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Aguas Claras hotel review: paradise on earth really does exist on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast

• Rating: 10/10
Rooms at Aguas Claras start from 
$335 (£283) a night
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Following a seven-hour bus ride from San Jose, any hotel might seem appealing, but arriving at Hotel Aguas Claras is like being transported into a parallel dream world. Every staff member is beautifully open and warm, rooms are simple but tastefully designed and the coastline—just a short stroll through lush jungle—is made up of some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in my life. Much like the European boltholes of Can Bordoy Grand House and Menorca Experimental, design and intimacy are paramount at Aguas Claras with just six suites, six bungalows and Casa Floralia—a private two-floored Caribbean House. The hotel’s location, a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from Puerto Viejo means you can enjoy the cafes and restaurants of the nearby small town but also have a delightful slither of beach mostly to yourself. Owned and designed by Elizabeth Steinvorth, who describes the place as “an art project” it’s easy to see why she fell in love with the area when she moved from San José to Puerto Viejo back in 1992. Filled with her own personal works of art the hotel has become a kind of retrospective of her life, and a stunning one at that.

bed with rainbow headboard at Aguas Claras hotel in Costa Rica
My bedroom (the Matilda suite) at Aguas Claras

What’s the vibe?

As someone who’s stayed in over 200 hotels and hostels, it’s fairly rare for me to be overwhelmed, but there’s just something about Aguas Claras that seriously stole my heart. The serenity and joy I felt during my six nights there was a feeling I hadn’t had for a long time, I felt at peace and woke every morning with a feeling of intense excitement. Everything about the hotel is beautifully tranquil and pleasing to the eye. The main house, where a reception and small shop are housed is the first building you see as you enter the property's grounds, as you pass through you’re met with the main communal space—a fun bar/restaurant area decorated in a Tropicana colour palette next to a bright blue pool. 

communal area and pool at Aguas Claras hotel in Costa Rica
Papaya restaurant and the pool at Aguas Claras

The whole hotel is also surrounded by lush jungle, with walkways leading to suites, bungalows, and of course, the beach.

How are the rooms?

I booked one of the six suites—initially just for four nights—but that swiftly got bumped up to six nights as I realised I’d happened upon one of the dreamiest hotels in Costa Rica (maybe even the world) and never wanted to leave. Laid out in a row of white, the suites each have a unique name and decor—mine was called Matilda and had a fun, rainbow acrylic headboard. My suite was bright white, and fairly large with a sofa area, round table, desk and minibar, plus a glass door out towards the bathroom, which honestly, was a pure delight. The outdoor wooden washstand, under a large circular mirror, was stocked with local natural beauty products by the Costa Rican brand Kiö, one of which I’m still using due to the heavenly scent of ylang-ylang, but the true highlight was the shower. Through white shuttered doors, which I’m pretty sure is the same for each of the six suites, was an outdoor rainfall shower surrounded by plants. The morning view up to the sky afforded me daily Scarlet Macaw spotting opportunities—never has a shower been so magical! 

outdoor shower at agues Claras hotel in coast rica
Dream shower at Aguas Claras

The shower came with more gorgeously scented products (shampoo, conditioner and bar soap) and the outdoor decked area had a slouchy chair to chill on, as well as a low coffee table. The mini bar was filled with various beers and soft drinks and my room came with a French press and two bags of ground coffee, along with dreamy herbal tea—both of which I adored!

What is there to eat and drink?

The restaurant and bar area (known as Papaya) right next to the swimming pool serves various plates and drinks throughout the day with a different menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried most of the breakfast dishes, each of which is served with a tropical fruit plate and tea or coffee, included in the nightly room rate. Highlights for me were the typical breakfast—Gallo Pinto—consisting of rice and beans (the coconut version is wildly delicious), eggs, plantain, cheese and homemade tortilla, and the American breakfast which had some amazing brioche style toast and spicy potatoes with onions and chilli on the side. 

table laid with fruit and juice at papaya restaurant in agues Claras hotel
Fruit, juice and coffee at Papaya

Lunch is also served at Papaya, as well as on the beach and includes bites like empanadas and ceviche that rival some of the dishes at the best restaurants in Lima. While for dinner there are delicious options like fish tacos and catch of the day, as well as some very awesome vegetarian dishes. Da Lime is Aguas Claras’ beach bar which occasionally has daily offers on cocktails and local beers—all of which are served to you directly on the beach. The margarita with pineapple and jalapeño was my standout favourite cocktail.

beach near aguas Claras in near Puerto viejo Costa Rica
Beach view from Da Lime

Along this stretch of coastline which reminded me of some of the rugged beaches in Barbados I also found many other places to eat and drink. Como en mi Casa Art Cafe in Puerto Viejo serves beautiful vegetarian food and the perfect smoothies, while Arrecife Beach Bar in Punta Uva is a good option for Caribbean prawns and rum coconuts.

Any highlights?

Where do I begin? Aside from the great food and cocktails, perfect setting and beautiful interiors, I found the staff at Aguas Claras to be so welcoming, friendly, warm and open—they made me feel like I was part of the family. I also loved being surrounded by jungle (much like the setting of Senda Monteverde) which made spotting incredible creatures like monkeys, sloths and green vine snakes a daily occurrence. The hotel also has bicycles guests can borrow free of charge, I made use of this perk every day by cycling to nearby beaches and Puerto Viejo. Another very beautiful touch was the small glass pot filled with the most delicious home-baked treats that were left in my room each night—from banana bread to coconut truffles—it really made me smile. Finally, the yoga classes at Aguas Claras are some of the best I’ve ever done, and on par with the quality of yoga in India on account of the teacher, her calming practice and the wonderful setting that is Casa Gandi—a wooden deck overlooking a lily-filled pond.

Anything they could improve on?

Not a thing, this place is pure heaven on earth.

Follow @hotelaguasclaras

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