There comes the time when I’ve just had enough. Carrying at least one heavy backpack from one bus stop to the next, holding on to my valuables on a public bus, curling up on a super-thin dorm mattress trying to avoid leaving the safe (and clean) environment of my sleeping bag. Fighting for the last tablespoon in the hostel kitchen and ending up slurping 1-minute chicken noodle soup with a teaspoon. Low budget backpacking is adventurous and can be a great way to meet like-minded travelers, nevertheless the time comes when I need to give myself a break and just relax. Preferably in the comfort of a soft, thick mattrass and stellar white clean sheets.
This is especially true when I travel with a significant other – maybe a great friend who lives far away who I finally find the time to catch up with on a girly get-away, or my summer romance whom I want to enjoy a romanticfew days with. In these cases all I want to do is turn my mind off for a while and escape reality for a couple of days. In Costa Rica I found the perfect place for this: Florblanca Villas in Santa Teresa.
A popular weekend getaway for San Jose’s wellness-hungry crowds, as well as the yoga-mekka for Costa Rica’s backpacking society – Santa Teresa manages to combine two opposite worlds. This bustling beach town – actually a long stretch of several beach communities – offers everything: cheap and colorful ocean front hostels, a gazillion of surf schools and rental shops, supermarkets to stock up your mini-cooler for the beach, self-catering oceanview bungalows, cafés and restaurants to die for, hotspots for party-people, yoga studios for any budget and of course high-end luxurious getaways in the middle of the jungle with direct access to the beautiful beaches.
Santa Teresa and neighboring Mal Pais are popular with tourists from all over the world, serving any imaginable budget. Thanks to an almost constant swell, beaches here offer great surf breaks year round and they are close by, so it’s easy to spend weeks exploring them. No matter if you come on holiday or during green season, the dirt roads of Santa Teresa will always be busy with surfer and yoga expats and locals on bicycles, ATV’s and customized dirtbikes.
Florblanca lies at the end of the strip of Santa Teresa and Playa Carmen which makes it a good starting point to neighboring Playa Hermosa with its spectacular sunset surf, but also a quiet alternative to the buzzing hotels in town. With the complimentary beach cruisers or a rental ATV restaurants, cafes and bars are only a short drive away.
But why even leave this place on your own? Florblanca provides anything you need for a relaxing and for an adventurous trip.
Florblanca’s guests have to make the tough choice between several types of luxurious villas. One can choose between superior and deluxe two bedroom villas with an open living room area, an oceanview sundeck and an oversized hammock. Bedrooms are air-conditioned and bathrooms with rainshowers are outside, close to the green surroundings. Nestled into the jungle these villas offer privacy but are never more than a few steps away from the hotel’s facilities and of course the beach.
Other special treats of Florblanca are its most luxurious and super-spacious Honeymoon Villa on two floors and the laid-back Surf House with the beach at your doorstep.
We were invited to spend three nights in the Surf House and can’t find other words than “pure awesomeness”. This oceanfront jewel was converted from a traditional Costa Rican beach house into a luxurious dream. The three air-conditioned rooms offer space for up to 6 people. In it you will find a small kitchen area (all it lacks is a stove), a sink surrounded by glass walls, comfortable couches, cozy bathrobes and heavenly beds. All rooms open up to the ocean and promise the sounds of rumbling waves and tweeting birds in the morning. The deck invites you to laze around in one of the hammocks or get a tan in the beach chairs. A couple of sandy steps away the ever-so-long beach opens up, inviting your out for a stroll to neighboring Playa Carmen or Playa Hermosa. My favourite features of the Surf House were the outdoor sunken bathtub and the beautiful rainshower.
Making your way up to the restaurant – the 2 minute walk from the beach house almost turns this into “eating out” – let’s you forget about the food in your fridge. Why would you cook yourself, if you can also enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Nectar.
It is hard to pick a dish to recommend from the restaurant’s menu as it changes daily/nightly. The chef prepares what is seasonal and fresh. The focus lies on organic and local produce and ordering the catch of the day is never a bad choice. The restaurant serves New American cuisine fused with Latin and Asian traditions. Breakfast includes anything from fruity smoothies to ‘sweettoothed’ pancakes, lunch ranges from light salads to Costa Rican ceviche, the afternoons are rolled away with Sushi and dinner is redesigned every night. The close proximity to the ocean provides the freshest fish and the talented chefs take care for the rest.
Even if it’s just for a sundowner cocktail after a relaxing spa-treatment or an exciting sunset surf, Nectar is just the place for you. Choose between poolside, beachside, the poolside palapa or the restaurant as the location of your culinary adventure.
If you are like me, sitting by a pool or lying on a sunny beach is great but nothing I need to do for three days straight. Luckily the concierge team of Florblanca found various ways to help and arranged tours for us. Florblanca offers any possible activity you could dream of in Costa Rica: yoga and pilates in its own studios, fishing trips to catch tonight’s dinner, horse-back riding along the beach, hiking and ATV excursions to the nearby waterfalls of Mal Pais and Montezuma, surf adventures – whether you need a qualified surf instructor or just want to use the complimentary surf boards –, and the new hot shit SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding).
During our stay we were spoiled with the most gorgeous horse-back riding tour of my life (and I have been doing that since I’m a little girl). I always dreamed of riding along the beach in the sunset, feeling only the salty breeze in my hair and the warm back of the horse beneath me. Whereas the mission of a beach ride was accomplished in Iceland before, this trip took the experience onto a whole new level, adding sun, warmth and the relaxed Tico atmosphere.
Our tour took us across farmland, wide and lush pastures, we met picturesque, surreal trees and bouncy unbroken horses. Through the hills and crossing a river we finally made it to the beach – just in time for sunset. Without big of a warning our cowboy guide gave the Go and our horses set off. Faster always faster, like the wind Blacky took me across the sand and through the rising waters. Splish splash and then it was over.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding? Isn’t that what Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox do in Hawaii when they crave relaxed friend’s time? Isn’t that what people do, who can’t surf properly?
What looks like just standing around on an oversized floating device turns out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. And whereas my SUP-skills definitely improved faster than my abilities to ride a wave on a normal surfboard, the latter cliché proves to be anything else than true.
On a late afternoon right in time for sunset we meet our instructor Andy in Mal Pais. He is a passionate surfer and paddle boarder and it takes only minutes for him to prove our expectations wrong. SUP is the perfect balancing sport for a surfer, just like yoga, as it challenges exactly that: your balance. After a short introduction to paddle techniques Andy takes us out.
“It’s a little choppy for beginners, but it’s doable. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.” ‘A little choppy’ shows it’s evil face during my first attempts to stand up. After a couple of involuntary dives into the warm ocean I am almost ready to give up. Why does this look so easy in all the paparazzi-shot filled magazines? But a Travelette wouldn’t be a Travelette, if she wouldn’t face the difficulties of adventure and give it another try. Finally – I’m up there, paddling, saving myself from falling several times in the most gracious way possible. I’ll spare you of these pictures…
By the end of our lesson we’ve all fallen, even Andy, but can’t stop turning back and forth. Too much of a blast, too beautiful the sunset scenery. Once out of the water we wish Andy farewell, my thighs and calves will make me suffer for a couple of days, but still I’m sure about one thing: this was not my last time on an SUP.
Time to Relax
Coming home after a packed day of activities makes me long for two things: food and pampering. Whereas the first is provided at Nectar Restaurant, the latter is taken care of at Florblanca’s award winning Bambu Spa. In May 2013 Florblanca won the Condé Nast Traveller Award for World’s Best Spa in the category Best for Beach Action.
After an exhausting day Bambu Spa is the right place to go. The Asian influenced spa bungalow won me over with its peaceful waterfall filled pools, the natural flora just an arm-stretch away and its soothing bamboo interior. Services include relaxing and deep tissue massages, Thai massages and hot stone treatments, which can be booked for yourself or as couple service. If you want to treat your skin a candy or two, choose from the wide selection of body scrubs, wraps and facials.
To enhance the good feeling take part in the daily offered yoga and Pilates classes. Practicing yoga in the calm surroundings of the jungle and the beach make it even more rewarding.
“You can’t always get what you want” – the very famous lines written and performed by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. I guess he has never been to Florblanca.
We are thankful to Florblanca Villas and its team for inviting us to enjoy the beautiful surf house, organizing fantastic trips in the area and recommending great restaurants and cafes.
All pictures by Brian Shaw, except #1, 6, 7, 10, 11, 20, 21 (via Florblanca)