Costa Rica’s popularity has swelled in recent years, and prior to my first visit, the one consistent thing I heard about it from everyone who’d been there was that they loved it. Though I hardly consider myself an adventurous traveler — thoughts of tropical forests and the creatures that go with them loomed in my mind— my curiosity about this lush Central American destination ultimately prevailed.
From the Liberia airport, it’s about a 40-minute ride to Peninsula Papagayo, located on the northwest Pacific coast. The master planned development features two luxurious resorts — the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo — as well as private residences. In a country renowned as a premier ecotourism destination, the development was created with careful attention to sustainability and preservation. Even the pavers that line the roadway through Peninsula Papagayo were selected to ensure their permeability by rainwater. Speed limits here are strict where the coati, a bizarre animal that looks like a weasel-raccoon-monkey blend, can be seen zigging across the road. As if they know they’re safe, the wildlife shares the land openly; white-faced capuchin monkeys dangle from trees and iguanas bathe stone-still in swaths of sunlight.
The Andaz nestles discreetly into the hillside facing Culebra Bay. Its open spaces are inviting and warm, as is the staff. Generous rooms take full advantage of the view, which can even be appreciated from the shower. Dining is spectacular at Andaz’s multiple restaurants. Chao Pescao’s live music-fueled atmosphere makes diners feel they’re all attending the same party and the local, seasonal cuisine is sensational. Ostra is a seafood lover’s paradise. Breakfast at Rio Bhongo is very good but it’s the coffee that dials it up to stratospheric levels. In fact, coffee lovers can enjoy a caffeine-buzzed class there. Our expert barista, Luis Carlos Herrera, was as dynamic as the coffee in our cups, and everyone in our class of six was rapt as we took notes on the nuances of different brewing methods.
Rio Bhongo overlooks the property’s serene adult infinity pool below and the bay beyond, and either are welcome options to soak in the abundant natural beauty. The Andaz Beach House is a short ten-minute complimentary boat ride away, with food service, games, and lounge chairs onshore and kayaks and paddle boards to take to the water. When it’s time to really indulge, a massage in one of Onda Spa’s protected outdoor treatment rooms, with views over the trees to Culebra Bay, uses the sounds of the ocean as the ultimate Zen soundtrack.
Farther down the peninsula sits the Four Seasons, so near the end that it spans the narrow stretch of land between Culebra Bay to the south and Prieta Bay to the north. The accommodations at the Four Seasons are precisely what you’d expect from a brand known for nothing less than excellence. A large, fully screened balcony is ideal for being lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of the outdoors. Commensurate with Costa Rica’s attention to conservation, in-room drinking water is supplied in refillable glass jars, as are the luxurious bath products. There are plenty of options for guests who prefer a bit more of an indulgent experience, the most extravagant of which is the 6,662-square-foot Casa Del Cielo residence estate with a private infinity pool, perched at the very tip of the peninsula.
In search of a little workout, I tackled the 700 steps that climb the hillside from the beach. It’s challenging, but the views from the top make every stair worth it. Just be warned: the animals who call the cliffside their home abound, including monkeys and even snakes (to which I can personally attest)!
For an adventure of a different kind, the spa menu at Four Seasons includes a traditional Turkish hammam, a cleansing ritual that includes vigorous exfoliation intended to cleanse and purify, which is a centuries-old tradition in Islamic culture. While it is a strange sensation to have warm, soapy water poured over your body as you lay on a stone table in a steamy room, ultimately, I left the room feeling refreshed, a little like Jell-O, and probably the cleanest I’ve ever been in my life.
The most upscale meal of the trip came at Nemare, located at the Peninsula Papagayo golf course clubhouse. The greatest pride is taken in the steak offerings, which include local, Prime, and dry-aged selections, and an attentive staff ensures everything you select perfectly suits your taste.
With all the beauty on-property, including miles of trails and complimentary pedal-assisted bikes to explore them on, a trip to the nearest volcano, Rincón de la Vieja, is well worth the drive and can be booked through Peninsula Papagayo’s Nature Center. It bubbles with primordial activity, creating a steamy setting made eerier by the distant sounds of shrieking howler monkeys. Hiking into the forest, the hush of the rustling leaves mingling with birdsong is almost meditative. Even the bugs are incredible, the most spectacular of which is the blue morpho butterfly, aka the butterfly emoji, that’s as big as your hand.
Such distinctly unique but equally authentic resorts within Peninsula Papagayo make the area a natural choice for travelers planning an inaugural visit as well as those who make Costa Rica a regular destination. Whether at the Andaz or the Four Seasons, a vacation here truly feels like a dream come true. peninsulapapagayo.com, andaz.com/costarica, fourseasons.com/costarica