Howler monkeys signal sunrise at Harmony Hotel, where surfers catch some of the best waves on this side of the Pacific. Those who don’t hang 10 can laze on hammocks with smoothies from the juice bar or explore the ferns, palms and flowers that make up this tropical paradise.
11am, but flexible and free, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £373.32 ($486), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include à la carte breakfast, one yoga class a day for each guest and a Green Living Tour.
Harmony Hotel’s Healing Centre hosts daily yoga classes and guided meditation. Massages and facials use local fruits and plants, including banana, papaya and cacao. Should you forget any beach essentials, the tiny La Tiendita shop sells sunblock, mosquito repellent, surf wax and books, as well as art supplies for those occasional moments of beachy inspiration.
At the hotel
Spa and healing centre, bookshop/boutique, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: fridge, Red Flower toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The Bungalows are our favourite options for their spacious, 1970s-style rooms, and huge decks with rocking chairs and outdoor showers. They feel like your own home at the beach. Of these, Bungalow 26 has a completely private patio, making it the ideal honeymooner hideaway.
A heated freshwater pool sits in the heart of the property’s tropical garden, with several surrounding chaises. Palm fronds shade portions of the water for sun-shy swimmers.
Board shorts are essential for tackling the waves and fitting in with the local surfers. The hotel can provide soft boards for beginning surfers, though experienced wave-catchers are welcome to bring their own gear. Leave your vices behind: this organic-minded property is all about the pura vida.
The closest gas station is a 45-minute drive, so arrive with a full tank.
Baby cots are available free. Extra beds cost US$50 each. The hotel can arrange babysitting at the time of booking. Rates start at US$20 an hour.
The property composts, uses solar-powered water heaters, and landscapes with native plants. The staff also works with a local non-profit to protect the local sea turtle habitats and end poaching. In lieu of providing bottled water, the hotel has a spigot near the reception area that provides purified rain-water.
Though there isn’t a bad seat in the house, tables on the perimeter near the bar offer pool views and excellent people-watching.
Sarongs, shorts and sand between your toes, though shirts are required at dinner.
Plantation shutters, ceiling fans on wooden rafters, Caribbean music and woven-mat wall hangings all set the Brazilian beach style of Harmony’s restaurant. The menu focuses on organic and local ingredients in dishes such as ceviche, sushi, Pacific shrimp scampi and a typical Costa Rican casado – a mixed dish of grilled fish, beans, slaw, plantains and fried cheese.
The open-air bar has a lounge area where guests can order tropical fruit cocktails, including daiquiris and margaritas. During the day, the thatch-roofed Juice Bar is a popular stop-off between beach visits or after yoga class at the Healing Centre. If you’re still thirsty after smoothies and milkshakes, the hut mixes its own ‘fizzer’ sodas using homegrown herbs and fruit, such as basil-berry and tamarind, lime and ginger.
The restaurant serves until 9pm, but cocktails are poured until 10pm.
Harmony Hotel is set just outside the town of Nosara, 266 km west of San Jose, on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.
Nosara airport (www.nosaranet.com/nosaraairport.html) is the closest airport, with daily flights from the capital of San Jose on carbon-neutral Sansa (www.flysansa.com) and Nature Air (www.natureair.com). Daniel Oduber Airport (www.liberiacostaricaairport.net) in Liberia is a 100km drive (about 90 minutes) and serves most major airlines from several major American cities, including New York, Houston, Miami and Atlanta.
The nearest town is Nosara, a 10-minute drive. The road is poorly lit at night with easy-to-miss signs, so try to arrive in daylight. There’s plenty of free parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Wave-riders travel from around the world to surf the swells around Guiones. Get in on the action by bringing your own board or renting one from the shack next-door to Harmony. Even newcomers can get in on the action: the long breaks are perfect for less-experienced surfers. The hotel offers lessons in classic surfing and paddleboarding, with available gear storage just off the sand. The beach is one of the most striking in the area, owing in part to the hotel’s driftwood sculpture, which resembles a giant reclaimed Christmas tree. The icon is a good way for drifting swimmers to mark the hotel’s location, and its wood ‘branches’ double as pegs that keep towels safe from errant waves.
Thrillseekers can zoom through the air on a high-speed zipline over the world’s longest canopy, Guanacaste's tropical dry forest, for expansive views of rivers, waterfalls and the ocean.
Seven kilometres north of the hotel is a protected beach where tens of thousands of sea turtles nest, typically at high tide during the new moon. Guests whose visits to Harmony coincide with the subsequent hatchings can visit and see all the hatchlings make their way from their nests to the water. The arribada, or nestings, take place year-round, but the highest concentrations take place in October and November.
There are several beach-casual restaurants in nearby Nosara and Playa Guiones. A 10-minute drive from the hotel, La Luna in Playa Pelada (+506 2682 0122) serves Mediterranean food and pizza on the beach. A bit further along the sand, Olga’s pours beer and dishes up standard local fare, including beans and rice, to fishermen and visitors. Visit at sunset for perfect views. Il Basilico (+506 2682 1472) serves rep again Italian-style pizza, pasta and seafood at the south end of Playa Guiones, a stroll from Harmony. For a truly home-cooked meal, try Dona Ana’s (+506 2656 8085) in Playa Garza, where the eponymous Ana cooks freshly caught fish, shrimp tempura and local food, which she serves on her patio.
A short walk from the hotel on the main road to Nosara, Cafe de Paris (+506 2682 0087) bakes puffy loaves of bread and French pastries each day. Even sweeter, the café has outdoor seating and a pool out back. Organico Natural Market on the main road has plenty of provisions for a picnic on the beach. The market operates a smoker outpost – called Fritz’s BBQ – for pork tacos. Robin’s Ice Cream (+506 2682 0617), on the road to the beach in Playa Guiones, scoops tropical ice creams into home-made cones.
The surf crew in Nosara tends to head to bed early, but those who like to stay out late visit Bar la Banana (+506 2682 4082) on the main road. The lively open-air club features a DJ and theme nights, including reggae Thursdays.
Our family couldn’t flee frostbitten New York for balmy Costa Rica fast enough this winter. We touched down in Liberia (hello again, humidity) after a four-hour flight, and we still had a two-hour drive in fading daylight ahead of us to Nosara, a sleepy seaside village on the playa-populated Nicoya Peninsula.
Not to worry, pure excitement would make the car trip tick by in a blink, because we were headed to my happy place: the Harmony Hotel. I’d first discovered this rustic-luxe surfer’s hideout during a photography assignment a few years ago, and I’d been drawn back every year since.
It was dark by the time we pulled in, but the smiling (and handsome) staff members were right there to welcome us. They swapped out the bags in our hands for cool glasses of ginger-infused lemonade and, not missing a beat, the woman at check-in rang up the restaurant to have a table ready for us once we’d freshened up. We didn't even have to ask.
Shown to our spacious, private bungalow, we peeled off the lingering layers that had no place in this tropical climate. Luxurious linens hugged the king-size bed, the shower looked large enough for our entire family and an oversized bath tub peered straight out into the thick jungle. The French doors swung open to a peaceful patio garden with a gorgeous outdoor shower and a hammock (the ideal reading and siesta spot).
I’m a big fan of products, and Harmony does not disappoint. Everything smells fantastic here thanks in part to the exclusive Red Flower potions, a New York-based line that specializes in natural, botanical ingredients.
That organic lotion (and soap… and shampoo) that you’ll want to line your luggage with for the return trip, is just one of the many discretely eco-conscious considerations here. The drinking water is filtered through their grey-water system, the property composts and uses solar-powered water heaters.
The staff also works with a local non-profit to protect the nearby sea turtle habitats. And, the artfully layered plants and trees framing the pathways throughout the property and down to the beach, are all native.
It’s easy to understand why anyone who spends even a few days here would want to preserve this unspoiled pop of paradise. There are mornings at home when I’d rather dive back under the covers however, early morning is the most magical time of day here.
I’d grab a coffee and a freshly baked treat from the juice bar and wander the grounds with my son to witness the jungle as it shook off the night. We’d watch lizards dart underfoot, laugh at howler monkeys bouncing in the trees and listen to the birds squawk.
One morning, on a recommendation from the hotel, I attempted to catch waves with instructors from the Nosara Tico surf school. The hotel is just steps from Playa Guiones, a pristine Pacific Ocean break that draws in a mix of experienced and beginner surfers to its consistent waves.
The fine sand beach with bath-warm water makes for ideal learning conditions – and there’s not a wetsuit in sight. The instructors were so positive and you can’t beat the high of popping up on the board to catch a glistening-green wave (even a small one).
Surfing took most of my energy, but I also attempted a couple of aerial yoga lessons at the hotel spa. An experienced teacher took me through a series of inversions where I was suspended from a hammock-like net hanging from the ceiling. She attended to every pose to make sure I was getting the most from my experience. But the location alone – a jungle-facing open-air rancho – was energizing enough.
It’s easy to get into a mellow routine of sorts here – early mornings, beach time and plenty of trips to the juice bar. This traditional thatched-roof hut in the heart of the property is just the spot to refuel with a fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie, and their fresh, healthy salads are perfect for lunch, too.
Food is no afterthought at Harmony. There is an organic farm on-site and the chef sources an amazing variety of local ingredients for his sophisticated dishes. I loved starting my day with the poached eggs with dill and sun-ripened tomatoes served with local fruits, and my kids would gobble down banana pancakes or cinnamon oatmeal. They also couldn’t get enough of the sushi – especially the rolls made with melt-in-your-mouth-fresh tuna – and Mr Smith and I indulged in catch-of-the-day for every dinner.
It’s not easy to leave the Harmony bubble, but the hotel connected us with a reliable babysitter one evening so Mr Smith and I could sneak away for dinner at locals’ favorite La Luna. We stolled along the beach and dove in for a quick swim (dinner attire: ocean-chic). Seated outside on the breezy veranda, we lingered over drinks and a delicious dinner as we watched the sun dip into the water. Just perfect.
Is it too early to book my next trip? Becuase I'm ready...
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Harmony Hotel’s Guestbook below.
We loved the friendly, personal service. The food was excellent. Most guests seemed to be in their late 30s-50s and we really enjoyed the people we met. The property is very relaxing, the yoga is excellent and the surf couldn't be more convenient.
Harmony doesn't serve soft drinks so we had to buy them off site.