Costa Rica is known for its lush rainforests and crystal blue waters. The island has become a classic, tried-and-true vacation spot.
In my travels, I have discovered that several countries have an all-encompassing word to cover their basic means of daily interaction. In Hawaii there’s “aloha,” in Fiji there’s “bula” and in Costa Rica, there’s “Pura Vida.” Translating to “pure life,” it spans the entire spectrum of greeting and parting incorporating: “no worries,” “enjoy life,” “take it easy,” “good luck” and “have a good day.”
Arriving late at night at my first place to stay, I was mesmerized by the rhythmic natural symphony of the sea, the moon, and the clouds. The Arenas Del Mar is a resort with delectable cuisine, exceptional levels of service and exemplary eco-credentials. Up and downhill the buggies go as one took me to my tropical fruit breakfast upon a table beside the sand of Playitas Beach in toe-touching reach of the ocean.
I found an elemental joy in picking up an almond nut from its tree and, as if from heaven, a leaf descends dancing, entertaining and poetically falling while pelicans swooped alongside into the water. All my senses were engaged demonstrating the beauty that nature can provide. Iguanas hang out by the pool, Halloween crabs scuttle through the gardens, while sloths slumber in the treetops.
Very close by, down a discreet gravel lane, was my next place to stay, the one-of-a-kind Villa Punto de Vista. This astonishing six-story construction is the courageous and ambitious creation of David Konwiser, the owner and architect, who was born in Costa Rica and educated in America. The design makes optimum use of the dreamy views with angular windows jutting out like ships’ prows over the ocean beyond. All very James Bond! I looked out over the rocks and islands that speckled the sea like the scales on an iguana’s back, adding perfectly to this ultimate jigsaw puzzle of a setting.
The dining is done on the fourth floor partly for the greater vantage point, but also to serve as nature’s look-out point, to have front row seats for the best show in the area, and be amongst the birds, monkeys, and sloths. One security you can’t legislate for is the pickpocketing skills of the raccoon or the “monkey mafia,” as the locals call it.
Next, I went further up the Pacific coast to Guanacaste and the exquisite beaches of the Papagayo Peninsula. Playa Nacascolo, which was once an area of commerce in pre-Colombian times, is the longest beach while Playa Jicaro is the most remote on the southern side. In the north, there’s Prieta Beach Club, which makes for a perfect day out with the Olas Lounge, an ideal spot for lunch in front of waves strong enough for me to bodysurf.
My next stay was at Vista Hermosa, Papagayo Luxury. Right in the middle of the peninsula, this 10-year-old condo is part of the Las Terrazas complex of 16 homes whose owners leave their properties wild around them to grant the animals free movement. They are the work of Costa Rican architect Ronald Zürcher. Using terracotta walls both inside and outside, the homes blend the natural surroundings and display a contemporary clean aesthetic.
The décor is stunning and eclectic. Tastefully done and respecting the overriding view out over the water to the marina beyond. The large square-shaped spacious room, the hub for the ancillary rooms, has a low ceiling and a horizontal feel replicating the landscape.
The landscape of Costa Rica and her biodiversity is simply magical: thick lush rainforests, with dense foliage, uncrowded pristine beaches, steep mountains and majestic volcanoes, and waterfalls. It makes for the perfect backdrop for the sheer wonder of the colorful birds and animals.
I even looked through the index of the definitive book on Costa Rican birds to find exquisite and exotic names like chestnut-mandibled toucan, buffy tufted cheek, long-tailed tyrant, bare-necked umbrellabird, whip-poor-will, Double-striped thick-knee, the oilbird, ovenbird, and White-fronted nunbird. As for animals, I saw in another book the misfit leaf frog, the bullet ant, the trumpetfish, the Beau Brummel (a fish) and the Jesus Christ lizard, so-called as it walks on water.
My final place to stay was the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica. The bayside (Playa Blanca) and oceanside (Playa Virador) have a different feel and, I allowed myself to believe, almost a different climate. Eco-friendly electric buggies went at a relaxed speed and it was such an important first scene as the rounded shape of the foyer was truly receptive and embraced me with its open arms, luring me into its golden mosaic fold.
The colors are consistent throughout and blend organically with their natural surroundings. The earth-toned stucco exteriors were computer-generated from actual dirt samples to replicate the deep browns, oranges, and reds of the soil and the roots of the land.
The three main restaurants are all side-by-side. The Añejo, an interesting spot serving Asian fusion with Costa Rican food, is a casual and informal restaurant both inside and out offering tapas including salmon tostadas and charred tuna wonton tacos, “lomo salteado empanadas” and “hamachi tiraditos.”
How resourceful, cunning and wondrous are the forces of nature: the Annona fruit changes from green to a darkish reddish-brown as it ripens, the Indian tree sheds its bark every three days while one local species of grass contracts with the human touch. Whales mate above a beach shaped like a whale’s tail. Not to mention all of the camouflage tricks.
I couldn’t get enough of this delightful country. I have to go back. Whenever, but hopefully soon.
Where to Stay:
Arenas Del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort; (888) 385-9218 / website
Villa Punto de Vista; (888) 890-8687 / website
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica; (506) 2696-0000 / website
What to Do:
Ocean Course Peninsula Papagayo (at the Four Seasons); (506) 2696-0000 / website
Manuel Antonio National Park; +1 (800) 3813-3770 / website
Nauyaca Waterfalls Horseback Riding Tour; (506) 2787-0541 / website
Where to Eat:
The Añejo; (506) 2696-0371 / website
Playitas Beachfront Restaurant; (506) 4040-0422 / website
Pesce; (506) 2696-0000 / website
Originally published in Bleu Magazine Issue 64.