playas del coco at sunset

Costa Rica is famous for its gorgeous beaches, and during the time I’ve called the country my adoptive home, I’ve been privileged to get to visit some of the country’s best. I recently visited Playas del Coco, one of the oldest and most popular beach communities in Costa Rica. Located in the Guanacaste province, it’s not far from the Liberia airport and the Gulf of Papagayo.

playas del coco at sunset

Rancho Armadillo Estate: A Short History

During my visit to Playas del Coco I stayed at Rancho Armadillo Estate, which is just up the road from the entrance to the main boulevard through town. The Estate was build in the late 1970’s by a shipbuilder. It is named after Armadillos because the original owner was a Texan. The current owner, Rick Bogel, bought the property in the late 1990’s.

rancho armadillo shark room

A native of Detroit, Rick moved to Costa Rica in 1998 in search of a warm place to retire. Costa Rica’s literacy rate, residency laws and the fact it has no military also attracted him to the Central American nation. He drove around the country looking for somewhere to live and, though he didn’t intend to get into business, fell in love with the view at Rancho Armadillo Estate and decided to make the 25-acre property his new home and business. Today Rick is well-known around Coco, and well-loved by many guests. The Tico Times, Costa Rica’s leading English newspaper, named him The Kindest Hotel Owner in Costa Rica, and it’s not hard to see why.

Even before my visit, Rick emailed me detailed driving directions from San Jose that included his insider’s tips of things to see along the way. During my time in Playas del Coco, Rick gave me great advice on what to see and do, and where to eat.

rancho armadillo estate yellow room

A Look Inside Rancho Armadillo Estate

Today the estate offers six rooms and suites in three different buildings on the property. During my visit I stayed in the Shark Room, which boasts one of the first bathtubs in Guanacaste. My room felt a bit like a ship itself, with a hand painted port hole on the door and a wood ceiling that looks like the inside of a ship. The bathroom also has more beautiful painted glass.

Artwork abounds on the property, and many murals are the work of John English, a Vietnam veteran who moved to Costa Rica in 2000 and painted many works of art around various businesses in Coco.

rancho armadillo pool

In addition to rooms, suites and the open-air lounge, Rancho Armadillo Estate also has a commercial kitchen and pool. He has plenty of games to entertain families and an Ipod with 8,000 songs for his guest’s use. Breakfast is also included, and Rick provides a robust buffet with fresh fruit, breads, pastries and waffles. During the final morning of my stay, Rick whipped me up a waffle with his home-made batter, strawberries and chocolate chips. It was delicious!

Perhaps my favorite place on the property was the open-aired balcony, which comes complete with hammocks, rocking chairs and a library. The balcony provides a stunning view of the dry forest and ocean.

rancho armadillo ocean view

Immersed in Nature

While rooms provide all the modern comforts one needs, Rancho Armadillo Estate is made even more special by immersing guests in nature. Wildlife is abundant here. There’s 78 species of birds on property, howler and capuchin moneys, a skunk and three cats. During my breakfast one morning a cute coati, a relative of the raccoon, wandered by to say hello.

rancho armadillo estate

At night the property plays host to a wonderful scene of vast darkness, illuminated only by the bright flicker of stars. On my first evening, Rick set up his telescope, perfectly aligning it with Jupiter so that I could see the distant planet’s rings and moons. He highlighted Orion, Scorpius and other constellations with a laser pointer and gave me a quick overview of the night sky.

rancho armadillo lounge

Rick is not only kind, he’s also incredibly knowledgeable, making Rancho Armadillo Estate the perfect option for travelers looking to experience the best of Playas del Coco.

Note: Something In Her Ramblings received a complimentary stay at Rancho Armadillo Estate. However, all thoughts and opinions are the author’s own.

About the Author

Lauren Salisbury is a travel enthusiast who spent a year exploring Europe, visiting 25 countries, while based in Spain teaching English in Madrid. She also writes for Something In Her Ramblings, a travel blog aimed at female and solo travelers.