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Rancho Armadillo Estate Newsletter

August 2023





Why Staying at Rancho Armadillo is safe 

Although we are only minutes to downtown Coco, we are pretty isolated, sitting on 25 acres with tropical gardens, ocean views surrounded by jungle. We only have 6 suites, 2 suites per building with the buildings spread about the property. Our common areas are spacious and open air. Social distancing has never been easier. You have 24-hour access to our fully equipped commercial kitchen (we do the dishes) or we can do the cooking for you should you decide to stay on the property or we are only minutes to a variety of really good restaurants in Coco and the surrounding beach areas. Breakfast is included in the room rate.  




A Big Thank You To All of Our Guests

We are pleased to announce that we have been inducted into the Trip Advisor Hall of Fame, awarded for receiving the certificate of Excellence for 5 straight years. Along with the highest award from Trip Advisor, the"Travelers Choice Award" , this award is presented based on the outstanding reviews that you, our guests have submitted, this award is These awards are special because they are based on unsolicited reviews of our guests.We have been Trip Advisor's  #1 hotel for the past 11 years. Thanks to all of our former guests and new friends. Pura Vida!




Testimony of the Month

Ocean Views and Starry Skies at Rancho Armadillo Estate in Playas del Coco


The walls of the open-air lounge at Rancho Armadillo Estate are adorned with newspaper clippings with headlines that read “The Kindest Hotel Owner in Costa Rica” and “Rancho Armadillo: Like Visiting a Friend With a Really Cool House.” There are pictures of local children’s soccer teams too and hand painted gifts of thanks from school groups. This is all evidence pointing to the conclusion that the estate’s owner, Rick Vogel, is a really good guy.

It doesn’t take long into my time in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica to experience this first hand. I’m sitting in the lounge eating what is probably the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy, a thin-crust, mozzarella and mushroom pie from La Caveja, a pizzeria operated by the local Italian ex-pat community that Rick recommended upon arrival. Though morning will reveal a stunning and uninterrupted view of tropical forest cascading down to the sparkling, blue ocean, at this hour the view before me is of vast darkness, illuminated only by the bright flicker of stars.

Rick bounds up the stairs and sets up his telescope, perfectly aligning it with Jupiter so that as I look through I can see the distant planet’s rings and moons. He takes out a green laser pointer next and Orion’s belt shines brilliantly in the sky as he points out Orion, Scorpius and other constellations.

Rick points to the moon, which is a small, horizontal sliver, a Cheshire cat’s grin, not the vertical sliver I am used to seeing from California or Maryland. Rick explains that, this far south in the Northern Hemisphere the moon tilts that way. Despite spending the past year and a half living in Costa Rica, it’s something I’ve never noticed before.

This leads me to my second lesson about Rick – he’s not only kind, he is also incredibly knowledgeable, and not just about the night sky. Ask Rick about a vast number of topics – Costa Rican history, weather patterns, driving directions, road trip stops, and government – and he gives a detailed and accurate answer. Each room at his property also comes with his own personal indepth guides to the area’s best offerings, food and more.

There’s no hot air inside of Rick at all. He’s filled with pure thoughtfulness and facts.

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.

The house was built in 1979 by a ship builder. My room feels 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.In addition to rooms, suites and the open-air lounge, Rancho Armadillo Estate also has a commercial kitchen, pool and a balcony with hammocks, seating, a library and the best view in town. He has plenty of games to entertain families and an ipod with 8,000 songs for his guest’s use.

On the final morning of my stay Rick not only gives me a detailed walk through of the varied items of his breakfast buffet, but also mixes strawberries and chocolate into his home-made batter and makes me a fresh waffle.

“The view is stunning,” I say for what must be the fifth time as we look out at sea.

“That’s why I bought it,” he responds.

Wildlife is abundant here. There’s 78 species of birds on property, howler and capuchin moneys, a skunk and three cats. During my breakfast a curious coatimundi wandered by to say hello.

As I move to a table to enjoy my breakfast, a couple who is also staying here wanders into the lounge. They sit next to Rick and plot out their day. Rick hands out maps and gives them explicit driving directions and road trip tips down to the very detail that they should arrive at theLas Pumas Rescue Center at 2:30 p.m. because they feed the cats at 3.

Rick pops up to my table and hands me maps too for the drive back to San Jose. Tucked underneath is a blue folder that reads “Memories From Paradise.” It’s a picture he took of me and my Tico travel buddy Diego from the pool, printed out from his home computer.

I’m incredibly touched. This attention to detail may be common at a place like Disneyland, but, based on my own experiences this past year and a half, in Costa Rica is incredibly rare. Rick truly thinks of everything for his guests.

Lauren Salisbury, a Los Angeles based travel blogger who has ventured to 43 countries and counting. Having lived abroad in Australia, Spain and the Costa Rican rainforest, Something In Her Ramblings is my space to share stories, resources and travel tips with fellow women solo travelers.http://somethinginherramblings.com/rancho-armadillo/    




Rancho Armadillo has been included in



Adventure Hotels Of Costa Rica

Rancho Armadillo Estate is also a member of Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica a group of small and medium sized owner operated hotels located throughout Costa Rica. Although we have not been to all of the hotels in the association we are confident that all meet the standards that were required by the founders of this group. Please visit our Recommended Hotels page for more information.




                             The kindest hotel owner in Costa Rica

  By Ashley Harrell

The following is an article published in the Costa Rican National English Language News Paper "Tico Times"

Rancho Armadillo owner Rick Vogel will make you a piña colada and do your dishes.

Tucked back in the mountains above Playas del Coco and surrounded by tropical dry forest, there lives a Detroit-bred Gringo with a long, gray ponytail, and he will make you the best piña colada(s) of your life. He’ll also give you everything else you could possibly want while you are staying at his charming but modern six-room estate, Rancho Armadillo. His name is Rick Vogel, and his rancho es su rancho. He’s the kindest hotel operator in the whole damn country.

While it’s easy to find Vogel’s place on TripAdvisor – his property is the top choice in the area and has nearly 100 effusive reviews – physically getting there can be a little trickier. A couple of miles from the beach, there’s a turnoff before some pink condominiums into an unassuming residential area with only a knee-high, white boulder pointing the way to the rancho.

Through the neighborhood and up a dirt road, visitors finally reach Rancho Armadillo’s 25 jungle acres and collection of funky little casitas, pool area and open-air lounges and kitchen. Upon arrival, the ponytail man materializes, offers refreshments and gives a grand tour.

Each of the six rooms are spacious and brightly painted, with tropical hardwood furnishings, brightly colored Guatemalan bedspreads and unique adornments, many of which come with stories. In my room, one painting was created by a Vietnam vet named John English, who died from complications of being exposed to Agent Orange, Vogel told me.

When English arrived in Costa Rica to spend his final days, he told Vogel that he loved to paint but didn’t believe he’d do it again. Vogel bought English paint supplies and talked him into giving it a shot. When English died three years later, his paintings were displayed all over Playas del Coco. 

An expat of 13 years, Vogel’s got lots of stories, and he likes to tell them by the pool, over piña coladas. He did this on the first evening of my stay, and he also brought out his Meade telescope so that we could look at Venus and the moon. As it happened, that was the night of the super moon – the fullest, closest moon to earth of the year. Vogel also summoned the Rancho Armadillo housekeeper and her daughter to behold the spectacle, then regaled us all with trivia about astronomy and creatures of the night. Apparently, Venus has phases just like the moon, and bats dip their chests in the pool when they fly over, then lick the water off.

Spread across two open-air lounges, Vogel’s got all kinds of board games, books, hammocks, indigenous relics and miscellaneous curiosities, and he seems to enjoy being mysterious about their origin. When asked where he got something, he inevitably responds, “men and trucks.”

 Should anybody get lucky fishing, Vogel is happy to fry up the day’s catch as part of a five-course, gourmet meal. He creates a menu to go with it, and here’s one example of Vogel meal: patacones and baked brie Grand Marnier (appetizer), mango sorbet (palate cleanser), mango capresse with fresh baked bread and roasted red pepper butter (salad), broiled dorado with ginger Dijon lobster sauce, grilled portabella mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant and rice pilaf (entrée) and chocolate liqueur sundae (dessert). 

Vogel also serves a complimentary breakfast for his guests, and it includes some of the best waffles I’ve had. He keeps a wide selection of waffle fillings – I chose chocolate chips, strawberries and orange zest – to be mixed with batter and then cooked in a waffle-maker. For other meals and snacks, the kitchen is open 24/7 to guests, and Vogel pledges to do any and all dishes. 

A longtime expert on not just Playas del Coco, but much of Costa Rica, Vogel has elaborate packets of information on tours and restaurants that he shares with guests. His recommended activities include a nearby canopy tour that costs only $25 a person (because Vogel does not take a middleman’s cut), a hike to Bagaces Waterfall and Wild Cat Rescue Center, an indigenous pottery and tortilla factory, a pre-Columbian petroglyph site, a coffee plantation tour and various sea-bound adventures. Although the nightlife in Coco is pretty rollicking, spending a boozy night by the Rancho Armadillo pool has my vote. 

In addition to regaling his guests with stories and doing their dishes, Vogel also has built his neighbor’s 5-year-old an outdoor playhouse and planted the family a garden. He also pays for several local children to attend private school. He likes improving the lives of those around him, guests included. 

When Vogel found out that I’d be catching a very early bus back to San José, he insisted on doing something pretty much unheard of. Despite my protests, he woke up at 3:30 a.m. and drove me five minutes to the bus station

Click here to view the Tico Times article with photos

Wireless Internet available at Rancho Armadillo

We installed 40 megs high speed fiber optic wireless internet connection so that our guests can stream movies, check their flight status, hotel reservations and moms & dads can keep tabs on the kids while they enjoy their second honeymoon. Some guests might even be tempted to check their work emails, but mixing up a batch of pina coladas usually quashes that temptation.   We have SKYPE,  our guests can make international phone calls for free.



Weather Report

The Rainy season is officially here, with the occurance of El Nino the rains have been sporadic and light, from now until mid November the typical weather forecast will be blue skies and suunshine in the morning  with a chance of showers in the afternoon and maybe nights.  



Music at Rancho Armadillo

Our Apple iPod is loaded up with over 13,000 songs covering almost every musical taste. Or you can play your own music from your cell phone using our Blue Tooth speaker system.



Renting a Car in Costa Rica is now a Breeze!


With so much to see and do with in a hours drive from the Estate that we highly recommend that you rent a car. In the long run it will be much cheaper than hiring a taxi or a guide to chauffeur you around plus you will be able to set your own schedule and not be confined to the schedule of tour guides. Don't believe the stories you hear about driving in Costa Rica, the roads are in good conditions, and it's no different than driving in any major city in the USA.

After doing extensive research I have found that Adobe Car Rentals have the best rates and great service with offices around the country should you encounter any problems. They recently purchased 200 new cars continuing with their goal of having the newest fleet of cars in Costa Rica. We have teamed up with Adobe to offer our guests direct on line booking, guaranteeing that you get the best rates possible.   Please visit our Car Rental page for more information.

Adobe rates include all taxes and the mandatory insurance ($1,000 deductible)   Most car rental companies will not accept debit cards.

If you go on line to get quotes from other car rental agencies make sure they include in the rate the cost of insurance and taxes, most companies don’t do this and when you arrive you find out the actual cost is much higher than you were quoted.




Now Featuring The Nebia Shower Spa

We have recently installed the Nebia Shower Spa, a revolutionary new concept combining water saving technoligy with classic design.  The Nebia Spa Shower envelops you in warm steam and spray, almost like standing in the cloud forest, with 10 precision-tuned nozzles that atomize water, Nebia delivers millions of microdrops to hydrate your skin far better than ordinary showers, yet uses 70 percent less water than a normal shower.




2019 Escuela de Coco

6th Grade Girls & Boys

Indoor Soccer Team

  2019 Guanacaste Champions

 We have been proud to sponsor the boys and girls soccer teams. In 2010 we started the girls soccer team, before then, if a girl wanted to play soccer she had to try out for the boys team. Unfortunately because of COVID the sckools have been closed and the soccer season has been suspended for 2020 & 2021





Boardwalk Completed

After seven months of putting up with our beach front being disrupted with the sounds of backhoes and cement trucks, the local government finally completed the long over due boardwalk / beachfront park in 2015. This had been promised for over 6 years, it finally took a local election to get it started. The park consist of a basketball court, skateboard ramps, a gym, a volleyball court, benches and a paved walkway covering the center part of the beach.




Water Testing

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Every six months we have our pool water tested and the latest results were spectacular! Our pool water is cleaner than the Crystal brand bottled water sold here in Costa Rica. We use the ionizing method of cleaning our water and have cut the chlorine level to less than 1/8 of the chlorine that is generally used in a pool our size.







Spotlight on Tours

 Rincon de la Vieja wakes up

Precautions urged for those visiting Volcán Rincón de la Vieja

        The Volcán Rincón de la Vieja appears to be waking up after a 13-year nap.

When volcano experts checked the data from sensing equipment at Volcán Rincon de la Vieja they found two unreported small eruptions. One took place Feb. 19,2012 and one took place Feb. 20, 2012  The volcano is in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja about 25 kilometers or about 15.5 miles northeast of Liberia in Guanacaste. The area is sparely populated.As a result of an inspection the national emergency commission is urging park officials to restrict tourist access to the upper part of the mountain and adopt more security measures. The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias noted that Rincón de la Vieja is one of five active volcanoes in the country. Last October, after a larger eruption that dumped ash into a local river, the commission
The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica reported small eruptions in the crater lake, evidence of thermal activity there and the death of fish in nearby rivers. The volcano threw out some material Sept. 16, 2012 that appears to have affected fish as much as 18 kilometers  (more than 11 miles) downstream, the observatory said. Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja is about 25 kilometers or about 15.5 miles northeast of Liberia in Guanacaste. The volcano is 1,916 meters high or about 6,286 feet. It is part of the mountain range that is the spine of the country. The mountain is tall enough that it shares two separate climates. On the west side, it experiences the dry climate of Guanacaste. To the northeast, the climate is similar to the Caribbean and the northern zone, according to the observatory.
The observatory said that the first reported activity from the volcano was in 1850. There was an explosive eruption in 1863 and more activity noted in 1912, 1922, 1940, 1955, 1963, 1965 and 1966. Park officials have closed off the 13-kilometer (7.5 mile) hiking trail to the crater.


Arenal Volcano - No Eruptions Since July '10


 In 2011 we have had some pretty remarkable geological events here in Costa Rica. The Rincon de la Vieja, Poas, Irazu and Tirruballo Volcanoes started erupting and the always active Arenal Volcano has not had an eruption since July 2010.  The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica has finally gone public with what everybody has been guessing, the following is an article that appeared in the local online newspaper AM Costa Rica.

Experts think that it may be bedtime for Arenal

Over the last four decades, Arenal Volcano’s dramatic explosions and lava flows transformed the surrounding farmland in north-central Costa Rica into one of the country’s hottest tourist destinations. But 16 months ago, the activity subsided, leaving hundreds of hotels and businesses without their premier attraction. “It’s a pity, but the volcano decided to take a break,” says Eliezer Duarte, volcanology research professor with the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (Ovsicori). To put Duarte’s statement in perspective, scientists believe that the previous “break” of this kind – no explosions, lava-spewing, or interior activity – lasted more than 500 years. 

Although the volcano is still considered active and occasionally belches gases, area entrepreneurs in recent months have been coming to terms with the prospect that Arenal may not erupt again in their lifetime. The volcano’s quietude has raised questions about long-term tourism viability in the Northern Zone, but it appears that the industry has quietly, smoothly transitioned into a still-lucrative, post-eruption era. Whether that success has been driven by misleading signage, a plethora of other excursions, or tourist indifference remains to be seen. But this much is clear: Business has gone on as usual.  Each day on the streets of La Fortuna  prominent signage instructs tourists to “See Lava!” Restaurants, shops and tour operators display insignias of exploding volcanoes, and red Christmas lights snake around the wooden columns supporting a bar called the Lava Lounge. Inside, a video of an erupting  Arenal plays on repeat. 

“They’re hiding it,” says tour guide and map designer Álvaro Arce. Seated at one of the tables in Lava Lounge, he’s talking about his town’s reluctance to remove outdated and inaccurate signage and web material. He estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the tourists he encounters expect to see lava, and he believes that eventually this will create problems for the area. “The customers are pretty smart,” he says. “When they come here and they don’t see [anything], they’ll go back to [the U.S.] and say, ‘It’s not true.’ Then people will start going somewhere else. ”

Regardless, many tour entrepreneurs would prefer that realistic expectations become a priority. Some would like to promote the area as a rain-forest-adventure destination rather than an active-volcano experience, but to do that, businesses would need to bring their marketing materials up to date. Many seem uninterested in doing so. 

The Red Lava Tourist Service Center website still offers a “Sunset Volcano Experience” in which guests drive to “the most active part of Arenal and watch the lava rocks fall down. (A man who answered the phone at the agency said that sunset tour no longer runs.) 

Also not helping matters are the guidebook publishers who haven’t gotten the memo. “Waiting for and watching Arenal’s regular eruptions is the main activity in La Fortuna and is best done at night when the orange lava glows against the starry sky,” Frommer’s Costa Rica Guide misinforms readers in its 2012 edition.

 The volcano woke up violently with the tragic 1968 eruption that sent rocks the size of Volkswagens miles in all directions and destroyed much of the area livestock, agricultural land and several communities. The mountain has been among the top 20 most active volcanos in the world. Since 1968 the mountain has spewed out more than a half a cubic kilometers of lava, the university experts said they estimated. That is enough to build a road around the earth four times, they said.

Experts track a volcano's activity by the local earthquakes that frequently are continual. In the case of Arenal, these movements have decreased to nothing, the experts said. The volcanologists Gerardo J. Soto, Mauricio Mora and Guillermo E. Alvarado, have been tracking Arenal for 20 years.

Arenal Volcano online for viewing by public

The Arenal volcano is now under 24-hour electronic watch by scientists at the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. Keep in mind it is cloud covered 60% of the time. Access the web cam click here.



Canopy Tour
More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys

A must do favorite of all of our guests is The Congo Trail Canopy Tour, one of the original canopy tours in Costa Rica, about a 20 minute drive from here. You have to understand that canopy tours are an amusement ride not a study in nature, but that does not mean that you won't be able to view nature in it's purist form. We recommend that our guests go in the late afternoon, leaving here around 2:30, that way you will have missed all of the tour busses and you stand a great chance of being in the trees with monkeys, as they travel though on their way to bed down for the night.
The tour has 11 platforms (one line that is 800 yards long.) After the tour stop by and visit the Congo Trail serpent display, containing a variety of snakes and frogs local to the area. After a visit with the snakes you can easily convince the guides to let you play with the resident white face and spider monkeys. The monkeys can get a bit inquisitive, searching pockets, purses and even climbing down your shirt. Guests of Rancho Armadillo pay only $25 for the tour instead of the normal $35, a bargain considering most other canopy tours run from $45 to $85. Having been on over 15 canopy tours around Costa Rica, this is definitely one of the best, the guides are the key that makes it one of the best.

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More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys

Water Tours





The Sea Bird

Another Sail Tour new to the Coco area is the Sea Bird, a 45 ft sail boat, they go out almost every day and only require a minimum of 4 passengers. For couples we can call ahead and see if they have a sail going out that you can join. Included in the tour the Sea Bird offers an open bar, non alcoholic beverages, snacks and snorkel equipment.



Jungle Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Jaguars


Llanas de Cortez or locally known as the Bagaces waterfall, one of our favorite tours. The waterfall is 60 ft high and 40 ft wide and empties into a white sand pool around 5 ft deep. Swim up to and under the waterfall.

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Combine a trip to the waterfall with a stop at the oldest wild cat rescue center in Costa Rica and an optional river float trip down the Corobice river to see crocs, monkeys and lots of birds.



Miravalles Volcano


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Even though it has been here for thousands of years it's new to us. We recently visited the area near the Miravalles Volcano. More specifically the Hornillas Crater, about a 1  1/2 hour drive from here. This crater is unique in the world, it is an active crater on the side of the 5000 meter high volcano featuring boiling mud pits, emerald green springs and fumaroles that emit steam and other gasses. Here you can follow a path that will allow you to get up close and personal with these natural wonders.

At one spot along the way you can stop and actually hear the "heartbeat" of the volcano.

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After the short hike you sit in a natural sauna and get your pores open before you lather yourself up with the mud from the mud pits, once the mud has dried you shower it off in a hot shower with water taken directly from the boiling hot springs. Makes your skin feel 10 years younger. Then relax in any of the three hot spring pools.

Tortilla's & Pottery

Guatil, an indigenous Indian village where they make pottery the way their ancestors have for 100’s of years. Each home has their own kiln and you can buy pottery from the artist or from a co-op in the town. After Guatil you can stop for lunch at a local tortilla “factory” great local food, and you will probably be the only non Costa Rican’s there



Rio Celeste

In the middle of dense tropical forest lies a hidden jewel of Costa Rica. It starts with a walk through the jungle at Tenorio Volcano National Park.  Every step in this forest is more inviting than the last. During the rainy season, the smell of wet earth permeates the air, droplets of rain fall constantly, and the sounds of exotic birds accompany hikers.
After about 15 minutes of walking in the jungle, a new sound becomes audible: Water is flowing and falling somewhere nearby, hinting at one of the park’s treasures. The main trail splits, and a path leads leftward to a steep descent down muddy steps made of sections of tree trunks. After an unexpected turn, the river finally makes an appearance in the form of an impressive waterfall. The Río Celeste’s color is a true natural wonder. Local legend says that when God painted the sky, she washed her blue brushes in this river, and that is how its waters obtained their magnificent blue color. 
The steep, sometimes difficult descent to the waterfall is worth it.If you’re lucky, blue morpho butterflies may flit over the water, giving rise to the whimsical notion that perhaps they dove into the water to get their wonderful color, or were born behind the falling cascade.
 Lucky hikers may even spot a group of rare tapirs while walking the three kilometers of trails. Past the falls, the trails cross a natural blue lagoon and continue to the place where all the magic takes place: Los Teñideros, where two clear-water streams merge to form a larger current. When their waters combine, the water turns blue in front of hikers’ eyes.