FIELD NOTES: Hotel Playa Negra

With the bitter cold air and several inches of snow on the ground, my thoughts have been drifting toward warmer weather. Recently I've been nostalgic for last February's trip to Costa Rica. After stumbling upon an article from Travel & Leisure, a friend and I decided to visit this slice of paradise for a girls' week on the beach.

Situated on the coast of the Guanacaste region lies Hotel Playa Negra. Bungalows run about $100+ a night and sleep up to four people. While modest accommodations without AC, we found the ocean breeze to be enough to keep us comfortable at night. Did I mention that the pool was mere steps from our bungalow?  The weather was warm. The staff was friendly and hospitable. And the sunsets were incredible. 

A popular surf spot with locals and tourists alike, those without waves on their mind will have no problem finding a lounge chair by the pool. If a beach read and glass bottle Coca-Cola is what you crave, then this is the place for you. We booked excursions through the hotel's surf shop, including paddle boarding and surf lessons, of course. We even joined in on morning yoga next to the beach. And in case all that activity has you working up an appetite…I highly recommend the fried plantains and guacamole at the hotel restaurant.

Why you should go:

  • jetBlue flies direct from JFK to Liberia, making this a relatively quick and stress-free escape.
  • Dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica, so the transition to vacation mode is a smooth one. (Seriously. The airport ATM gave us the option to withdraw in U.S. Dollars or Colones.)
  • Surfing is the major draw, so there's no need to wake up early to claim your lounge chair by the pool.
  • Your vacation can be as action-packed or carefree as you choose. There's plenty to do in this country for the more adventurous, but with the beach at your doorstep, you'll be temped to laze around.

What you should know:

  • Bring more cash than you think you'll need. There's no ATM within walking distance of the hotel.
  • If it's an active vacation you're after, you should rent a car. You'll be able to see more, and do so on your own schedule.
  • It's about a 1.5 hour taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. This will run you about $100 one way. The hotel will be happy to arrange this for you ahead of time.
  • While the hotel restaurant is delicious, it does get repetitive day after day. There are a few restaurants within walking distance that you should venture to.