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Hotel Cristal Ballena Resort and Spa

A Classy Retreat in the Rustic Uvita Jungle

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


Cristal Ballena Hotel

Part of the collection of Enchanting Hotels of Costa Rica, Cristal Ballena Hotel Resort and Spa is a favorite in Costa Rica’s south central Pacific. Famous for its expansive pool and friendly staff, this Uvita hotel gets many repeat guests.

Cristal Ballena Hotel
Cristal Ballena stands apart from the rustic hotels that seem to define Costa Rica’s South Central Pacific. On a ridge overlooking Uvita’s Ballena National Park, the white hotel with Greek columns and an expansive pool, is the perfect destination for those visiting the gateway to one of the most biologically-rich places on earth.

Hotel Cristal Ballena Resort & Spa

Designed by a young architect from Austria (the hotel owners’ native country), Cristal Ballena is a fusion of a Greek-style grandeur and the cottage architecture of the Alps.

White buildings rise from an empty hilltop just south of the small town of Uvita. The grassy-landscaping is punctuated by magnificent fan-shaped palms, Heliconias and Birds of Paradise. And a stunning, gigantic, 4,300-square-foot pool seems to melt into the distant ocean.

The hotel’s 18 rooms each boast wide balconies, canopy beds and simple, yet clean furnishings. There are 15 standard rooms, two master suites and a family suite. For the adventurous, jungle lovers, two rustic cabins provide an ideal platform for bird-watching and animal spotting.

Small details here, such as welcome cocktails, fresh flowers in the rooms and the friendly smiles of the hotel staff make a night’s stay at Cristal Ballena a special experience. The only downside to staying here is that it is a drive to the area’s attractions and restaurants.

The Restaurant

Named after the Costa Rican motto “Pure Life”, the Pura Vida Pool Bar and Restaurant delights diners both with ambiance and cuisine. Set on the edge of the expansive pool, with views that stretch to the ocean and a chorus of nocturnal voices in the background, the Cristal Ballena restaurant attracts hotel guests as well as passersby.

Menu items range from a tuna medallion ($22.50), to vegetarian quesadillas ($10.50), to rice with palm hearts ($9.50), to spaghetti aglio e olio ($9.50), to a wiener schnitzel ($19) accompanied with pan-fried potatoes and cranberries hand-carried from Austria.

Desserts with names like Passion of the Saints ($6.50), Banana or Pineapple Flambé ($11.50) and Ice Cream with Tropical Fruits ($7) can also whet an appetite.

What to Do at Cristal Ballena

No visit to Cristal Ballena is complete without seeing the Ballena National Park at low tide. The park Ballena is named for the beach’s shape as a whale’s tail when the ocean level is at its lowest. When the currents part, there is a magnificent sandbar leading out to a rocky outcropping with breathtaking views looking back to the untouched coastline. Ballena Marino also happens to be a mating ground for both the North American and South American humpback populations.

Guests also use Cristal Ballena as a base for excursions to the busy Manuel Antonio National Park and the biologically-intense Corcovado National Park, for ultra light tours, for visits to the mangroves and for ATV or horseback excursions. All these tours can be booked at the front desk of Cristal Ballena.

How to Get to Cristal Ballena

Cristal Ballena can be reached by driving south on the Inter-American Highway through San Isidro de General or following the Coastal Highway through Jacó and Manuel Antonio. Both are scenic routes, but the Inter-American Highway is more mountainous and curvy.

From Dominical, drive 25 kilometers south (7 kilometers south of Uvita) where you’ll see the hotel entrance on the left. The hotel entrance is marked, but it is also next to a bus station and almost directly across from an entrance to the Marino Ballena National Park.

Rates and Reservations Rates range from $170 in the low season to $189 in the high season. The master and family suites are slightly more expensive at $229-$247 and the rustic cabins rent for $85-$89 a night. (LINK: http://www.cristal-ballena.com/cb_booking_engine/cb_en_booking1_v4a.htm) Rates include a breakfast buffet, but not the 13 percent government tax.

To make a reservation, visit Cristal Ballena online (LINK: www.cristal-ballena.com) or call 506-2786-5354 (Costa Rica) or 888-800-1923 (United States and Canada).

~Chrissie Long

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