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Our last resort visit in Costa Rica was to Club Mi Amor Tropical Retreat. When asked about the resort, owner Cindy says, “We’re not a resort.  We’re a bed and breakfast and beyond.”  We’re not exactly sure why Cindy doesn’t want to call it a resort.  It’s got a restaurant, hotel rooms, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, bars, tropical gardens, games and play areas.  Hmmm..sounds like a resort to us, but in keeping with Cindy’s request, we’ll call it a retreat.  Whatever you call it, we think it’s a little jewel in a tropical paradise.

The retreat is located about half way between the capital city of San Jose, and the Caribbean seaport city of Puerto Limon.  From San Jose you drive up over a mountain pass and through the Braulio Carrillo National Park to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, which features a slightly different climate and vegetation than on the Pacific side.  The road through the mountains can be tricky in rainy season, but we had no problems. Along the way we found a great little truck stop that served up Costa Rica style fried chicken and plantains, and we got three chicken dinners, an empanada, a beer, a cappuccino and a Coke for about $14.

The first thing you see when you arrive at Mi Amor is the Rio Palmas Restaurant. It’s an open air restaurant set back a hundred or so feet from the main road surrounded by palm trees, tropical foliage and a fast moving stream about ten feet wide.  The restaurant includes a small bar and towards the back, the retreat’s office. We’ll talk more about the food later.  The retreat is situated on ten acres of tropical forest intertwined by trails.  You’ll want to get out at least one day and wander through the rain forest—the sites you’ll see are almost beyond description.

The retreat itself is behind the hotel and hidden by a high white wall with arched wooden doors that looks like the entrance to an old hacienda.  We didn’t actually go in these huge doors to enter the resort, but entered by a side door.  The retreat is designed in a rectangle, with the high white wall at the front, rooms running down both sides of the inner courtyard, and an entertainment area at the back.  The inner courtyard is a tropical paradise with strange plants of every color and shape imaginable.  Cindy stroked her hand on one plant and passed it under our nose and the smell was incredible.

In addition to the fabulous plant life, the resort also abounds in wildlife (and we’re not talking about what goes in the playroom!).  You’ll find fish ponds full of tilapia, geckos galore, reclusive sloths in the trees, hummingbirds, and the Mi Amor mascot, Lulu the parrot.  If you’re lucky, she’ll sit on your shoulder and talk to you.  Perhaps most intriguing was a breed of tiny fish that seem to live in the smallest of ponds or water rivulets.  A trickle of water half an inch deep is all that’s needed.  You find that any such trickle is loaded with these little minnows.  Truly amazing.

The inner courtyard holds a pool, large Jacuzzi and deck area, along with the gardens.  To the back is the entertainment area, with playroom and bondage room off to one side, a bar, and dance area, and then another swimming pool with a small Jacuzzi in the back.  On weekends and when there’s a crowd, the music’s playing, the bar is open, people are dancing and playing in the Jacuzzi and playrooms. The retreat is clothing optional and lifestyle friendly.

The accommodations can best be described as rustic. The rooms do have air conditioning, and the room we stayed in had a nice view of the creek that runs beside the property, but don’t expect the luxury of a five star resort.  These rooms are basic—very basic.  If you need a down comforter, ten pillows, wardrobe, working desk and spa amenities, this retreat is not for you.  However, if you’re more into the experience and adventure, you’ll be okay.  Our bed was comfortable and we had a fan in addition to the air conditioner, which was all we used at night.

The food was more than adequate. In fact, it was very good.  We had a chicken dish with cream sauce that was wonderful, and excellent local fair including fried plantains and yucca.  We also had an excellent white fish with a butter garlic sauce, and discovered a local favorite sauce call Lizano Salsa.  This is Costa Rica’s answer to Worchester Sauce, and it’s great (you want to dip your fried yucca in it).  The menu has enough selections to keep anyone satisfied for a five or more day stay. We had the house wine, a Chilean white, and it was extremely good and the bar was reasonably well stocked.  The staff were accommodating and service was very good.

One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to the local village for a massage. This adventure was unique.  We drove with Cindy to a small village just up the road from the retreat.  There we entered a spa unlike any spa we’ve ever been in.  No fine marble entranceway, no expensive cream and lotions for sale, no lavish changing rooms with plush towels and fine soaps.  But what we found was even better.  We started off with a sauna.  This was a real sauna in which we entered a room heated by a fire set under a concrete vat full of just boiling water.  The vat was filled with natural herbs and plants from the tropical rain forest, and the aroma was better than anything you could have poured out of a bottle.  And this sauna was family style—we shared it with local families from the area, relaxing after a hard day’s work.

After loosening up our muscles in the sauna for half an hour, we made our way into the massage rooms. No petite Asians with happy ending here.  These were real athletic massage experts trained at the university and their massages were energetic and deep penetrating.  They seemed to know just what to press, pull and squeeze to work out the stiffness in both joints and muscles.  After the best massage of our lives, we went back to the sauna to rub off the oil and relax.  Then it was back to the retreat for one of the best sleeps we had on our trip.  We’re not going to tell you how much this experience costs, but if you visit Mi Amor and don’t go for a sauna and massage, you’re crazy.

There’s lots to do at Mi Amor. Activities include jungle tours, crocodile shows, white water rafting, plantation tours (you've got to check out the flower plantations--awesome!), volcano tours and much much more.  Best of all, Cindy is an expert on the local culture and what’s worth seeing, and what’s not and she seems to know everyone in the neighborhood.  If you’re lucky, she’ll come on some of your adventures with you.

In Costa Rica Mi Amor is known for Cindy’s superb hospitality. Weekends visitors within driving distance come in to relax, party and play.  Cindy seems to take full responsibility for making sure everyone is having a great time, and whether it’s refilling drinks, organizing bar games, urging everyone to get naked and try out the bondage room, she’s all about taking care of her customers.

If you’re going to Costa Rica, we recommend you visit Mi Amor. If you’re a nudist and just want to lay out in the sun, anytime is a good time to visit.  If you’re a swinger and looking for some action, you probably either want to go with a group, or alternatively make sure your stay includes a weekend, when locals frequent the resort.  Remember, you’re not going to get five star luxury  and you won't find the entertainment you would in a big resort, but we firmly believe you’ll receive great value for the price you pay.  Further, the experience of Cindy’s hospitality is so rare in the resort business, that we’d recommend a visit here, just for that.  Go with an open mind (isn’t that what our customers are supposed to do anyway?) and enjoy Cindy's fabulous hospitality and this little jewel in Costa Rica's tropical rain forest.

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