The tiles are cold under my feet as I stand making green tea on this chilly morning. The kettle begins to whistle, then louder, drowning out the sound of the pounding waves I have been staring at out the window. Dani and I are sat at the kitchen table, just 100 feet from the ocean, at Hotel Fenix on Playa Samara, Costa Rica, taking advantage of the rainy weather to get some work done.
We love our room even on a rainy day, but on a sunny day, Playa Samara is paradise, and Hotel Fenix a perfect spot from which to enjoy it. The hotel is made for relaxation. All six rooms open onto a small pool, just beyond which are plenty of hammocks and sun chairs lining the top of the beach. Horses occasionally gallop by, as do a handful of tourists, but unlike other beaches in Costa Rica, Samara always feels relatively empty, even during our visit in high season last year (when we asked you, politely, NOT to come here at all).
Our hotel is definitely one of the closest to the water, but all houses and hotels on Playa Samara are set back in the trees so that when you stroll along the 4.5 miles of coastline around the bay, you see only a dense line of palm trees, sand and easy waves perfect for newbies to learn to surf.
For now, though, we have taken solace in our room, which luckily feels a lot like having our own beach-front condo. The property was originally built as six condos years ago, the American owner, Bill, tells us. The project lasted only one year, however, and when it went up for sale, Bill and his wife Phyllis bought the Fenix and have been living here and running the hotel for over ten years, along with their children, his mother, a dog, some cats and a poor little partly-paralyzed squirrel.
The room has a full separate bedroom, which has a comfortable queen bed with colorful crisp bedding. Just outside the bedroom are the toilet and shower rooms. The kitchen is fully equipped with an oven, fridge, dishes, plates, silverware, a blender, plus dish soap, enough towels and a chorreador, a traditional Costa Rican coffee-making device. We are able to prepare almost all our meals in the kitchen – not because the restaurants are far, but because after so long on the road cooking holds more appeal than ordering off a menu. The town center is an easy 15-minute walk up the beach or a five-minute cab ride and there is no shortage of food options. There is one deluxe room, which makes a strong leap into a truly luxurious option. The bed and bedroom are larger, there is a couch in the room and extra futon in the kitchen (making it perfect for groups or families), as well as a full fridge, flat screen TV and air-conditioning.
While this feels like ‘home’, the room is cleaned spotlessly every day like a top hotel. The friendly cleaning woman comes in, makes our bed, sweeps out all the sand, mops the floors, dries any recently washed dishes and puts them all back away, so that every time we come back from an afternoon out, it feels like we have just arrived for the first time.
The room is very open, with only screens covering many of the windows. While this does mean plenty of breeze and waking to the sound of the waves and birds every morning, it also means no sound-proofing and overhearing conversations of other guests. This wasn’t a huge problem as ultimately everyone is there to relax and enjoy life.
When you get to Samara and stay here at the Fenix Hotel, you might think it strange of us to highlight what is essentially a fairly dark, narrow room where the cleaning lady keeps her mops and towels. But the bodega (meaning ‘storage room’, in Spanish) represents the ethos of the hotel, which is meant to be a home away from home. First, there is a microwave for all guests to use and fridges with beer and other cold drinks for sale on the honor system. The prices match those at local shops rather than overpriced mini-bar prices, which indicates to us that they offer this as a convenience to you, not strictly as a profit for them. There is a small lending library for light beach reading, card and board games, and dozens of boogie boards for guests to use free of charge, an information board with all local tours available and a page for guests to fill in restaurants they ate at in town and can recommend for future guests.
As we have learned after living in two beach houses this year, between the jungle, the sea breeze, the sand, and torrential rain, any structure on the beach needs constant updates and improvements. The Fenix Hotel could just use a bit of a facelift. Window screens are a bit dated and the kitchen utensils (silverware, Tupperware, cutting boards, etc) could stand to be replaced.
A stay at the Fenix Hotel is like having a beach-front apartment, with all the perks of a well-run hotel. A stay here ensures the beach experience people go to Costa Rica in search of. We found it to be entirely relaxing and also the perfect place to watch Samara’s incredible sunsets.
Location: Samara Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Price: Starting at $85.00 for a double room in low season / $110 in high season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Excellent wi-fi reception in all rooms and even by the pool; monthly rates available.
Amenities: Free wi-fi, swimming pool, fully-equipped kitchen in every apartment, laundry service, tour and transportation booking service