For empty beach lovers and surfers alike, Playa Grande Costa Rica is the perfect destination. Plus, you'll discover a true gem amongst the beach hotels in Costa Rica there... Hotel Cantarana, which means "Sing Frog".
My daughter and I are just back from one week in Hotel Cantarana. Marion and Reinhard, the hotel owners, made us feel welcome from the very first minute we arrived in Palm Beach Estates.
As we drive through the estate, Reinhard tells us that a mere 20 years ago, the whole area was green wilderness. It was his job to develop Palm Beach Estates. Today, there are about 80 houses, 2 hotels, a hostel and "Los Malinches", a little supermarket with a cosy restaurant.
After Marion showed us our room next to the pool, we walk the 3 min to the beach. Seven kilometers of white sand beach, Playa Grande Costa Rica, is a paradise for surfers. We watch the sunset and hundreds of crabs hustling across the sand.
Breakfast at Hotel Cantarana is fabulous. Fresh fruit, yoghurt, German bread, ham, cheese and yummy Mango jam.
And there's entertainment too... Urracas, or white-throated magpie-jays, dive into the open restaurant to snatch a piece of tomato or ham from under our nose. We get a water pistol to keep them at bay.
I ask Marion if she'd like to tell me more about their hotel and their life in Playa Grande, Costa Rica. She happily agrees.
Why Hotel Cantarana, Singfrog?
For nostalgic reasons. Before we came to Costa Rica, Reinhard and I spent a few years in Venezuela. During a jungle trip there, we were enchanted by classical music sounding through the rain forest. The source was a beautiful hotel amidst the tropical green... and the hotel was called "Cantarana."
For job reasons. At the end of the eighties, Reinhard became project lead for developing Palm Beach Estates.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in running Hotel Cantarana?
Arguing with the Costa Rican government. Long after Palm Beach Estates had been developed, with all proper permissions in place, the Costa Rican government declared a 125m wide stripe along the waterfront to protected area. As a consequence, no new houses or even extensions to existing ones could be built. For 7 years we've been fighting the new law in courts. Although we won every instance, the Costa Rican government would not co-operate.
We are now close to winning the last battle, an international lawsuit at the World Bank Arbitration Tribunal. We never anticipated that owning beach front property in Costa Rica could turn into such an ordeal.
What do you enjoy most about running Hotel Cantarana?
The contact with our guests. With only 6 double rooms, we have a very personal relationship with our guests. I'd actually never thought that I would enjoy managing a small hotel so much, but I do!
What advice would you give to our readers planning to move to or retire in Costa Rica?
Research and read as much as possible about the country. Come for an extended visit and learn the language. Talk to the locals. Try to find out if you can adapt to the Costa Rican life style and mentality.
After years of running Hotel Cantarana, Marion and Reinhard decided that it's time for them to go back to their home country, Germany. Their return is sweetened by a big victory in their legal battles... they won the final lawsuit at the World Bank Arbitration Tribunal. Congrats on your success!
Hotel Cantarana is now in the capable hand of Sabine and Marko Tull, a Canadian couple happy to have escaped the cold winters up north.
If you'd like to explore Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula, start at Playa Grande Costa Rica. As for accommodation, well, you know what I am going to say... make Hotel Cantarana your "home away from home."