Nestled in the sleepy town of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, lies a beautiful and unique boutique hotel, where the jungle meets the beach – with private pool villas, an onsite restaurant and beachside food and beverage service, what’s not to love? Hotel Banana Azul is perfect for both the adrenaline junkie and the beach lover who likes to spend their days relaxing under palm trees listening to the sounds of the ocean waves crashing up on the shore.Read more: Banana Azul – Costa Rica – Hotel Review
Location and How To Get There
Hotel Banana Azul is located in the coastal town of Puerto Viejo on the southeast coast of Costa Rica, bordered by the Caribbean Sea.
If you are arriving into San Jose International Airport, it is approximately a 4-5 hour car journey away. I used Caribe Fun Tours to coordinate a private transfer from the airport which was incredibly convenient as they have a help desk situated right onsite at the hotel. You have the choice of a private transfer or a scheduled shared shuttle which has multiple “runs” a day. The shuttle is obviously much cheaper, however it will make a few stops and you may have to wait a bit until your scheduled departure time. We booked a private transfer, whereby the driver was ready to meet us as we came out of San Jose arrivals with a sign with our names on it. It meant we left straight away; and we could stop whenever we wanted for food or bathroom stops. You can also rent a car but our hotel recommended not to do this as the roads are incredibly windy and it’s very hard to drive at night if you have an afternoon or evening flight.
Another alternative to get to Puerto Viejo is to take a short flight from San Jose to Limon and then just a 45 minute car transfer to the hotel. The airline you would need to book through is Sansa Airlines. Unfortunately the flight schedule didn’t fit with our itinerary and we didn’t want to spend a night in San Jose (which is another option) as we only had a few days to explore Costa Rica.
If you are arriving from Panama, Puerto Viejo is only about an hour away from the border which makes it incredibly easy to combine a dual country adventure into your itinerary. At the end of our time in Costa Rica, we crossed the land border into Panama and used Caribe Fun Tours again to coordinate our transfer. It was just $34 per person and they made it so effortless and stress free. Our guides told us exactly what to expect, showed us where to pay the exit fee and get our passport stamped, and even assisted with moving our luggage across the border. You have to change vehicles once you cross the border but Caribe Fun Tours have it all down and are incredibly efficient. I highly recommend them if you plan on combining your trip to Costa Rica with neighbouring Panama.
If you’re interested in extending your trip down to Panama, read about my recent stay at a beautiful hotel in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, just a few hours from Puerto Viejo → read it here.
If you are arriving from another area of Costa Rica, Caribe Fun Tours (or Caribe Shuttle) should be on your list for transfers, they offer many routes throughout Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.
I was fortunate enough to stay in one of the Banana Verde villas, which are arguably the best suites on the property. They are across the street from the main hotel, and offer a huge amount of living area. The villas are completely self contained and walled in, offering ultimate privacy and seclusion. There is a private garden with lounges which transports you to a jungle paradise, along with an outdoor seating area and private plunge pool.
The villa itself is two stories, the first being the main living area and full kitchen, and half bathroom. There is a full apartment sized fridge and oven with a microwave which makes it very convenient if you plan on cooking a few of your meals, or simply making ice for drinks.
Upstairs is the large master bedroom and bathroom, with unique wide glass doors that open completely on two sides so you can really embrace the jungle experience. There is a cute seating nook on the balcony which ended up being favourite spot to enjoy a sneaky sundowner drink. The bathroom, although completely private has a tall window that looks out onto the greenery below.
One thing that must be noted here, is that because of this open air design, you must keep the bathroom door to the bedroom closed at all times to keep the mosquitoes out and allow the air conditioning unit to be more efficient.
We didn’t unfortunately get to view the interior of the other rooms but we did notice that a lot of the rooms in the main building had beautiful balconies or private pools, and I know I’d have been happy staying in any of the other rooms.
Food and Drink
Breakfast is included in your room rate and is served every morning in the hotel restaurant 7am (continental – yoghurt, granola, cereal from 6am). Coffee is also available by the beach from 5.30am. They have a delicious rotating menu, I especially enjoyed the “typical” breakfast which consisted of scrambled eggs, rice and beans, fried plantains and homemade bread.
There is a varied lunch and snacks menu which you can enjoy at the restaurant, by the pool or even at the beach. Happy hour is all day and has a rotating choice of cocktails that they select daily. Even out of happy hour, the cocktails were very good and very reasonably priced.
We ended up dining within the hotel for dinner each night and we really enjoyed every meal we had. There was a special every day or a themed night. One thing that must be noted here is that on certain theme nights you cannot order off their regular menu – this was the case for us one night when it was fajitas night – I could quite easily eat fajitas every night so I was happy with the choice of theme, however I did hear that another table was a bit disappointed that they could not eat from the standard dinner menu. It was a buffet so it was easy to make yourself a bowl of chicken and rice If you didn’t fancy tortillas.
Banana Azul sits beachfront on one of Puerto Viejo’s most beautiful beaches; it is black sand and stretches for miles and miles. There are sun loungers and palapas set up for hotel guests and during most mornings we had the beach to ourselves. You are able to order food and drinks from the beach and have them delivered to your lounger which was a very nice touch.
There is a small swimming pool in the middle of the property that is great for a refreshing dip after the days activities. It is surrounded by lounger chairs and a lily pond with many koi fish and lots of wildlife! We spent many an hour sat by the pool watching the birds frolic around the pond’s edge.
One of our favourite aspects of Banana Azul is the Super Gourmet Market just opposite the entrance to the hotel and right beside the Banana Verde villas. It had everything from fresh bread, wine and spirits, chips, and ice cream, making it an invaluable source for self catering or simply an afternoon snack or drink.
As mentioned before, the Caribe Fun Tours desk is just outside the front gate of Banana Azul, of which the staff can organise a myriad of different activities around Puerto Viejo or anywhere else in Costa Rica – from the nearby jaguar and sloth sanctuary, to ATVing and waterfall canyoning, you can do it all. This is also where you can schedule shuttle transfers (both private and shared).
Some of the activities listed that can be organised during your stay are as follows:
- Surf lessons
- ATV excursions
- Jaguar rescue centre
- White water rafting
- Turtle watching
- Hiking through the Chocolate Forest
- Massages on the beach
- Cooking classes
- Horseback riding
- Snorkelling and boat excursions
Our check in process was easy and efficient, we were offered delicious fresh coconut drinks before being showed to our room and explained all the features of the hotel. Breakfast and dinner service was pleasant; sometimes the wait staff were a little less attentive but nothing to write home about.
However the service we experienced during the day around the pool and beach was the only aspect of the hotel that I was slightly let down by. It wasn’t uncommon to wait about an hour for a drink if you order while you are sat by the pool (so make sure you order your second drink as you receive your first!).
For one of our days, we chose to spend it on the beach under a little palapa. It was shaded enough that you wouldn’t get burnt to a crisp by the sun, but close enough to the waves that you could enjoy the ocean breeze – it was perfect, and we ended up spending almost the entire day out there. During our eight or so hours there we were approached by staff maybe twice, of which we made sure to order before they disappeared. Due to the lack of beach staff, we made frequent trips to the bar at the main restaurant which wasn’t too much of an issue, despite it taking a long time to receive the drinks after. We found the most efficient way to get food and drinks was to walk to the small grocery store just outside the entrance to make our own drinks and grab some chips – it was definitely faster! It was a shame because we would have ordered a lot more drinks had there been someone available and willing to make drinks in less than an hour. I don’t know if this was the norm, or it was just a day when we they were short staffed, but this is unfortunately all we have to go on during our stay at Banana Azul.
I really enjoyed my time at Hotel Banana Azul, staying in the private and secluded Banana Verde villa was definitely my highlight, the picturesque location right on the beach was unrivalled; and despite the minor inconvenience with the slow service I would 100% stay here again, and for a longer duration so I had time to fully explore all that Puerto Viejo had to offer.
You can find out more about my stay on my “Costa Rica” Highlights on Instagram @chase.the.rainbows.
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6 thoughts on “Banana Azul – Costa Rica – Hotel Review”
Jeeze!! I’m SO jealous!! This place looks absolutely beautiful! The photos are stunning too, but I bet seeming the resort in person is even better! So glad to hear you had such a good time! Maybe someday my family and I can enjoy it too! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
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This looks like a beautiful hotel to stay at. The food looks delish as well!
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This place looks amazing! I am fighting the travel bug so bad, and this makes me want to give in!
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Isn’t Costa Rica amazing?! I hope I get to try this resort sometime! It looks incredible! thanks for letting me know about it!
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What a fun trip! And all that food looked incredible!
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This seaside location and hotel sounds great. Never been to Costa Rica myself. Thanks for the interesting review. Have a great day, and feel free to check out any of my hotel reviews also