Hotel Review – Resort Envy, Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas
Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas sets a new bar for luxury lodging in Costa Rica
Sometime between 5 and 6 o’clock, just as the orange sun hits the ocean off Casa Chameleon, a gong sounds three times, guests hold their breath and balls of flame shoot from three jets in the spectacular infinity pool.
And you’re reminded, as if you could have forgotten, that you are in an extraordinary place.
Open as of February 2017, Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas redefines adults-only, luxury lodging in Costa Rica. The 21-room hotel, perched on a hilly peninsula overlooking one of the country’s most scenic bays, is a stunning beauty, and it provides a guest experience that’s second to none.
The villa where we stayed, like all the rooms here, is in a stand-alone unit facing the ocean with its own plunge pool and a beautiful vertical rock fountain next to it. Solid walls on three sides provide privacy, and the ocean-facing wall is all glass, including the indoor-outdoor rain shower. Privacy on this fourth side is provided by the steep hillsides — you are looking out on sea and sky, but nobody is looking in on you.
“Casa Chameleon was conceived as a brand that would conform to the natural setting rather than reform it, which made Costa Rica such an ideal location for this hotel,” said co-owner Brent Reynolds. “What we try to do is really use the natural topography to create that magnificent wow factor, if you will, for each individual villa.”
Luxurious four-poster beds and matching furniture were all custom-designed for the hotel, built in Indonesia and assembled here. Indonesia was also the source of the striking Buddhist and Hindu statues scattered through the property, and even the quaint brass knockers on villa doors, all of which are different.
In the breezy lobby and the elegant restaurant, ornate light fixtures from Morocco hang from the ceilings, and an eclectic collection of knickknacks from all over the world provide whimsical touches elsewhere, like a stone frog in a garden or a pair of metal storks along a walkway.
Almost the entire hotel is made of golden-brown teak, with attractive cane ceilings locally sourced from Costa Rica, and many of the stone floors are made of Colombian coral.
The large, zero-edge infinity pool wraps around the restaurant and bar area, providing an ideal place to take in the view, swim laps or commune with the Hindu goddess on the corner. CNN recently declared this one of “17 jaw-dropping pools around the world.”
Behind the pool is the acclaimed Sentido Norte Restaurant, where the dining is superb. Dinner options include grilled fish of the day with asparagus and bacon roasted potatoes, octopus and mussels with roasted garlic and french fries, and roasted Caribbean chicken with mashed plantains and lemon-garlic string beans. And for breakfast, the French toast with plantains, coconut milk cream, cashews and macadamia is divine.
Next to the restaurant is an all-teak bar and lounge with seats facing the ocean (and the pool-lighting ritual). This has become a convivial gathering space for both guests and locals, with the seating behind the front row thoughtfully elevated so that nothing blocks the view. Above this is a third-floor yoga studio and events center with 360 views of the incredible seascape and the green hillsides all around.
By the way, access for wheelchair users is excellent, with ramps that lead all the way from the street to the lobby to the pool to the second-floor restaurant, and with one villa fully equipped for the disabled.
The elaborate attention to detail is supplemented by a friendly, welcoming staff — in fact, we noticed that the waiters in the bar appeared to be having as much fun as the guests.
Yet the location is perhaps Casa Chameleon’s greatest asset. It has one of the most panoramic ocean views in all of Costa Rica — overlooking not just a vast expanse of water but a series of picturesque islands, islets and peninsulas. From our balcony we watched dolphins feeding near a lone stand-up paddler.
The Chameleon is just above the impressive Mediterranean-style village of Las Catalinas, and it overlooks a string of beaches (Danta, Dantita, Pan de Azucar, Prieta, Penca and Potrero), with the town of Flamingo visible on the other side of Potrero Bay. The international airport in Liberia is 45 minutes away, and there are grocery stores, restaurants and bars a few minutes away in Potrero, Flamingo and Brasilito.
Adventure opportunities abound by land and by sea — ziplining, sunset cruises and scuba diving the Las Catalinas Islands are all popular attractions for guests.
“One aspect that attracted us to this locale was the overall master plan of Las Catalinas, the extensive trail system they have that’s for hiking and biking, which is tailored to all experience levels,” Reynolds said. “And they have a local aquatic and land adventure store where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and mountain bikes.”
Whether you’re planning an adrenaline-fueled, fat-burning vacation or a time-out for leisure and relaxation, the overall experience here will exceed your expectations, and will make you want to come back for more.
My girlfriend, Guiselle, couldn’t stop staring at the endless ocean view off our balcony. She stayed there for hours.
“This place for me is a dream come true,” she said. “No hay palabras.”
Translation: “There are no words.”