by Stephen Jermanok
Playa Herradura is one of the first beach towns you’ll reach when driving from San Jose International Airport to the Pacific Ocean shoreline. When Costa Rica’s four-lane highway (from San Jose to the coast) was unveiled in 2010, it reduced the time from the airport to the coast by more than an hour. Within a 90-minute drive, you can now be at one of the finest resorts on the coast, the five-star Los Suenos Marriott.
Just outside the town of Jaco, 15 minutes from the scarlet macaws that call Carara National Park home and less than an hour from the monkeys and sloths of Manuel Antonio National Park, Los Suenos Marriott is the ideal hub for visiting the rainforest and sea of Costa Rica. That’s if you can tear the kids away from the Marriott’s Venetian-style pool. The size of a soccer field, the pool’s narrow waterways loop under bridges and around man-made waterfalls to swim-up bars and a wider water aerobics and volleyball area. Beyond the pool area, the palms sway in the wind, leading the way to the Herradura Beach and the islands just offshore.
Play a round of golf at the resort’s La Iguana Golf Course. Indulge in a massage or facial at the Sibo Rainforest Spa, voted one of the top three spas in Central and South America by Travel & Leisure, which also called it one of the world’s best hotels for families. Perhaps you’ll try yoga on the beach, a cooking class or Spanish lessons. You can leave children ages 4 to 11 at the Tortuga Kids Club for full or half days. Just outside the property, it’s easy to find a zipline tour, deep sea fishing for tuna and marlin or a boat ride to see crocodiles. You could spend a week at the Los Suenos Marriott and never grow bored.
Our Editor Loves
- Massive pool and narrow waterways
- Pacific Ocean setting with palm trees and hammocks
- Variety of restaurants with children's menus
- Horse Back Riding
- Children Programs
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Walk into the spacious lobby and you're greeted by the inviting Spanish Colonial architecture and its mix of wood floors, custom-made ironwork and Central American antiques. All 201 rooms are housed in four-story casita-style lodging with red-tiled roofs. Rooms for families start with a standard guestroom with a garden view, and progress upward in price to include ocean views, balconies and spacious one-bedroom suites with one and a half bathrooms.
A king or two double beds are available in the guestrooms which feature varying views, a large flat-screen television, mini bar, coffee maker and decent closet space. The bathroom featured shampoos by Bath & Body Works and a large Kohler showerhead. There was also a hairdryer in the bathroom.
The one-bedroom suites have an extra room with a sleeper sofa, and an additional bathroom for the kids.
The staff are really great here. The man from the front desk, Eduardo remembered my name from a couple days ago when I checked in. The property was beautiful and the pool always was the perfect temperature. The room was clean and well appointed. I highly recommend this place for families.
Jaco can be a little too wild and woolly so Los Suenos is the perfect option - close to town but safe and civilized. We got a suite and it was a terrific room with spectacular views. The family LOVED the breakfast buffet and we had a great time.
The Tortuga Kids Club is available daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Playstation, Wii and Xbox keep older kids occupied, while younger children are led by counselors to the nearby kid's pool, beach and miniature golf course. Activities include building sand castles, puppet making, ceramic painting, creating necklaces or having playful water balloon fights.
The activities in and around the pool include daily water aerobics, pool and beach volleyball, Spanish lessons, soccer, salsa and merengue lessons, cooking classes and yoga. But don't expect loud music blaring and the entertainment staff belting out the latest activity into a microphone, often heard at all-inclusive properties. The ambience at Marriott is more subdued. The waiter service around the pool and beach is top-notch. Lie in a hammock and request a mojito as the server ambles by.
Playa Hermosa is a famous surfing beach and is only minutes away from the hotel in the town of Jaco.
Golf and Tennis
Nestled amidst the rainforest, with spectacular ocean vistas, the Ted Robinson-designed golf course is a beauty. An added bonus is the wealth of wildlife found on the course. Large lizards, including the Jesus Christ lizard, named because it walks on water, are easy to spot. You might also view scarlet macaws and monkeys, no doubt wreaking havoc on your game. Even if you don't golf, sign up for one of the daily tours of the course by golf cart. Peering below at the ocean, you might want to hit the driving range when you return home. Two lit tennis courts are also found on the property,
Carara National Park
Off-property, visiting Carara National Park is a must. Arrive when the park opens (7 a.m. in the winter, 8 a.m. in the summer) and listen for the sounds of loud squawking. Then look up to see the wondrous multi-colored scarlet macaw. Eyeing these large birds in the wild is a real treat. Just beyond Carara National Park, you reach the Tarcoles River, home to numerous crocodiles. Stop the car and walk on the bridge to have a look. Also consider going on a two-hour river tour with a recommended outfitter like Jungle Crocodile Safari.
Nearby canopy tours, aerial trams and the chance to go deep-sea fishing are also fun options for families. Just beyond the resort, Los Suenos has a fleet of deep-sea fishing boats. This being Costa Rican waters, home to more than 100 world-record catches, you could hook a giant marlin, sailfish, tuna in excess of 200 pounds, the hard-fighting roosterfish, wahoo and the big snappers inshore on any given day. The front desk was very helpful arranging canopy tours. They seemed knowledgeable about all the activities happening in the area, so definitely use them as a resource.
La Vista Restaurant
Wake up to an extravagant all-you-can-eat buffet at La Vista restaurant, featuring omelets, banana pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola pastries and the requisite morning meats like bacon and sausage. You'll also enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice and a strong cup of Costa Rican coffee. A varied of breakfast options including continental and grab and go are also available, each at different costs.
La Vista, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves a more casual dinner, with pizza, grilled steak options and salmon and tuna dishes. Try their eggnog flan for dessert.
Arrecife Pool Bar & Grill
Lunch is available at Arrecife restaurant around the pool or in the shade of the palm trees on the beach. The kid's menu offers chicken fingers, a grilled cheese sandwich, grilled chicken with vegetables, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Grilled fish and chicken sandwiches, nachos, fish tacos, pizza, quesadillas and six varieties of salads are several of the other items that might entice older children and parents.
This open-air steakhouse is open for lunch and dinner and offers a casual atmosphere.
This bar offers more than cocktails and is open for lunch and dinner. Guests will enjoy coffee tastings, taco bars, ceviche and cocktails too.
Casa Del Cafe
This grab and go coffee house is open 24 hours and features homemade pastries, gelato and sandwiches.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Waiter service was exceptional around the pool. There always seemed to be someone there with a cool glass of water or a menu. In fact, all of the staff seemed to be very professional, from the waiters at the restaurants to the counselors at Tortuga Kids Club. They seemed genuinely happy to work here, though who wouldn't want to work in paradise?
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and public spaces but Wi-Fi in the guestrooms is at a daily cost.
A spacious up-to-date fitness center that features ellipticals, treadmills, bicycles and free weights is available.
Complimentary parking is available to guests.
The Art of Smart Timing
December through April is the dry season when the surge of American traffic leads to the highest rates of the year. Don't be afraid to visit the resort in the summer months, the so-called "Green Season," due to the increase of rain. It might rain in the late afternoon, but the majority of the day is warm and sunny. Plus, the price of rooms is relatively affordable compared to the winter months.
San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport is about 90 minutes from the hotel and the Daniel Oduber QuirÃ³s International Airport is about three hours away. A GPS is always advisable in Costa Rica, due to lack of street signs at important sections.
The hotel does not provide airport shuttle service.
For Mom and Dad
The Sibo spa is a peaceful oasis with 11 treatment rooms waiting to heal your travel-weary body. Start with an outdoor Jacuzzi, and then partake in a purifying, therapeutic, deep tissue, prenatal or couples massage. Take advantage of the private outdoor patio to replenish the body with water after your heavenly experience.
At night, the resort's casino offers slot machines, Black Jack, poker, roulette and craps.