome.
Katherine showed us to our room, Caoba, which had my name on the door in wooden blocks. A personal touch they put on each of the rooms that we saw while were there. The view was nothing short of spectacular. Lush jungle growth below our room and the property gave scenic way to the rolling waves of the beach on the not-too-distant shoreline. We had looked at so many properties when were deciding on a location but I instantly recognized the view from the property photos we saw online.
From the moment we checked in until the moment we left we were absolutely catered to for every need. From taxis to reservations, excursions to the wedding, the staff took care of it all. The way the hotel is situated we felt like we were the only guests of the hotel. The way we were served we REALLY felt like we were the only guests. We had complete and total privacy for our stay, and the only time we saw other guests were in the common area of the pool and restaurant as we were leaving or coming back to the hotel. I just can’t say enough the experience, but the rest of the review will be broken out into groups so that readers can jump to specifics.
Casa Chameleon Team
As I said, Andy was working the bar and restaurant when we arrived. In addition to the drinks to greet us, he shortly after brought to our room a welcome bottle of Prosecco (champagne) as well as a chef’s sampler of appetizers. Diego was his counterpart in the bar and restaurant. Both were equally attentive to our needs and desires, and I swear Diego ran the 54 steps (yes, my wife counted them) up to our room with a tray that contained our breakfast one morning. Katherine and Karyn were the reception staff and took care of anything we asked for. They called us taxis, arranged for our hiking excursion, took care of the cancellation of an excursion, rented an ATV for us, made reservations for dinner for us at another property, and generally just about anything we could have possibly asked for. Jose Pablo was the lead staffer the day of our wedding. He coordinated all the arrangements the day of the wedding and even took me down to the beach to pick out the location for our ceremony and help set it up. He drove me to the beach for the ceremony and the team arranged for a private driver to take us back to the hotel from the beach.
The Wedding Stuff
I told my wife the day before our wedding that as guys, we really have it very easy when it comes to wedding planning. Sure, we give input on the colors of the flowers, the type of music for the reception, what groomsman gifts to buy, etc. But let’s be honest, fellas, we pretty much just need to show up for the day. All of the hard work tends to be done by the ladies in our lives.
Jose Pablo and Alicia made it so easy for us on our wedding day. We got married during the rainy season, so they made every effort to provide a beach wedding with a back up location in the event of rain. We lucked out and did not get any rain at all the days we were there, including our wedding day, but just in case, the team had us covered.
We chose a location called Playa Canal, a more secluded location that Junior (more about Junior in a bit) showed us during our tour. Jose Pablo had the florist take the arch and our flowers to the beach, we cleared a spot, and viola, 15 minutes later the scene was set for our wedding.
Jose Pablo and Katherine served as our witnesses for the wedding. Together with our photographer Patricia and last-minute added filmmaker Eduardo they all worked to give us the most magical private wedding ceremony. They made sure I did not see my bride until she was ready, they made sure the music was playing just right on the Bluetooth, and so much more. They just made it as effortless as a wedding can be for a bride and groom.
I’m reluctant to put this part in, only because it was not a part of the package, but it really reflects on the team at Casa Chameleon. On the day of the wedding I was given the keys to a vacant room so that I could get ready after lunch and before our ceremony. They didn’t have to do that, but they went out of their way to do stuff like that to make our day, and stay, special.
Excursions and Site-seeing
We selected the Long Hike for our first excursion of the week. We were greeted by Junior at the hotel reception for our day which started out on an ATV to take us to a number of trails of choice. We quickly became friends with Junior, he is such a genuine human being, loves his country, and wants to share it with visitors.
He was super flexible and turned our “hike” into an ATV excursion up and down some crazy roads that led us to some of the most beautiful beaches, a chance to see howler monkeys in the tree tops, and a great lunch in Montezuma. He even took us back into town to use the ATM before heading back home to his family. If you are going to get a guide, find Junior!
The day after our wedding we decided to forgo the excursion we scheduled and just rent an ATV to go back to Montezuma and find some beach for ourselves. We ended up skipping the beach and headed to the waterfall in Montezuma. It was an impromptu decision that was one of the best we made.
If you choose to go to the falls, water moccasin shoes are probably best, followed by flip flops. I was wearing Merrill shoes and ditched them to walk barefoot across the river to get to the trail to the waterfall. It was the best way for me to cross because you feel your way through the water rather than looking for rocks to hop to. The trail is not the easiest, but it is not the hardest either and my flip flops took me to the falls just fine. When you get to the ropes, fear not. I am an easy 240 lbs and they supported me without a problem.
I did not pay as much attention to the money detail as I should have. I took USD with us and made sure that I didn’t have anything larger than a $20 bill, but even then, getting change, in either USD or Colones, is nearly impossible. I even had a street vendor balk at one of the bills I handed to her because it had a small tear (I did not notice it until she showed me) but for us the US, that is not a big deal. In Costa Rica, that costs the bearer 1,000 Colones when exchanged.
There are not a lot of ATMs, but they are the best way to get Colones. The exchange rate is completed by the bank at the most favorable and you generally don’t have to worry about whether or not people have change.
The absolute best way is to use a debit or credit card. The are accepted everywhere and the transactions are just as simple in Costa Rica as they are at home. Take a little cash, but stick with the card as much as possible.
The People, the Language, and the Dogs
I have raved about the people we met at, and through, Casa Chameleon, but overall everyone we have met on our trip has been beyond friendly. I am not fluent in Spanish but I speak quite a bit and understand even more. Everyone I have spoken to in Spanish has been very kind when it has become obvious that I did not understand what they said. The masks make it harder to understand, for all of us, but even a few words of Spanish are appreciated by the locals and most will repeat in both Spanish and English to make sure the message is received correctly.
There are dogs - EVERYWHERE, which for us, is great! We love dogs and have 4 at home, so to see so many dogs that were not strays, but seemed at first glance to be, was pretty awesome. In fact, if a stray is found the locals will work to find someone to adopt that dog. Dogs roam free, very few on leashes, and are quite comfortable with the street traffic. I was very worried that we would see an accident with one but thankfully we did not. They will greet you on the beach, on the street, and points along the way.
Santa Teresa, the Traffic, and Super Mario Kart...
Admittedly, Santa Teresa was my least favorite part of the experience and trip. Don’t get me wrong, the people are. all incredibly friendly, the food is delicious, and the sunsets are other-worldly. The traffic on the other hand, SUCKS. It is such a stark contrast to the rest of the feel of the town that it actually takes away from the experience of the town.
There are no sidewalks, which generally speaking is not that big of deal - until a car, truck, motorcycle or ATV goes flying by. The best way I came up with to describe the traffic in pretty much all of Nicoya Penninsula is as Super Mario Kart in real life, but without purpose, checkpoint, or finish line.
Everyone is just in a hurry for no real particular or obvious reason than to pass the person in front of them. When you couple that with roads that have potholes the size of the Grand Canyon you get a fairly dangerous condition for everyone. We had the use of an ATV for a full day and opted to get a taxi to town and then back for our dinner the last night of our stay. It just wasn’t worth it to brave the roads after dark on an ATV.
The road(s) from Mal Pais to Cabuya to Montezuma are all pretty much the same. Rocky, lots of potholes and rain wash that can track your ATV tires very quickly, and populated by drivers all trying to beat the person in front of them in some unspoken, yet widely participated in, game. We took our time, enjoyed the ride for what it was, and were just fine to let people pass us.
If you have made it this far, thanks. I wrote this as much for myself as a way to remember such an incredible trip as I did for anyone who may be researching trips to this area. Overall, the trip, the people, and the experience were incredible beyond measure. We will be back!