Santarena — A Design Perspective

By 14 December, 2018 No Comments
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The origin of Santarena is a vision of something special, even within a special town. 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. Santarena is seniorial, grand, and beckons forth with age old stories and tales of adventure. The goal of Santarena is not to wow with the latest and greatest without composure. Instead, the Santarena presents an experience that is consciously crafted and truly valuable.

The lobby of the hotel is the heartbeat of the place. It has 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 feel 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 Poinciana, the restaurant located on Santarena’s ground floor that blends a cosmopolitan style with a Costa Rican soul, and represents one of Las Catalinas’s crowning culinary achievements. 

The natural progression as you 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 in its essence and welcoming to the sun with its soaring windows. Here are found the patterns traditional to colonial architecture, an evolution from old traditional patterns (derived from a particularly Spanish influence) with its cool colors and warm materials, its rich woods 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. 

The bedrooms of Santarena are muted and laid back, a refreshing atmosphere to recover and relax after a lively day in town. However, open the doors up to the balcony and you will be welcomed by colorful handmade tiles resemblant of the hues and shades around town, cast in star patterns like an explosion of fireworks. These balconies are a celebration of bring in town, a little burst of color that brings together the energy of the rest of the town. 

Santarena was designed very consciously to facilitate its experience and its aesthetic. It is subtle, unnoticeable even during the flow of every day of life, but 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 atriums, 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. 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, and yet it still feels integrated into town. This close link to the surrounding area is present in every aspect of Santarena, like with its rooftop terrace from which you can see the entirety of town. The roof also has an infinity pool, drawing from traditional city stylings, to further enhance the energy of the space as one that, despite its beach location, is undeniably urban.


There is a tremendous focus on artisan elements 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 is created from individual threads handwoven with extreme care. The wood in the hotel is locally sourced and sustainably cultivated, to tie Santarena forever to the land from which it came. In this way, by drawing from the material and inspirations of the local land and artists, Santarena is built from the ground up to be a place for the gathering of ideas, the exchange of stories, and the coming together of people.


Colin Sharpe

Author Colin Sharpe

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