Did you know? Friends find reviews that are two sentence or more the most helpful.
Los Altos de Eros means the height of love – and that’s just what this place is. Every detail is thoughtfully planned and executed, from the rooms to the exquisite spa and delightful meals - and most especially, the amazing staff.
Los Altos de Eros is a small boutique hotel set on 27 acres high amongst the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica. The secluded romantic retreat is far removed from anything to spoil the perfection of the place or experience, yet only a 20 minute drive outside the popular town of Tamarindo.
Upon arriving, the entry lobby and common area living/dining rooms feel more as if you’ve just stepped into someone’s luxurious private home. The staff is warm and welcoming, and lead you to one of four poolside rooms, a detached suite with private terrace, or the upstairs Eros Suite. Each room is beautifully decorated with signs of Eros all about, from sculptures to other art forms. Each room is meant for romance, from the large two-person tubs to private terraces. It’s no surprise that this is a very popular place for honeymoons and small weddings.
The on-site spa is open air and very Balinese in nature; should you need to relax even more, this is the place to do it. Treatments from massages and body scrubs to facials and soaking tubs soothe away any stress easily, and the therapists are excellent and gentle.
The meals are a big draw here; Chef Andrea delights in creating fresh, local and very inventive dishes, and guests can also take her very popular cooking classes during their stay.
Other onsite activities include yoga with certified instructor Nicole Loria; hiking around the area; swimming or lounging at the gorgeous infinity pool; or going into Tamarindo for shopping, restaurants or the local beaches. Los Altos de Eros can also arrange a number of eco, adventure and culture tours in the area.
Insider Tips: This property receives high ratings and is very popular, so booking well in advance is advised. And they have a heck of a guarantee policy: If in the first 24 hours of your stay you don't think Los Altos has over-delivered on what you expected, they will happily refund your room charge and help you find another location at which to stay.
The chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador is famous for its inspiration of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Here on the Galapagos Islands, animals have evolved and adapted to survive in ways found nowhere else on earth.
I recently had the incredible opportunity to go on a 7-day Galapagos wildlife cruise with Ecoventura, one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable tourism companies in the Ecuadorian archipelago. We set off from San Cristobal, on a path that crossed the equator six times and visited 7 islands during the week. Hiking, snorkeling and kayaking were all part of the activities to view the islands and their unique ecosystems and wildlife.
One of the most unusual aspects of Galapagos wildlife is how unafraid they are, how completely unperturbed they are by people. Because they are protected and mostly have no natural predators, they really fear little and see no threat from humans in modern times. They do not flee — there is no searching and waiting to spot wildlife. It is right there in front of you, and you can walk right up to them. Our Ecoventura guides, both named Pepe, were clear about the rules not to touch or interact with the animals. But you literally can walk right up to them — iguanas, birds in their nests with babies, sea lions who will swim right up to the boat and want to play.
This can also be their downfall, if not properly protected. "The Islands retain a staggering 95% of their endemic species, a feat unparalleled on any other archipelago in the world," says Santiago Dunn, owner of Ecoventura. "Keeping Galapagos biologically pristine has been and continues to be, a constant and hard-waged battle. Tourism to this remote volcanic archipelago is both part of the solution and also part of the problem."
One thing I really liked about the Ecoventura line, besides the wonderful guides and staff, was their dedication to making the least footprint possible on this ecosystem. The boat we were on, The Eric, had solar panels and wind turbines to supplement the power. Ecoventura was was the first company to earn and maintain the ecological certification, SmartVoyager, and the first Galapagos cruise ship company to offset carbon emissions and to install alternative energy sources.
This is so important in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin’s enchanted isles are one of our planets most precious and unique ecosystems, home to an extraordinary profusion of exotic flora and fauna. In 1959, a hundred years after the publication of The Origin of Species, Ecuador declared 97% of the Islands landmass a national park and in 2001, the marine reserve was established.
In 2007, three decades after being designated the first World Heritage Site, UNESCO declared Galapagos as a World Heritage Site at risk, citing introduction of alien species, illegal fishing, unsustainable tourism, illegal migration and population growth. Galapagos was later removed from the list in 2010, but many conservationists feel this was done prematurely as the Islands still remain very much at risk.
Arrivals to the Galapagos have tripled in the past 15 years due to the growth in land-based tourism operations. During this time the type of tourism available to visitors has changed with land based accommodation and activities now representing 50% of the market, according to the Galapagos Conservation Trust. Pressure to build resort style hotels and bring larger cruise ships to Galapagos is a constant reality.
"The growing number of settlers migrating from the mainland of Ecuador to the islands, largely in response to the recent boom in tourism, has also put pressure on a fragile environment that imperils the entire ecosystem," Dunn adds.
Visiting the islands by water, as a tourist, has by far a lower impact than land tourism. The number of highly regulated, self-contained non-diving live-aboard tour boats has not changed since 1998 after the introduction of the Special Law for Galapagos.
Ecoventura is committed to providing an authentic experience in small compatible groups, lessening the impact on the wildlife, offering value, and a safe, memorable, mind-expanding voyage. The company began offering tours in the Galapagos in 1991 and started “greening” the operation and equipment in 1999, and later worked toward reducing carbon emissions and ensuring the local community benefits by tourism through educational opportunities and supporting marine conservation.
So, what should a potential visitor to the Galapagos know, in terms of how to select a reputable tour operator and how to visit the Galapagos in a way that won’t harm it?
“They need to do their research through guide books, Trip Advisor, etc. or through a trade organization such as IGTOA (international Galapagos Tour Operators Association),” Dunn suggests. “Unless people have limited time and budget or prefer ports to nature, we suggest they book a tour boat versus a hotel or island hopping trip for various reasons.”
• Liveaboards are self-contained and have less impact on the local limited resources. Convenience, all the planning and logistics are done, the itinerary is set, all meals are provided, and there is continuity, and you only have to pack and unpack once.
• Navigating at night means fewer daylight hours are lost while spent in transit and passengers have more time on the islands. Tour boats, also called liveaboards, visit the islands and wildlife in the early morning and late afternoon, when wildlife is more active and the sun less intense.
IGTOA also provides a few other tips for visitors to the Galapagos:
• Do not take any food or drink other than water to the uninhabited islands. Do not touch or feed the animals. A distance of six feet between you and an animal is required. Also, do not allow them to touch you.
• Ask your tour operator if they have a responsible tourism policy. Only travel with operators that can demonstrate that they are doing as much as they can to support conservation efforts and ensure that local people benefit as a result of tourism.
• Consider your environmental impact when traveling. Fully cooperate with environmental inspection and quarantine services personnel during your visit. Introduced plants, animals, and certain foods not native to the islands are a serious threat to the delicate ecosystems here.
• Do not buy souvenirs or objects made of native plants or animals from the islands, especially black coral, volcanic rocks, native woods, sea lion teeth, or tortoise shells
• Travel with a local tour operator. Ensuring that tourism is of maximum benefit to local people is key to the sustainable development of the islands.
Following these guidelines and committing to be a responsible tourist will help to ensure that Galapagos tourism is sustainable in the future.
Alma del Pacifico, on one of Costa Rica's most beautiful stretches of beach, exudes an auto of luxury and privacy in a completely relaxed setting without pretension. The small boutique property of 20 suites reflects Costa Rica’s colorful culture, with spacious villas in a post-modern Californian style and lush tropical gardens right on an incredible stretch of oceanfront. The hotel has created a spot that works for both families and couples on a romantic getaway, with a rejuvenating spa and above-average restaurant. When the sun starts to sink, go for a stroll along the wide glassy sands, order a mojito from the bar and watch the spectacular sunset.
Each of the 20 guest villas is uniquely designed, in the distinctive bold style of architect and former owner Sherrill Broudy: a dynamic open-plan space, flooded with light, with slabs of rich colour. A high curving wooden ceiling echoes the sea and creates a soothing airy feeling, as does the private, walled terrace of each room. The walls are adorned in Sherrill's wife Charlene’s unique paintings and rugs in saturated colours, reflecting her love of the natural tropical world. The effect is warm and welcoming and very individual: the antithesis of bland hotel rooms!
There are 5 grades of villa, starting with Garden Bungalow, which although lovely, don't have sea views. We'd definitely recommend splashing out on one of the beachfront options for that instant uplifting feeling in the morning, and lounging on your private terrace in the late afternoon. Of these, Beachfront Bungalows are the smallest, though these are already huge and include 28 feet of beachfront. Beachfront Villas are even larger and the Deluxe Beachfront Villas feature a private plunge pool on their terraces.
As well as the comfortable kingsize beds (or 2 doubles) each room has a long generous couch that is also a daybed, a desk space and books and magazines to peruse. Lighting is excellent and candles are provided, too - both for atmosphere, and in case of power cuts! All rooms are superbly equipped with all kinds of thoughtful details, from fresh fruit and flowers when you arrive to complimentary snacks, coffee and soft drinks in the minibar.
Bathrooms are particularly generous (most with 2 sinks); we loved the wonderful wide curved shower area in Sherrill Broudy’s signature style, with hand-mosaiced tiles and views to a private garden. There’s air-conditioning as well as fans and blinds, bathrobes, hairdryers, umbrellas, torches for walking around the gardens at night, iPod docking stations, good wardrobe space, and a safe big enough for a laptop. Best of all? Your view of the ocean from your private patio - a good outdoor space, with perfect views onto the surf. Here there are 2 recliners and a table, outside lights and a blind to shut out early morning light should you require it.
New to Alma del Pacifico are three larger vacation rental options, located one-and-a-half miles from the main property and perfect for families or large groups. Casa Mono Loco and Casa Mirador are both set on the ridge line with breathtaking ocean and rainforest views; they each have three bedrooms and three baths, gourmet kitchen and private infinity pools. There are also several three bedroom luxury condos, with two master suites, expansive verandahs, exotic teak floors and gourmet kitchens. Guests of the vacation rentals have full access to all hotel facilities; a car is highly recommended, or guests would feel quite stranded.
The open-air, thatched roof Pavilion Restaurant offers great views of the ocean surf crashing to shore. Generous space between tables ensures that each group feels private, and there are sweet flower arrangements throughout. A continental breakfast is included in the tariff, including freshly squeezed juice, coffee or tea, a platter of seasonal fruit, and choice of breakfast breads with butter and preserves. Other menu options (at an extra charge) include omelets, pancakes, a nice selection of a la carte items, and a Tico-style local breakfast with gallo pinto, fried plantains and tortillas. The Lunch and Dinner menus offer international and Costa Rican cuisine, with an emphasis on local and healthy ingredients that makes use of sustainable seafood and produce. Many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in the colourful gardens on-site. There’s a good selection of sandwiches, salads, pizza and pasta, hot dishes and cold options - the salads are particularly recommended. Snacks (bocas) can be eaten all day: the guacamole is excellent.
Alma del Pacifico offers the perfect setting to be as active as you want, or simply relax and do nothing.