We had a wonderful time in such a charming accommodations. Everything was sparkling clean. Nita and her husband were wonderful as was caretaker Michael. Michael took us on a night hike through the forest and we had the treat of being accompanied by a very sweet dog and cat. We had a genuine Costa Rica experience and we felt very safe and did not want to leave.
We travelled as a couple at the beginning of November 2018.
First the positives:
1) Although Encantada is in a very remote location, Nita's directions were faultless and we found it without any problems, but do heed her warning to use common sense and don't rely solely on your GPS.
2) Encantada is clearly aimed at families with young children and lots of toys, games and videos are available for use.
3) The kitchen is fully equipped with everything you might need for self-catering accommodation.
4) Both Nita and Marty shared their local knowledge and when we wanted to dine out (and didn't want to drive in the dark on the dodgy cow path) Marty persuaded a taxi driver to pick us up and bring us back; very helpful.
5) The views are lovely (although to be honest, Costa Rica is chock full of beautiful views).
Now the negatives:
A) You cannot get to Encantada without a 4X4 because it is located at the top of a steep hill with, at one point, a steep, sheer drop on one side and the roads are phenomenally bad, although that’s not unusual for Cost Rica. For the same reason taxis are apparently reluctant to come up there.
B) When I was making the booking I was confused about the fact that there was a one bed house or a 2 bed house to let. It turns out to be the same house but if you pay for one bedroom the other bedroom is locked. I was concerned that we would potentially be sharing with total strangers but Nita assured me that she never rents the place to 2 different sets of people. When we got there I had cause to doubt that; the bedrooms were numbered (why) and there was a notice in the bathroom asking guests to show consideration for other guests by clearing up after themselves. Surely you wouldn’t do this unless strangers were sharing the bathroom. The room that we had booked was small but somehow they had packed a (small) double bed and a pair of bunk beds in there. The double bed was against the wall so one of us would have had to climb over the other if we wanted to use the bathroom in the night. There was very little space for clothes storage (just a short plastic hanging rail and tiny chest of drawers; see photos) and no place to store our luggage. How on earth 4 people could sleep in that room, even if 2 of them were children, is beyond me. Surely they would all suffocate in such a tiny space.
C) Nita said that the other room was bigger and we could have it for an extra $10 per night. We (reluctantly) agreed, whereupon she asked us to move our luggage from the smaller room. I asked whether we could leave our luggage in there but the response was a very definite "No" unless we paid for that room also. I have to ask myself why, given that we were only 2 people and clearly weren't trying to sneak in extra people to use the small room without paying. The fact is that the smaller room wasn't being used so they wouldn't be losing any revenue.
D) Even the bigger bedroom didn't have a proper wardrobe for hanging clothes although it did have a chest of drawers and another cheap plastic hanging rail. Even though it was a bigger room, there still wasn't room for our luggage which we had to leave in the living area.
E) The bed was far too soft and probably ancient since it dipped on both sides. Having spent a hot, sweaty and fairly sleepless night on it, I removed the sheets the next day to discover a mattress cover that had a plastic backing. Understandable (but not acceptable) if you think your guests are incontinent but terribly uncomfortable. I removed it and slept (a bit) better thereafter.
F) There is only one bathroom which was fine for us, but if you are a family of 6 (which this place purports to accommodate) you may find it a bit of a challenge.
G) There is a small dining table with 4 chairs and a breakfast bar with 2 tall chairs so it wouldn’t be possible for a family of 6 to eat together at the same table.
H) If you are thinking of booking Encantada you need to be aware that a charge of $35 is added to your bill for cleaning. This didn’t happen in any other rental property that we booked. So, I wouldn't worry too much about leaving the place spotless which is what I would normally have done.
I) The hot water is temperamental. There are signs to tell you that to access the hot water you need to turn the left hand tap in the bathroom sink to its maximum. This applies not only to the bathroom sink but also to the shower and to the kitchen sink; all are controlled by this single tap. At first this sounded like a charming quirk but by day 2 it had become a major irritant. Even then, the water in the shower was not reliable. Sometimes it was scaldingly hot and then it would suddenly run cold. A few moments later it would be hot again. If you are a family with very young children you need to monitor it so they don't scald themselves (they need to install a pressure regulator or something similar in the shower).
J) Although the kitchen is well-equipped, most of the equipment is very old. We didn't use the microwave oven but it looked ancient. The biggest problem was the fridge/freezer. The freezer in particular didn't work properly. We tried to make ice, which we did, but then it thawed without warning. We told Nita and she said that a previous guest had told her the freezer wasn't working properly. Well, things happen and sometimes they break down. But why hadn't anything be done about it? I don't know when that guest complained about the freezer but it clearly wasn't immediately before we arrived; the place had a slightly deserted air about it. In any event, it's inexcusable to leave something like that unattended to. After 4 days at Encantada my husband, who has an engineering background, worked out that the freezer goes through regular cycles; freeze, defrost, freeze, defrost, freeze defrost....... Luckily we had put only ice and bread into the freezer. If we had put meat into it and it had frozen and defrosted without our realising it, we could have made ourselves very ill.
K) There was no glassware, only plastic glasses. I appreciate that the house is aimed at families so having some plastic vessels isn’t surprising but to provide absolutely no real glass for the adults is not acceptable.
L) The sofa and chairs were desperately uncomfortable. They are an iron frame with cushions on top. Unfortunately the iron frame easily makes it presence felt through the cushions and dug painfully into the backs of our legs.
M) On our penultimate day I dropped something that rolled under the bed and when I bent down to retrieve it I discovered thick cobwebs underneath the bed (see photo). Ughh! When I asked Nita whether she was going to refund a portion of the $35 cleaning fee she said "are you serious?" I could have responded with the same words to her demand for an extra $10 per night for moving to the larger room, or to her refusing to allow us to keep our luggage in the other bedroom (which she locked). To be fair, she did later leave us $20.
N) On our last night we decided to make cocktails. The base of the blender was filthy (see photo).
O) Although there is a hot tub we didn’t use it; it’s located up the hill right next door to Nita and Marty’s house and right outside their window, so our planned romantic dip with a bottle of bubbly would have been rather public.
Under the "not under their control" heading; there are frequent power cuts which are apparently caused by heavy rain. Whilst we were there they didn't last long. Nita told us (and it's included in the literature) they will turn on the independent generator if the power is out between 6pm and 9pm. It seems that, outside of those hours, you will just have to do without. To be fair, in Costa Rica most people eat dinner early so I guess the 6-9 thing is to allow you power whilst cooking dinner, but what if you want to watch a movie outside of these times? Or if you have been out all day and want to cook a late supper?
In conclusion, it seemed to us that the aim of the owners of Encantada was to wring out of their guests as much money as possible whilst spending as little as possible on maintaining the house. Of course they are in business to make money; they're not a charity. But unlike most other places we stayed at in Costa Rica, they didn't seem to enjoy what they do or to take pride in it. Some of the places we stayed at cost slightly more than Encantada (although not a great amount more) but the product they offered was so superior as to be in a completely different league (check out Geckoes Lodge near Puerto Viejo to see what you can get for not a lot more money).
The bunk beds in the small bedroom resulted in a ridiculously overcrowded and claustrophobic atmosphere. If you don't mind that and if you have small children, it might be OK for you, but most guest houses wouldn't even consider cramming so many people into such a small space. Really, the bunk beds should be removed and this house marketed as a 2 bed house sleeping 4.
FINALLY, IN ANSWER TO NITA'S RESPONSE TO MY REVIEW IN THE OTHER LISTING: I didn't mention that we never felt very private in the house; we suspected that you had entered the premises when we weren't there. Your statement that our belongings were strewn all over the house supports that suspicion. In any event, if our belongings were strewn all over the house it supports my contention that there was not enough storage space and in any case, what has that to do with you? And even you know that to say that we kept the house locked up tight, even when we were there, is an absolute lie; we kept on leaving the windows open and you kept closing them when we went out, even though you had said that it was safe during the day! Even if we had been locked up tight, how would you have known if you hadn't been snooping around? I'm not sure how you can say you are rarely on the side of the house where the hot tub is located; on one occasion you said you didn't answer the phone because you were IN the hot tub.
If you thought from the moment I first booked the house that my experience would be negative, why on earth did you rent to us? Indeed, when I expressed confusion about how the thing worked and said that I would cancel the booking, you entered into an email exchange with me that seemed designed to persuade me to rent it.
My first review gave you 2 stars out of 5. Your deceitful response has lost you 1 star.