When thinking about nature-friendly architecture a quote comes to mind: “A truly great structure…never disregards its environment”. Granted it was said by a fictional architect in a romantic movie, The Lake House, but it is nonetheless true. Costa Rica’s El Mangroove Resort (Autograph Collection) occupies 17 acres of beachfront forest surrounded by preserved mangroves. The shared spaces are quite vibrant and alive, but the private suites are at peace and one with nature. The guests of the resort get a unique opportunity to sleep among the mangrove trees at El Mangroove Hotel, Costa Rica. But there is much more to the El Mangroove than these age-old trees.
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The trip was hosted by the property, which did not review or approve the story.
The resort is conveniently located near the town of El Coco, a 20-minute drive from Liberia International Airport (Guanacaste). From the point of entry, El Mangroove is eye-catching. Its noticeably contemporary design is inspired by the environment in which the resort lives. Rooms and common areas decor embrace local materials and local talent. The menu, on the other hand, takes after local ingredients and traditions.
The guests have access to two restaurants, a bounty of pools and sunbeds, a beach, shared fitness facilities, and the spectacular Bearth Spa. El Mangrove Costa Rica creates an immersive experience through a wide range of guest offerings. However, at any point in time, you can easily leave the resort to explore El Coco and various National Parks nearby.
Note: This is a very image-heavy post because a picture says a thousand words… I also got quite carried away documenting this beautiful space :).
The Vibe & Shared Spaces
Overall energy across the resort strikes a fine balance between tasteful luxury and laidback relaxation. The entry point leads to the main restaurant, Makoko. The exterior areas (covered by a roof) look out to the pool through a shade of greenery. The interior part of the restaurant, on the other hand, is enclosed in glass. This space is cooler but still very much one with nature. The terrace gently spills on the send and crosses over to Matiss, a casual beachfront restaurant open for lunch and occasionally dinner. Down near the beach is a small beach bar, El Shack, serving raw bar snacks and fresh cocktails during the day.
The centerpiece of the resort is a 130-foot-long freshwater, black-tiled pool. Lined with cabanas and sun beds this pool is adults-only. A short walk down a shaded passage (or along the beach) will take you to the other side of the resort. This family-friendly half is dotted with mixed-size pools and also wrapped with cabanas. The pools are of different depths welcoming children of all ages while still offering the luxury of the cabana experience for adults. Here’s a quick areal video of the pools.
The said cabanas can be booked for the day ahead of time. Each one has a shaded sitting area, floor lamp, mini fridge, and a TV. The day rental is accompanied by a personal attendant, a selection of beverages, and a handful of delicious snacks. The cabanas on the kids-friendly side also have very lovely swim-up decks.
Note: Knowing Spanish is very helpful, and polite. I tried my best to speak Spanish when possible, though mine is quite limited. Learn Spanish with italki*.
On-site & Nearby activities
The resort might be boutique but there is a lot one can do to occupy their time with. The guests have direct access to the beach. The water here is quite calm inviting you out for a swim, fishing adventures, paddle boarding, kayaking, or even jet-skiing. Many of these activities are complimentary. One of the mornings I met a hotel instructor for a paddle boarding session and it was absolutely worth the early alarm. With very few boats on the water and nearly no people on the beach, we paddled around the bay enjoying pure Costa Rican nature. This is what Pura Vida is all about.
A couple of other fun activities on the resort are cooking and mixology classes. For the cooking class, I met with one of the resort’s chefs, Marisol. She is a lovely woman with a wealth of experience who expertly walked me through her famous ceviche recipe. After our cooking session, I got to sit back at the bar and enjoy my ceviche with a glass of wine. The mixology class, on the other hand, is a demonstration, hosted by the resort’s lead bartender Eylincita Lopez or one of her proteges Marvin Alberto Porras Mora. During this session, you learn about the resort’s cocktail program, favourite ingredients and techniques, and of course, get to try the drinks.
Peninsula Papagayo is also a great place for a wide range of eco-adventures. Most of the experiences, when hosted by the hotel, support ecological and cultural sustainability efforts. Outside the resort, you can explore many activities from surfing and snorkeling to scuba diving, mountain biking, and paddling through mangroves. The hotel does have two private tour boats so all of these adventures can be arranged safely on-site.
Not too far is Santa Rosa National Park and Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) UNESCO World Heritage site. AGC is a single, uninterrupted biogeographic block of protected wildlife area covering 350,000+ acres of land and sea. Here you will be able to see an impressive selection of plant life, vertebrates, birds, and exquisite butterflies.
Inside the Suite
The hotel currently contains 85 suites but they are expanding and new suits will be added as soon as 2023. Each suit is equipped with a comfortable bed, spa-like bathroom, a balcony, or a terrace with a hammock. The decor is accented by natural wood elements and local artwork. Each suite has a large print of a mangrove tree close up and not one is the same. In addition, the basics like a TV, mini-fridge, safe, iron and hair drier, etc are also all available.
Given its location, most of the rooms look out into the garden, and a few face the pool. But there are two suits that have a partial ocean view: Canopy Grand and El Mangle Suite. El Mangle Suite, spread over 1,668 square feet of land, is the Presidential Suite. In addition to all the standard amenities, this room also has a separate dining area, full kitchen, private chef station, and a private plunge pool with a sun deck. The deck leads directly to the beach, which is where the partial ocean view comes in.
Inside the Bark Suite
The standard room is called the Bark Suit. It is a lovely room with a separate King bedroom, open living room space, and a hammock terrace. The terrace window, shaded only by a screen protector, is meant to blur the boundary between your living space and nature. On arrival, all guests are greeted with a welcome basket packed with a few tasty goodies to kickstart your vacation.
Inside the Habitat Superior suite
I had the pleasure of staying in the Habitat Superior suite. This is a 1-bedroom King unit with a completely separate living space, and a private terrace. There are many features in this room that made the stay extra special. In terms of spaces, there is a well-sized walk-in closet, a working desk, a spacious bathroom, and a large two-person shower. The bedroom doors open onto the balcony but you can also access it from the shower, which I absolutely loved (here’s a quick video). My room was on the ground floor completely surrounded by a lush garden (video here). On the terrace are two spacious chairs, a coffee table, and a hanging egg-shaped hammock. I could spend hours out here, reading, listening to music, or simply looking out into nature.
The windows in all rooms are large creating a very nature-forward atmosphere. The cool air inside competes with the tropical humidity, drops of condensed air blurring out the windows. Waking up and immediately seeing nature through these windows is a truly fantastic way to start the day.
Dining & Entertainment
Both restaurants offer authentic Costa Rican cuisine skillfully crafted by executive Chef Isaac Madrigal. Each dish is built from local, seasonal ingredients with incredible attention to detail. Even the plates at Matiss are made by a local artist, Pez Cocinado. At Makoko the guests are taken on a flavour journey from contemporary Costa Rican to international cuisine. At Matiss you will be able to indulge in stunning, art-like seafood dishes. From mouthwatering ceviches and expertly grilled octopus to short ribs or salty patacones for breakfast, you will not want to skip a meal.
As a part of the expansion, El Mangroove is getting ready to open a new complex on the property which will include a third restaurant and a second-floor private event space. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting Chef Madrigal’s new menu creations, some of which are now on the menu at Mokoko while others are concepts for the new restaurant. All of the dishes, despite being still in the tasting phase, were absolutely delicious and I cannot wait to see what will be on the new menu.
El Mangroove offers a steady stream of programming shared with its umbrella organization Enjoy Group. Throughout the week there is live music, DJ-led ambient pool days, and occasionally very special tasting experiences.
An all-inclusive plan is available, learn more about it here.
During my short stay, I made sure to try at least one cocktail per meal, and then of course there was the mixology class. The world of mixology is fairly new to Costa Rica but is one that is thriving. Only a few hotels have a mixology program so being a part of Enjoy Group really gives El Mangroove an upper hand. The restaurant properties have annual bartending competitions and each location encourages experimentation. The menu at the resort is driven by local, seasonal ingredients and every bartender has an opportunity to add something to the menu.
Wellness & Fitness
Tucked away opposite the beach are The Bearth Spa and The Wyl Gym. I have already at length talked about the spa in this story so let’s pivot to the gym.
The Wyl Gym is opened 24 hours and while it is quite small it is well equipped. The space, like most suites, looks out into the garden. At the forefront of it is a wooden yoga platform ready to accommodate 3-4 people. I had this space all to myself for a peaceful yoga practice. Silently flowing in the garden you become one with nature. By the end of my hour-long Nike training session, all of the little crabs came out of their hiding spaces allowing me to finally see what they look like up close.
The gym is also scheduled for renovation in the upcoming months, mostly to just make the entire thing larger. One of the current gym offerings is private and group yoga classes which at this time take place in the new building on the open events floor. I wasn’t always into yoga but in time it became an important practice for my overall body health so seeing that option at a hotel is always nice. I joined a small group of travelers for an early morning yoga session with guest instructor Manuel Guevara. It was a lovely flow session tailored to our group. Experiencing a natural environment through a meditative activity creates a new appreciation of the space so even if you are not into yoga, I would recommend giving it a go just to see the location through a new lens. And treat your travel-traumatized muscles of course.
Suitability is always in consideration, from menu builds to room services and overall development. But here, you are invited to participate by planning a tree. Working in collaboration with El Toledo farm El Mangroove Costa Rica invites its guest to help reforest the tropical forest by planting a tree. The program is called Leave Your LEAVES and it is a very spiritual experience, guided by hotel staff, and of course, accompanied by a refreshing cocktail. You get to name your tree and watch it grow virtually. So far, 150 trees have been planted.
El Mangroove, Autograph Collection
Rooms starting at $264 USD/night for Bark King Suite, resort view
Gulf Of Papagayo, Guanacaste Province, Guanacaste, 50503, Costa Rica
You can combine your stay at El Mangroove with a stay at Punta Islita to maximize the range of your experience.
Book directly at elmangroove.net, via marriot.com or your favourite booking site for extra perks: booking.com* / Expedia*/ Hotels.com* / TripAdvisor *
You will be flying to Costa Rica’s Liberia International Airport (LIB) and then can either get a taxi or arrange transport with the hotel ahead of time. There are direct flight options for LIB (WestJet, AirCanada) on certain days but many of them have a stopover. Prices fluctuate quite a lot from as low as $450 return to $1,200 for the same fair. You can check what your date options are with CheapOair*.
A quick parting note: I would love to thank Iris Marchena and Arthur Viot for being such wonderful and gracious hosts ❤️
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR and Fuji XF 23mm f/2 R WR lenses plus DJI* Mavic Mini drone. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xocostarica22.