A Hotel Which is Very Near to Paulson’s Point, Offers Hilltop Hideaway in Montezuma

Posted: Thursday, October 07, 2010 – By Nate Perkins
Hotel Atardecer

Katie Onheiber | Tico Times

Easy Living: Porches complete with hammocks at Hotel Atardecer in Montezuma.

Hotel Atardecer is at the end of the world – or at least getting there makes it seem like it. The roughly five-hour journey from San José to Montezuma, a sleepy beach town on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, requires travel by both land and sea, over highways and bumpy dirt roads.

Hotel Atardecer map

As if the town itself weren’t far enough removed from civilization, Hotel Atardecer rests in the hills a few kilometers above Montezuma. Steep and practically enclosed by a bright green tunnel of pure jungle, the road leading to the rustic property calls for four-wheel drive, and drivers of lesser vehicles have wisely deemed it impassable. A stay at Hotel Atardecer is the perfect getaway for those who want to escape society’s grind and clock some simple hammock-and-book time.

Upon arrival, visitors immediately meet hotel manager Richard Canizadez and his three tail-wagging, tongue-flapping dogs. Canizadez, a young, grinning surfer type whose curly black hair spills out from under a backwards baseball cap, manages business for the Atardecer’s often absent owner, and does so in his own refreshing, laid-back style. He offers guests as much space or attention as they want and is a veritable fount of local knowledge.

The buildings that collectively make up Atardecer – an office, two small cabins and a house – are simple in design, constructed out of treated pine and connected by a gravel path lined with flowers. A grassy area in the middle of the structures features a grill and tables for communal use.

Each of the cabins has two separate rooms, complete with hardwood floors and a double bed, protected by white mosquito nets. The rooms are simple and beautiful, opening up onto private porches where hammocks swing in the forest breeze. The panoramic view from the porches is stunning. Guests look out over the forested hills and valleys, past the neighboring town of Santa Teresa to the great Pacific, which seems to sleepily live up to its name when viewed from such a height.

Hotel Atardecer beds

Hotel Atardecer’s wood cabins feature mosquito net-swathed beds.

The house, which offers the same fantastic view, is ideal for groups, with its multiple bedrooms, living area and fully stocked kitchen.

The area surrounding Atardecer, which takes its name from the Spanish word for “dusk,” is a haven for local wildlife. A troupe of howler monkeys lives in the towering trees by the property. Toucans and parrots also call the area home, and, at dusk, small bats begin their insecticidal darting. Deer have been spotted crossing the terrain in the early mornings.

Unfortunately, these animals come accompanied by their less pleasant jungle brothers: really big bugs. Four-inch black scorpions sometimes invade rooms by sneaking under cracks in the doors, but they are just another part of the back-to-nature experience that makes Hotel Atardecer so special.

For the vehicle-impaired who want to visit Montezuma, the town is about a half hour’s walk from Atardecer. Visitors who don’t feel like hoofing it down the hill can have the hotel call a taxi; fares run about ?4,000 ($8). Montezuma is home to several restaurants and two grocery stores, as well as plenty of beach access. Its rugged beaches are known for their surf breaks. In town, visitors can also book scuba or ATV trips.

Hotel Atardecer cabin

The cabins at Hotel Atardecer overlook the hillside

On Canizadez’s recommendation, The Tico Times made the short, muddy hike through the rain forest and down to a series of breathtaking waterfalls, which have carved two perfect swimming holes – complete with a rope swing – into the steep face of the hill. This natural spectacle cultivates the feeling that swimmers are at the bottom of a hole drilled directly into the face of the earth, its green walls rising vertically around them. Local young men throw themselves off branches and rocks into the murky water.

The perfect end to a Montezuma day is reclining in one of Atardecer’s hammocks, listening to the rain drum on the roof and watching it sweep over the hills.

Going There

The quickest route to Hotel Atardecer is to fly to Tambor via Nature Air (www.natureair.com) or Sansa (www.flysansa.com). A taxi can take you to Montezuma and up the hill to Hotel Atardecer.

The most affordable way to get to Montezuma is to take a bus from San José. Buses leave from the Coca-Cola bus terminal, and the trip takes about 4.5 to 5 hours, including the ferry trip from the Pacific port city of Puntarenas across the Gulf of Nicoya. From the bus stop in Montezuma, a taxi can take you to Hotel Atardecer.

Rates for a bedroom in one of the cabins are $50 in green season and $80 in high season; the house costs $100/$140.

For reservations and information, call 2642-1467 or 8858-1735, e-mail atardecermontezuma@gmail.com or visit www.playamontezuma.net/elatardecer.htm.

The small mountain village south of San José boasts historical and natural charm and a comfortable lodge from which to enjoy it.
Toucanet Lodge

New suites at El Toucanet Lodge in Copey de Dota
Photos by Dorothy MacKinnon | Tico Times

Natural wonders abound in Costa Rica, but charming, man-made places are a little harder to find. Tucked away in a river valley, off the beaten path of the Ruta de los Santos in the mountains south of San José, lies one small village that combines natural beauty with architectural charm. And there’s the added bonus of a comfortable lodge.

Copey de Dota is just 7 kilometers east of Santa María de Dota, at the bottom of a steep road that winds past precipitously terraced coffee fincas. It’s home to about 400 inhabitants, mostly farmers who grow apples, avocados and blackberries and tend dairy cows. Named after the copey tree (Clusia rosea), the village has pleasant houses set in lush gardens, a neat elementary school with prettily painted murals, a tidy soccer field and a church. This is not just any church, however, but one of the most charming in the country. Built in the 1920s and dedicated to the town’s patron saint, San Rafael Arcángel, this church was declared a historical heritage site in 1996.

Toucanet Lodge

The town’s charming 1920s church.  Photos by Dorothy MacKinnon | Tico Times

The church is postcard-perfect, sitting on an expanse of green lawns with a smattering of well-tended flowering shrubs and backed by a dramatic line of mountains. The wood-frame building has a turreted Gothic steeple, reminiscent of New England country churches. Instead of the classic Yankee white clapboard, this church has a fresh coat of sunny yellow, with white trim on the windows and a jaunty rosy-red roof. All the decorative gingerbread has been restored as well, and picked out in white.

Heading south out of town, the gravel road follows the curves of the picturesque Pirrís River, known locally as the Río Parrita. The fast-moving river is dramatically strewn with boulders and prettily edged with mossy banks. The river road makes an idyllic country walk, with stunningly beautiful scenic spots, including a stone bridge where you can watch the river tumbling over rocks.

Just 800 meters beyond the village is the entrance to El Toucanet Lodge, high on a hill overlooking the river valley. Since 1996, El Toucanet has been the main reason for visiting Copey. From the lodge’s plant-covered terrace, you have a 270-degree view of mountains and forest. The bird-watching from the main lodge and each private cabin deck is easy and rewarding, with more than 200 species listed. Among the highland species that live here, you’re sure to see pairs of red-white-and-black acorn woodpeckers, as well as the aptly named flame-colored tanager. The lodge’s namesake bird is everywhere to be seen as well – painted on the furniture, place mats and even the artistic recycling bins.

The real bird also makes an occasional appearance, as owner Gary Roberts can attest.

“While we were building the lodge, twice we had toucanets fly into the cabins, so that was the hint for the name,” he says.

Roberts, originally from the South Bay area of the U.S. city of Los Angeles, met Edna Ureña, born and raised in Costa Rica, when they were both attending college in Los Angeles in 1979. A keen surfer, Roberts followed his Costa Rican girlfriend home for a three-month planned surfing vacation that lasted four years.

“I fell in love with the people and the country – and the beautiful surfing beaches,” he says.

Ureña was born and raised in the Los Santos region, and when the couple moved to Costa Rica permanently in 1988, they chose Copey, where Ureña’s family owned property, to build their home. The beauty of the area eventually convinced them to build the lodge and “share this piece of paradise.”

After starting with four rooms, the lodge now has six spacious, comfortable rooms in wooden cabins, each with a private deck. There are also two new junior suites, complete with kitchenettes, fireplaces and hot tubs with picture windows looking out onto garden and mountain views. All the cabins are set in a mature garden with flowering shrubs that attract both birds and butterflies.

For more than a decade, the lodge has been a favorite of hikers and bird-watchers. Every morning Roberts leads guests on a “quetzal quest,” and few visitors are disappointed. The local quetzals are fairly reliable from the middle of December until September, when the nearby aguacatillo trees usually have fruit. Evenings are spent around the fireplace in the main lodge. Dinner usually features the lodge’s famous baked trout, which involves garlic and lemons. The secret ingredient, Roberts says, “lies in the passion we put into cooking our meals.”

The new suites above the main lodge have added an extra touch of luxury and romance to the lodge, making it an even more attractive getaway for city couples in search of some peace and quiet in mountain greenery. The refreshing mountain air is another plus, inspiring the lodge’s slogan: “Fresh air and cold nights.”

Even if you don’t stay in one of the new suites, you can still enjoy a long soak in a hot tub. Just give Roberts notice the night before, and he will fire up the sunken outdoor tub, where you can soak the evening away under the stars.

by By Dorothy MacKinnon Ticotimes.net