The Santarena Design Perspective

06 March, 2019

The origin of Santarena Hotel is a vision of something special, even within the walkable beach town of Las Catalinas. In many ways, the hotel feels like the “living room of town,” where guests feel welcomed like they want to be there. 

Santarena has a noble spirit, that of an old soul in the heart of our beach town. Think old sports cars with a surfboard in the back, filled with a pair equally at home during a day at the beach as at a state dinner. It is seniorial, grand, and beckons forth with age-old stories and tales of adventure. 

The goal of this hotel is not to wow with the latest and greatest without composure. Instead, Santarena presents an experience that is consciously crafted and truly valuable.


This hotel in Costa Rica stands at the meeting point of three town roads in the pedestrian friendly town of Las Catalinas, in the Guanacaste region, an open gathering place surrounded by plazas and lively thoroughfares. 

Take, for example, Plaza Danta, the grand brick courtyard at the beachfront center in downtown. Standing at the end of Paseo Del Mar, next to old town staples like Pura Vida Ride bike and outdoor shop and the Limonda Restaurant just a short walk away from the beach, this plaza is a welcoming town center in which the people interact and connect.

The area is lively and full in the daytime, shaded thanks to the plaza's Almendro trees as the people in town enter from the beach, depart on hiking or mountain biking expeditions, or set out for a day diving trip at the Catalinas Islands. The evening brings with it a beautiful atmosphere, with the sunset sifting through the beach foliage and the palette of blues and whites coming alive in the vibrant afternoon light.

Santarena features open places for people to gather

Meet Andrina Fonseca, one of the designers behind Las Catalinas

From walking through the pedestrian streets of Calle Danta or Calle La Ronda, the visitor moves seamlessly into the lobby of the hotel, a transition aided by the hotel's casual integration into the structures of the neighborhood from which it draws its life. The lobby is the heartbeat of the place, with the familiar feel of a city hotel transplanted to the beach.

Like an old library, it is cozy and steady, but not stuffy. All around, natural textures speak to the feeling that this place is aged, like an old town, with fixtures that combine industrial and elegance in a unique balance. The lobby also changes between day and night, evolving from a daytime space where flip flops and swimsuits are welcome into an evening space where elegance and style naturally come to life

The lobby is heavily integrated into Ponciana, the restaurant located on Santarena's first floor that blends a cosmopolitan style with a Costa Rican soul and represents one of Las Catalinas's crowning culinary achievements.

The Atrium is showered in greenery and life

The natural progression, once guests arrive and enter Santarena, is through the Atrium, which is showered in greenery and life. It's a place that feels outdoors and indoors at the same time, tropical and welcoming to the sun with its soaring windows. Here are found the patterns traditional to Costa Rican architecture, an evolution from old colonial traditional (derived from a mainly Spanish influence) with its fresh colors and warm materials, its fine woodworking and its woven fibers. 

However, this is not a busy space. Vibrant patterns are more the accent than the centerpiece, and the textures are balanced to add life without distracting.

Beyond the Atrium are two dining areas. Cuatro Calle La Ronda, just past it, is an all-day bakery that offers breakfast, lunch, and snacks to go provides a gentle flow in and out either to the outdoor dining terrace or to be taken among the town. More steady in its presence is the Conservatory, open to the light and elegantly designed, an ideal space for large, enjoyable gatherings like celebratory dinners, town's Sunday Brunches, and other events.

The bedrooms of Santarena are muted and laid back

Meanwhile, the bedrooms of Santarena are muted and laid back, a refreshing atmosphere to recover and relax after a lively day in town. However, once the doors up to the balcony are open, colorful handmade tiles welcome the guests, resembling the hues and shades around town, cast in star patterns like an explosion of fireworks. These balconies are a celebration of bringing in Las Catalinas, a little burst of color that invites the town's energy in.

These balconies are a celebration of bringing in Las Catalinas

Santarena was designed very consciously to facilitate its personality and design aesthetic. It is subtle, unnoticeable even during the flow of every day of life. Still, the interested observer can track the energy of the hotel through each aspect of its design; from the explosion of happiness and stimulation upon entry, the movement to a cooler, more subtle area in the Atrium, the relaxing journey through the hallways, ultimately culminating in the sanctum of the bedroom with a little flash of color of the balcony.

Santarena's bar represents yet another energy.

Santarena's bar represents yet another energy. The area is a little darker, more intimate, and presents an opportunity for close conversation between friends, or chance meetings of interesting characters and personalities. Yet, it still feels integrated into the town. This close link to the surrounding area is present in every aspect of Santarena, like with its rooftop terrace from which you can look out across the town.

The terrace features one of the most stunning ocean views in Las Catalinas

The terrace features one of the most stunning ocean views in Las Catalinas, as it blends the privacy of the rooftop with natural sociability. It is an ideal space for a peaceful morning retreat, a splash in the rooftop infinity pool after lunch, or a signature sunset gin & tonic as the sky comes alive. The rooftop terrace draws from traditional city-hotel styling, further enhancing the energy of the space as one that, despite its beach location, is undeniably urban.

Tiles in Santarena Hotel were made using traditional techniques

There is a tremendous focus on artisan elements and handcrafted furnishings in Santarena, and many of the pieces of the hotel are handmade using traditional techniques dating back centuries. The tiles are cast in molds and poured by hand; light fixtures are made onsite; seating features individual threads handwoven with extreme care. The custom woodwork in the hotel is locally sourced and sustainably cultivated, to tie this hotel forever to the land from which it came.

A Place for People

By drawing from locally sourced materials and inspirations of local land and artists, Santarena was built from the ground up to be a place for the gathering of ideas, exchange of stories, for guests to feel comfortable and the coming together of people.

Visit the Santarena Hotel

    See related posts

    Santarena's Interior Design | An Interview With Andrina Fonseca

    The design of the Santarena Hotel underscores the entire experience within the hotel with thoughtful choice of materials, color, furnishings,...
    Read Post

    Conservation at Work | Native Costa Rican Animals in the Las Catalinas Nature Reserve

    In early July, motion-activated cameras were placed all across the 1000-acre tropical dry forest reserve at Las Catalinas, with the purpose of...
    Read Post

    CVENT Ranks Guanacaste As A Top Meeting Destination

    Cvent announced today that Guanacaste has been ranked number 11 on Cvent’s annual list of the Top 25 Meeting Destinations in Caribbean and Latin...
    Read Post