Costa Rica

Casa Frisons, Playa Flamingo

We stayed seven nights at Casa Frisons (aka “our dope casa”). Casa Frisons is a 6,500 sq ft mansion located on a cliff with nearly 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Playa Flamingo. It is the most fabulous house I’ve ever stayed in and you can read more information about the property here or watch this fab video.

The property can be seen from Playa Flamingo and it’s the type of property that makes you wonder, “Who gets to sleep there?”

Us, that’s who.

Below is the reverse view of the above photo.

The gate

Casa Frisons is a gated property and there is a “security guard” who lives on the property in a tiny one-room house at the base of the driveway. The security guard can control the security gate and this gate can also be controlled via several keypads (with video screens) in various rooms in the house. One of these keypads is located in the master bedroom.

Protip: If you happen to be the lucky person or couple staying in the master bedroom and you have early-waking guests, it is highly advised that you arm them with the gate/garage door opener so that they can let themselves into the property without having to ring the bell, say after their 530am run.

The driveway

The driveway of Casa Frisons is very steep. We rented a Hyundai Accent (manual transmission) and I was unable to drive it up the driveway from a stopped position at the base of the driveway. It just did not have enough power (and it was loaded down with beer and liquor). I’d get about halfway up the driveway and the tires would begin to spin and squeal and the car would come to a complete stop. I’d have to let it roll back to the base of the driveway and try again.

The one and only time I was successful driving up the driveway was when I took a “running start” from the road which was very dangerous because of the tight turn from the road to narrow driveway.

Below is a photo of our shuttle backing down the driveway on our way to the airport; we fit 12 people + the driver in that tiny shuttle.

Protip: Park in the garage which is located just past the driveway. There are steps from inside the garage to the front door so it is accessible without having to open/close the driveway gate and/or garage door.

The bedrooms

There are six bedrooms on the property and eight bathrooms which qualifies it as a mansion by the very loose mansion definition that the property must have more bathrooms than bedrooms. There are five bedrooms in the main house and one villa perched into the side of the cliff accessible from a flight of stairs off of the lower garden.

The villa is 100 percent secluded and cannot be seen from the main house or property.

One of our requirements set at the beginning of the property search was that all bedrooms must be en suite. For a trip of this nature, we (Jessi and I, the organizers) did not want:

  • Anyone to have to exit their room to use the loo
  • Two couples to share a bathroom
  • Any couple to have a bathroom that doubles as a “public” bathroom, say off the main living area

This en suite requirement narrowed the list of potential rental properties significantly and by significantly, I mean that Casa Frisons was the only property we found that met this requirement and was within our price range. As a bonus, the property had been fully remodeled in 2016 and was modern in design. When Jessi sent me the link to the property, I responded, “That’s it! It’s the one!”

The layout of the property made all bedrooms feel remarkably private, even the bedroom located off of the living room/pool. This bedroom is the least private bedroom in the house but the door to the bedroom was recessed several feet from the living room so you would not know there was a bedroom there unless you knew it was there.

Let’s talk actual beds for a minute, you know, the rectangular thing you sleep on, also known as a mattress. The mattresses in Casa Frisons are the second firmest (the firmest was at Hotel NH Barcelona Ramblas) mattress I have ever “slept” on and I’ve laid on countless firm mattresses in my five years traveling Europe. I’m even partial to a firm mattress but OH MY GOD was the mattress firm.

There was absolutely no give to the mattress. Laying on my side was impossible because my hip bone felt like it was pressed against a concrete floor. Almost everyone commented on the firmness with one couple comparing it to sleeping on a futon. The mattresses are this property’s biggest downfall, no question. Everyone wants a good nights’ sleep and I feel the firm mattresses prevent this for the majority of guests.

The bathrooms

As stated previously, there are eight bathrooms on the property, one in each of the bedrooms, one off of the living room and one off the pool/deck. The bathroom off the pool deck was a genius design decision because it keeps water off the polished concrete floors inside the house.

Protip: Check the hand towel for scorpions in the pool bathroom before using it or just remove the hand towel altogether.

The tap water in the house is heated by solar power and many in our crew mentioned that they did not have hot water the day we arrived, however, Peter and I did not experience this nor did anyone mention a lack of hot water for the remainder of our trip.

Fun fact: In 2016, Costa Rica ran entirely on renewable energy and it was the second year in a row that the country powered itself on 100% renewables for more than two-thirds of a calendar year. More on this achievement can be learned here.

The kitchen

Though understated for the size of the property, the kitchen has everything you need and more. I’ve stayed in several rental properties and most have stated to be “fully stocked” but fall short. Casa Frisons is truly fully stocked, as in I did not need to use the cocktail shaker and spatula I brought, just in case (I can’t count the number of times I’ve made fried eggs using one or more of the following: forks, butter knives, wooden spoons, and mixing spatulas.

There are more kitchen gadgets in Casa Frisons than in my own home. You name it, it has it. Kitchen Aid mixer, blender, coffee maker, electric juicer, toaster, kettle, rice cooker, Nespresso machine, etc. It was also fully equipped with dishes, serving pieces, wine glasses, drinking glasses, plastic cups for the pool, shot glasses, espresso glasses, coffee cups, flatware, etc. There were literally hundreds of dishes in the house.

Protip: The tap water in the house is filtered and is safe to drink. I believe 10 of our group of 12 drank tap water exclusively and no one got sick – don’t waste your money on bottled water.

The dishes are there to serve a small army at this magnificent dining table made out of a single piece of wood.

There is also a large pantry down the hallway behind the kitchen. It has a second full side-by-side fridge, a 28-bottle (?) wine fridge, three Igloo coolers of various sizes, shelves for dry food storage, and too many recycling bins to count.

Protip: The medium-sized supermarket in Playa Flamingo, “Super Maasai,” has everything you need and more. I was thoroughly impressed with the liquor selection – everything from Tito’s Vodka ($40 for 1 liter) to Bailey’s to Maker’s Mark to local and regional liquors. Though it’s got all the necessary liquors, swing by Duty Free in the airport for better prices.

Protip: The wine selection was also impressive but we quickly found that a palatable bottle of wine is priced at $25+/bottle. I found the $25 bottles to be meh and we dumped at least two $10 bottles because they were, literally, undrinkable. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I’d bring my own wine in these bottles bags I purchased (and used to bring flavored vodka instead).

Protip: Prior guests typically leave their unused dry food such as sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc. I saw no less than 10 bottles of nearly-full olive oil, so check the cupboards in the the house before heading to the grocery store.

The air conditioning

Every bedroom is equipped with an individual air conditioner (aka “mini-split”) and they do a good job keeping the room cool (we have these in our home in Seattle). Peter and I stayed in the master bedroom which is the entire top floor of the house and our air con unit kept the room cool even though it had windows on three sides of the room and was the top floor in the house.

Unfortunately, the main living space (kitchen, dining room, living room) do not have air conditioning and there is almost no breeze flowing through during the day and there is zero breeze flowing through in the evening.

Dinner was often unbearably hot and on the fourth day, we contacted the concierge and requested two large floor fans to help cool the room.

The lack of air conditioning in the main living area is the second biggest downfall to this property.

The chef

I was the most vocal about hiring a chef for our stay. I undoubtedly angered a few people along the way as I was determined to turn our vacation into a high-end all-inclusive property.

After several discussions, we agreed to hire AlKa Services as recommended by Casa Frisons concierge. “AlKa” is the first two letters of the owner’s name, Kattya, and her husband’s name, Alonso, mashed together. In total, they provided us with six dinners (one more than originally planned) and five brekkies.

AlKa is a team of four people: Kattya (chef), Ronny (chef), Alonso (extra helping hand/photographer), and Kattya’s son, Luis (bartender). Due to the size of the team, we were able to customize their services, for example, we chose to skip desserts with dinner in lieu of appetizers delivered poolside around 4pm on our scheduled dinner days. The appetizers were crucial to our survival as we spent our days day drinking in the pool. That pool though…

I was (I think) the only one pushing for breakfast services from the chef and, if I had the opportunity to do it again, I’d opt for a light continental breakfast versus a plated breakfast. The one big downside with plated meals is that everyone must eat at the same time and it became readily apparent early on that our wakey-wakey times were vastly different. (Why do people get up at 530am on vacation? I do not understand.)

Another downside is that we all were served the same meal. I remember poached eggs (gross!) were served on our last day so my meal went to waste.

Our group had five planned, plated dinners. Fish entree nights came with an alternative of chicken but other than those nights, we were served the same entree. As a group, we took a very laid back approach – whatever the chef proposed, we agreed to. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I’d (and I’d ask other to) be more involved with the food decisions to give more variety and tailor the meals more to our taste and desires.

Our sixth dinner was a last minute decision on our last full day in Costa Rica. We had dinner reservations at a local restaurant but the mood of the group in the pool that day was to chill and relax and do as little as possible. Showering and walking downhill to the restaurant were just too much work.

Here’s a glimpse of what almost every day looked like… we were so fucking lazy and it was great.

Zero muscles in the body are being used in this photo.

So, ’round 2pm, we had a group vote and the group voted to contact the chef to see if she was available to help us out that evening. Kattya said she’d send Ronny and Luis over to take care of us and Ronny cooked up the most amazing family style taco dinner I’ve ever had. I’m not a betting girl but if I were to bet on the group’s favorite dinner of the week, it would be taco night.

Finally, Luis, the bartender, came into our lives around day four. Kattya asked if we’d like his services and we said, “YES, PLEASE. A BARTENDER SOUNDS AMAZING”. And Luis showed up on day four and gave us a helping hand with drinks every day for the remainder of the trip.

My personal review of the food was that it was average with some entrees tasting better (steak) than others (cordon bleu). For the price we paid ($20/person + food cost for dinner and $10/person + food cost for brekkie), the chef was worth the money. Kattya and her team are so wonderful and will bend over backwards to make their guests happy.

If you are thinking of hiring Kattya, the big question is what to expect with the food cost. We found that food cost ranged from 85-100% of the service fee. As an example, the service fee for dinner was $20/person so the food cost per person is $17-20.

Protip: Supermarkets charge at resident and tourist prices with the tourist rates being the prices posted on shelves. Kattya is more than happy to take your shopping list and provision the house for you on her next visit.

The pool

The pool is where you will spend your days when not on excursions. It’s larger than it looks in photos and the corner spot below the umbrella and near the upper garden/scorpion stairs is the preferred spot in the pool because you have the two pool edges to rest your arms when they get too tired from holding your drink and it is shaded from the blazing sun.

There’s a mini fridge and speaker system on the pool deck. We hooked both iPhones and Macbook Airs up to the provided cables. It’s not the best sound system in the world and one of the speakers is blown but it was better than no sound system.

The living room

Speaking of sound systems, there is a Sonos Play:5 in the living room and it is the most magical sound system your ears will have come in contact with in this century. It is so magical that Peter and I returned from Costa Rica and bought a Play:5 and I just placed an order for two Sonos One speakers for our bedrooms. The days of corded stereo systems are long gone.

When I purchased our Play:5, I chose the “up&running” service only because the speaker could be delivered 14 hours after placing my order whereas normal shipping required a time slot the following day when I was not going to be home. A nice dude named Jacob showed up at our house with the speaker and set it all up for us at no extra charge! Sonos. It’s where it is at.

Protip: Download the Sonos app prior to arriving at the house so that you are all set to go through the few steps to get it setup and blasting your favorite playlist or online music station. We hooked up iPhones and synced my iTunes library to the system.

The car

We rented a Hyundai Accent through Adobe rental car. Adobe rental car and Blue Water Properties (the company that manages Casa Frisons) are located in the same office building and one could say are in cahoots with one another. Their pricing (“real estate rate”) was extremely straightforward with no hidden fees. The world wide web contains many blog posts and articles about shading car rental pricing and fake fees but we did not experience this and it is because we went with a company that was in cahoots with our property.

We paid $290 for our Hyundai accent for six days. This price is less than listed on their pricing sheet below.

“AT” stands for automatic transmission.

If I had the opportunity to do it again, I think we would rent an off-road golf cart. It’s a golf cart with off-road tires and a larger engine. The golf carts can seat up to 4 people or you can put the back seat bench down to serve as shelf to haul stuff. We’d use the coolers in the house to transport cold items like ice from the supermarket back to the house. A smaller vehicle like a golf cart would have been easier to get around Playa Flamingo to run daily errands.

The massages

We booked massages through the concierge with a company called Lavender Spa. Their prices were extremely reasonable and they were willing to come to the house for a small fee so the stars aligned so we booked and the massages were carried out over the course of two days.

They setup their massage tables on the yoga deck which looked pretty magical. Everyone commented on how the therapists “really worked their muscles” and, I believe, all were happy with their massages.

The security

I have mixed feelings about the security of the property. It is large property and the front door is on the opposite side of the house (and down one level) from the pool where we spent most of our time. People could enter and leave the house without us ever knowing. Sure, they would have to get through the “security guard” but I feel the security guard made the house less secure.

Not only did he allow unknown people and his friends onto the property but I found him in the main house one day for no known reason – perhaps this is when the bottle of Baileys went missing. Peter and I strongly believe the security guard stole a pair of Peter’s board shorts. We have never fallen victim of theft in any hotel or rental property in all our years of travel so we do not make that accusation lightly.

Side note: It is my understanding that the security guard on duty during our stay was let go after our stay.

There are three safes in the main house, one on each level (master bedroom, bedroom off of the living room and basement bedroom). There are no English directions for the safes and they are not your typical “close the door, enter a 4-digit code, press #” type of safe. They required both a code and a key and the problem was that they were all in the locked position; without the code set by the prior guests, we could not get into the safes.

The concierge was exceptional before, during and after our stay except for Safe Gate. It took two calls over two days to get someone out to the property to unlock the safes and the solution to this problem was to give us a set of master keys for all three safes.

For nearly three days, we had nowhere to secure our valuables which included thousands of dollars in cash. Most of us hid our valuables throughout the house or brought the valuables to the pool with us. It was not ideal and no one had a good feeling about having to hide their valuables.

Housekeeping also struck me as untrustworthy but I cannot pinpoint why I felt this way. They were at the property for about four hours everyday except for Sunday. They did a top to bottom clean, including scrubbing all 6,500 sq ft of flooring. They did an amazing job of cleaning the house but something was “off” to me.

The property management company, Blue Water Properties, was made aware of the security concerns above as well as the instances of theft and took immediate action. My account above and our collective experience should not deter you from booking this property or booking with Blue Water Properties. I speak for all when I say we would all book properties with Blue Water Properties again in a second.

The private beach

This property comes with a private sand beach accessible via a short maintained trail and 97 very steep stairs. I used the stairs as my gym on two occasions. Kudos to whomever built the staircase leading to the beach.

A few more photos of the private beach because I’ve never stayed in a property with a private beach before.

Our other gym was the steel beam on the porch where we consumed pre and post dinner drinks. One night we had a pull-up contest. Pulls-ups are hard.

The crew

In total, there were 12 of us all raised differently.  The girls connected the crew. Five of the six girls were randomly chosen to live on the same floor in the dorms freshmen year of university in 1996. Three of the six husbands were met at university and the other three were met post-university and three of the 12 worked for the same company post-university. It’s interesting to me where life has taken us and how our crew of 12 was molded over 21 years.

Below are a few family photos of the 40th Birthday Year Crew.

The sunset

Finally, the sunset. It’s spectacular.

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