Thursday, February 6, 2014

Monte Azul Hotel, Costa Rica

Every year my family all gets together at the holidays and take a trip somewhere fun.  Last year we went to Antarctica and my sister got engaged, which was amazing, so this year we decided to do something a little lower key and a lot warmer!  We all have very different tastes, so finding a location that has activities for all of us is always a bit of a challenge, but Costa Rica fit the bill perfectly!  There was amazing hiking, which we all love, plenty of birds and monkeys for me and my sister's fiance to take photographs of, beautiful beaches, scuba diving, the freshest fruit I've ever tasted and a million more activities that we didn't get to because we spent so much time just lounging by the pool soaking up the sun!  We decided to split our time between two hotels with a couple nights up in the mountains at a beautiful tiny eco-lodge I found online called Monte Azul and a larger eco-lodge by the ocean called Rancho Pacifico, where we could rent a three-bedroom-private villa for the whole family to stay together.  Both hotels were amazing and I have so many photos to share so I'll start here with Monte Azul.

Monte Azul is a small eco-lodge, just 4 rooms but expanding to 8 this year, nestled in the mountains near the base of Chirriopo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica.  The hotel was started by the nicest people from San Francisco who wanted to create and artist's and yoga retreat that was environmentally friendly, socially responsible and had amazing food.  They achieved all of these things and more and we loved our stay there.  Since it's so small and my family took up half the hotel, we got to know everyone there well just in the couple days we were there and everyone was so nice.  We went on a cheese making tour in a nearby town that the hotel arranged (I'll do a separate post on that next) and we went on all the hiking trails on the property, which include down to a beautiful rocky river and up to a gorgeous waterfall.  We also hiked up to the farm on the property where they grow their own coffee and make their own goat cheese.  I loved seeing the baby goats and had so much fun taking pictures of them while they tried to munch on my pants and shoe laces.  We saw incredibly gorgeous birds right from the property that were so comfortable around humans I could stand right next to them and shoot for hours and we even saw 2 monkeys on our last day there.  We took a hike up into the Cloudbridge Forest, at the base of Chirripo National Park, which was wonderful, but very steep.  I loved the work out and was repeating my soul cycle mantras as I ran up the hill with my camera bag on, but for those with weak knees or ankles I don't recommend it, because it is definitely tough. The food at Monte Azul was truly a highlight.  There are no menus, instead you fill out a food preference worksheet before you come and they tailor everything to your needs.  I loved being surprised each meal with a new delicious concoction.  The coffee and fruit were amazing each morning and I loved all the fresh fish and vegetables at dinner.  I highly recommend this beautiful hotel to anyone looking for a calming and adventurous retreat.  It gets a little cold in the mountains so bring along a warm sweater for the evenings and early mornings!  It was the perfect first stop and I was said to leave, but excited to head to the beach!  More on the beach soon.....

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