On a hillside above the Guanacaste coast, Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas is a cluster of villas with the romance levels set to high. Each stand-alone suite has a plunge pool and soul-stirring sunset views, with handmade international additions including ornate Moroccan lights and furniture from Indonesia. There’s an impressive infinity pool that’s also perfectly placed for sundown – but two of the best beaches in Costa Rica, with their endless opportunities for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkelling, are a short drive away.
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One welcome cocktail for each guest and a selection of snacks rustled up by the chef
Double rooms from £511.45 ($631), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of 10% per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include American-style breakfast.
There’s no spa, but a series of scrubs, massages and salon services can be performed in your villa. Yoga instructors and training equipment can also be delivered on request. The hotel can put on wow-inducing destination weddings for brides and grooms to-be. Entomophobes may be alarmed to discover something sporting antennae in their bed at night, but staff will come to the rescue at any hour.
The hotel is in the midst of a makeover, noise disruption will be kept to a minimum and – as a thank you for your patience – resort credit will be offered during your stay. Renovations should be finished by June 2024.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: beach bags, air-conditioning, free bottled water, a minibar and a Bluetooth speaker.
Our favourite rooms
Those who favour plummeting into water to cool off while travelling in the Tropics will be pleased to hear that plunge pools come as standard in every suite, as do impressive views – for the best of the best though, go for a Villa Sunset, which offer the finest glimpses of the Guanacaste coast.
The saltwater infinity pool is impressive at any given point in the day, but especially so at sunset and after-dark, when fire pits are alight on the surface.
An array of ikat-patterned activewear, to navigate sunrise swims and swinging through the trees on a zipline in style.
The hotel is not accessible for wheelchair users.
This stay is for adult Smiths only.
The hotel is committed to protecting its local environment, with initiatives such as water conservation, locally made bath products, monthly beach clean-ups, non-toxic cleaning products, solar-heated pools and energy-efficient lighting in place.
The restaurant is set above the pool with uninterrupted views out to sea – get as close to the edge as you can; for something casual and cosy, stake out one of the sofas in the bar.
Beach-ready by day but jazz it up after-dark.
The chef at Sentido Norte champions the best of local produce and Costa Rican cuisine while always adding a creative twist – we loved everything he made that had hearts of palm in it, as well as the ceviche, Caribbean chicken with mashed plantain, and grilled fish of the day. In the morning, don’t miss the energy-providing chia bowl.
The bar is in a corner of the restaurant with sunset-facing sofas. There’s an extensive cocktail menu, but be sure to try one of the especially delicious ones made using fresh juice and coconut water.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 11am; lunch is on offer from 11am until 3pm; dinner service is between 6pm and 11pm. The bar calls time at midnight and serves food between 11am and 10pm.
Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas is on the north-western Pacific coast of Costa Rica, a four-hour drive from the capital, San José.
The closest airport is in Liberia, 40 kilometres away. The drive should take around an hour. Connections are available via Los Angeles and San José. The Smith24 Team can book flights or hotel transfers on request; be aware, the airport’s a hefty 260 kilometres away.
There’s free valet parking when you arrive, but be sure to book a four-wheel drive as not all the roads are paved. From Liberia airport, take a right and join the highway, then follow the sign for Sardinal, taking a left after the petrol station (marked by a Congo Trail billboard). When you reach the football pitch at Nuevo Colón, drive around it and take a left onto a dirt road, ignoring the Las Catalinas sign, as this takes a different route and the road isn’t safe during rainy season. The nearest town is Playa Potrero, five minutes away by car.
Worth getting out of bed for
Staying in your villa all day won’t be frowned upon, but active sorts will want to get ziplinining, rafting, hiking, biking, surfing, swimming, diving and stand-up paddleboarding, all of which can be arranged. Board a catamaran cruise for sunset with Lazy Lizard; or zipline from tree to tree on a Congo Trail canopy tour.
On Sugar Beach Road, perch at a picnic table on the sand at laid-back Limonada and order cocktails, tacos and tostadas as the sun goes down (+506 2654 6150). For Italian-inspired pizza, pastas and sustainable seafood, head to Angelina’s in Playa Flamingo, and save room for some locally-made artisanal cheese. Close by, Coco Loco is another beachfront spot for sunset – watch it with your pick of the salads and ceviche.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Guanacaste Province and unpacked their coffee and canvas chonete hats, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa Chameleon in Las Catalinas…
‘Casa casa casa casa casa chameleon…’ might not be exactly how Boy George put it, but we reckon he might change his lyrics after a stay at this coastal Costa Rica retreat. With just 21 villas strung high on a hillside, it’s a romantic hideaway popular with honeymooners and sunset worshippers. Each room has its own plunge pool, but the main one is worth venturing out for: an infinity-edged, saltwater number with fire pits floating on the surface at night. Staff are warm, kind and passionate, and genuinely want to help you get the most out of your stay. And in a country packed with resorts for tourists who want their home comforts, the food is reassuringly local (and unfailingly delicious).
Las Catalinas is still being built, but the burgeoning holiday-home scene shows those in the know are on to something. Loving this hotel is easy. Red, gold and green… (We’re sorry about the earworm.)