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J.W. Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa, Playa Tamarindo, Nicoya Peninsula 

Playa Tamarindo , Guanacaste
Costa Rica
Tel: 888 236 2427 (toll-free)
Tel: 506 2681 2000
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From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:
This 310-room oceanfront resort on the Nicoya Peninsula is on the edge of the 4,500-acre Hacienda Pinilla, a working ranch being developed into an exclusive residential community, and is surrounded by dry scrub forest, riding stables, an 18-hole golf course, and, happily, more howler monkeys than permanent residents. Its design evokes a comfortable Spanish hacienda, complete with friendly local staff. Basalt and off-white-stucco construction blends with the ranch surroundings, and sunny, hammock-lined courtyards bordered by breezy outdoor passageways divide this otherwise large hotel into intimate spaces. Guest rooms, which feature local artwork and earth-toned textiles, suffer from a somewhat indistinct—and slightly cramped—feel; private balconies afford extra space, however, with most views dominated by the sinuous pool (piped-in pop music can disrupt the otherwise serene atmosphere). The resort caters perfectly to those seeking active relaxation in a contained resort complex. Serving up delicately flavored seafood, the Azul poolside grill, one of the resort's four superb restaurants, is a welcome oasis, and tiny but pristine Mansita Beach lies just beyond the tables.—2009 Hot List

When to go: December through April is the drier high season.

Which room to book: Oceanfront rooms in Building J are directly on the beach. Upper floors provide added privacy.

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