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Costa Rica Vacation

Costa Rica – Pura Vida
December 11, 2013
By , Galavante Contributor

When a country’s slogan is “pura vida” – meaning “pure life” and “plenty of life” – it’s a country worth looking into. And that’s exactly what Costa Rica is all about: an abundance of pure, rural, natural beauty. But unlike other comparable getaways, getting there doesn’t require two flights and a boat, or, say, a treacherous rental car journey along a militia-laden dirt road without a GPS. (We speak from experience.) Wild as it is, one of the greatest things about Costa Rica is its accessibility. Which leaves you more time to focus on the important stuff, like surfing, hiking, and cocktailing – with natural ingredients of course.

Why Now: Because you’ve been putting off that root canal for far too long. No – really. Costa Rica has become a center for medical tourism… and a perfect place for the subsequent recovery. There’s nothing like a luxury hotel, salt water, and plenty of sunshine to make a body feel good. Your conscience will also feel good: Costa Rica was an eco-pioneer, and it continues to be heralded for its conservation efforts and sustainable practices.

Good For: Couples, friends, families, and solo travelers. Pretty much anyone who enjoys warm weather and gorgeous scenery and is looking for a more cultural Caribbean/Pacific experience. But from there, you can choose from a wide array of adventures. Long peaceful walks on the beach? Check. Luxurious spas? Check. Extreme sports? Check. Costa Rica has something for everyone. 

The Highlights:

  • Immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the country, with excursions to Corcovado National Park and Arenal Volcano, stopping at the Eco Termales Hot Springs complex. 
  • Learning to surf at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. While it’s naturally wild and rugged, this is one of the best places to get on a board for the first time. (The instructors are easy on the eyes as well. See our interview with Nautica model Will Tant for more on that.) For those staying at the Four Seasons, get hooked up with the resort’s Tropic Surf, whose also highly attractive instructor will get you up on your board in no time.
  • Zip-lining through the treetops, along with all the hiking, biking, paddleboarding, and active adventure you can handle. 
  • Taking a Guachipelin Canyon Tour, rappelling and swinging through the jungle. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.
  • Spending the afternoon in the surfy town of Tamarindo, with an Imperial in one hand and a spoonful of snapper ceviche in the other.
  • Making the Four Seasons in the Papagayo Peninsula your home base – there’s something pleasingly balancing about eco-tourism and high-thread count sheets.

Suggested Stay: 3-4 days. Or live a little and spend a whole week.

What to Know: High season at Costa Rica’s luxury properties can require a minimum stay. The Four Seasons asks for a 10-nighter if you’re going around Christmas and the New Year. While cancellations are unlikely during the holidays, last-minute travelers who are able to book a next-day flight can sometimes squeeze in a room. Otherwise, it’s best to book far in advance. During off and rainy seasons you might have the resort almost to yourself, but keep in mind that master and sous chefs might also be on vacation or in training, resulting in fewer restaurant choices available at that time.

The Four Seasons is a 30-minute car ride from Liberia International Airport, in northern Costa Rica. You can catch direct flights from the U.S. (including New York), making this a highly accessible weekend getaway. If you’re bringing your entourage, book one of the 25 suites or go all out with the three-bedroom villa with plunge pool and butler on call. Why?  Because you’re worth it.

You Have Arrived

Yes, indeed. Manicured gardens, secluded roads, a line of lush palm trees, and a refreshing cilantro orange juice is how they say welcome Four Seasons-style. Designed by famed architect Ronald Zürche, the 43-acre resort, situated 320 feet above the Pacific Ocean, is flanked by beaches on both sides. This is paradise defined.

It's not surprising that this resort is a favorite among Four Seasons aficionados. The rooms feel like a luxury tree house while embracing the indigenous surroundings and culture. This hotel is unmistakably Costa Rica, with lushly cozy, well-appointed rooms decked out in exotic colors and natural fabrics. They really did think of everything, like micro nets on the terraces, which afford you the luxury to chill out during the evenings, mosquito-free, with cocktail in hand. There’s no such thing as a bad room, either; all offer an outdoor living space with ocean views (and plenty of howler monkeys). For large families, consider renting (or buying – yes, it happens – this resort is that compelling) one of the Four Seasons private residences, which have all the amenities of the hotel. 

Wine and Dine

Besides its secluded locale, there’s good reason most guests never eat outside of the Four Seasons. The dining spots span the globe, including Italian cuisine at Di Mare, poolside snacks at Congo’s Bar and Grill, and an impressive selection of sushi, exotic local cocktails, and delicious bocas from around Latin America at Tico’s. Executive Chef Mario Alcocer blends Latin fare, local seafood, and organic fruits and vegetables. Kick off the day with a huge plate of fruit and a slice of banana bread cake –  or go for the chicken fajita platter. Lunch standouts are the fish tacos and mahi mahi sandwich – all served poolside, of course. If all the fresh air has gone to your head and inspired some culinary creativity, ask for the off-the-menu red snapper as a fried whole fish served with beans and rice. Or catch your own fish and have it prepared by the pros just the way you like it.

The Activity Buffet

It’s easy to spend a week at the resort and surrounding area. Besides the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course with 6,800 yardage, 18 holes, par 72 course, and spectacular views over the Papagayo Gulf and Pacific Ocean, the hotel now offers a new chocolate-making class with Henrik Bodholdt of Beach Chocolate Factory. Want to bring out your inner artist? Visit L’Atelier painting studio, where resident artists, both local and international, paint with guests (while also having a glass of wine). A rough day of surfing or golfing necessitates a spa treatment. The bamboo massage hits relaxation nirvana, followed by a dip in the hot and cold plunge pools. Pura Vida? Doesn’t get more pure than that.