Costa Rica is defined by its bountiful natural splendors; its topography and geology, its lush tropical forest foliage, and the rolling surf along its Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. It’s a haven for surfers and wildlife lovers and home to an enthusiastic community of expatriates eager to be part of the pura vida lifestyle.
Traveling to this special place does something to your spirit, leaving visitors awash in a positive glow. It’s a rousing destination made even better when you turn it into an all-inclusive, adults-only escape.
Sample Authentic Costa Rica at the Vista de Olas
Located on the southwestern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the trip towards Vista de Olas entails plenty of dirt, gravel, potholes, dust, and mud as you wind your way towards the smattering of five villas on the hillside, whose power is almost completely supplied by eco-friendly solar panels. If you’ve dreamt the hippie dream of Costa Rica life, this is the closest you will get.
First things first, make like the locals and rent an ATV or bike to get to and from nearby Santa Teresa — hip and teeming with cafes and restaurants, and the beach. Come ready to make friends; the family-owned and operated property welcomes you into its community of visitors and locals who flock to the infinity pool every day at sunset to linger and mingle over cocktails, beers, and fresh juice. The free breakfast is also enjoyed communally and the menu changes daily, but local fruit and coffee is a staple of the ecologically-inclined resort. It’s also a dog spotting paradise with the family hounds welcoming guests as warmly as owners Roger and Heidi.
Should the lure of the waves draw you in, the owner’s sons provide lessons on catching your first wave and can also take you on ATV tours or arrange horseback riding treks through the jungle. Fresh seafood is served straight off the grill, so bring your appetite!
Cabo Velas, Guanacaste
The colorful amenities at the Adults-Only Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal await
As one of the few properties on pristine Playa Conchal, The Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal offers a feast for the eyes from the turquoise waters of the playa, to the emerald green of the Robert Trent Jones II designed 18-hole par 72 championship golf course, and the vivid pinks and purples of the blooming garden environs. Enjoy the seemingly limitless amenities of an expansive Westin property without suffering the effects of being startled awake from an afternoon cat nap by the shrieks of children. No promises that the resident howler monkeys who fling through the trees in the lush gardens will keep it down, though!
The resort has a designated adults-only section, blissfully free of under 18s. Ever wanted to be the person who comes into the restaurant and is seated immediately, seemingly without a reservation? Your Club stay comes with exclusive restaurant privileges such as Preferential reservations at the 11 onsite restaurants as well as golf and other activities. You’ll be first in line to grab a kayak to explore the water and snorkeling equipment to gaze below at a sea world as lush as the one above ground. If you’re feeling the romantic vibe, book a reservation at Manglar. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and the menu of delicacies like sweet water shrimp bisque or pan-roasted Chilean salmon. You’ll be exchanging bites with arms intertwined in no time.
A wealth of choice at Occidental Papagayo
Reliability can be a good thing, oftentimes trumping the excitement of the unknown. Winning five stars for a steadfast, enjoyable experience is the all-inclusive, adults-only resort Occidental Papagayo. Located on a picturesque stretch that hugs the Papagayo Bay, drop your bags and take off for the obligatory first toe-dip into the ocean.
The beauty of an all-inclusive is the wealth of choices presented to you each and every day. For the adventurous types, kayaking and snorkeling acquaint you with the aquatic side of Costa Rica. For those who prefer to vegetate on vacation, endless loungers on the beach and next to the huge pool will become your favorite perch. Wine and dine at your choice of buffet or two reservation-required restaurants, one offering pan-Asian cuisine and the fun of teppanyaki and tatami rooms while the other goes all out American-Italian with heaps of pasta filling your activity-starved stomach. The snack and beach bars also serve bites like nachos and hot dogs.
You can dine poolside, squinting at the sun and sipping on your drink of choice. You can feel your worries melt away in the hands of a capable masseuse while listening to the chirp and twitters of tropical birds during an open-air massage. The delight of spotting an exotic animal on the grounds, whether it be an iguana or monkey, will bring out a childish excitement in anyone, and with a plethora of fauna calling the ground’s flora home, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch them on your camera.
The good vibes of a foodie cornucopia at Villa Buena Onda
No need to travel to some remote corner through jungle roads with the easy 30-minute drive to the international airport from the all-inclusive, adults-only Villa Buena Onda. The name means ‘good vibes,’ which run rampant in this chilled out resort overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo with beaches an easy 20-minute walk or free shuttle ride away. Equally alluring is staying onsite and lounging in the two-tiered saltwater infinity pool as you look over the gulf and indulge in drinks from the bar.
For foodies, the all-inclusive choices at Villa Buena Onda are impressive. Meals can be taken on the terrace al fresco and feature a mix of Costa Rican and international staples with lots of fresh, local ingredients, and plenty of veggie and gluten-free options. As expected, the fruit is divinely sweet and flavorful. (You’ll struggle to go back to your imported goods when you get back home.)
For breakfast, it’s hard to turn down Costa Rican flambé pancakes with maple syrup and tropical fruit every day, but the savory traditional Costa Rican breakfast gallo pinto of rice, beans, sweet fried plantains, and fresh tortillas are bound to become an instant favorite. Lunch offers fish tacos, salads and soups, and dinner tempts with a seared catch of the day. The delectable desserts are worth wearing a pair of stretch waist pants– be sure to try the traditional Costa Rican ‘Tres Leches’ cake. Plus, you can sign up for free cooking classes so you can fondly remember your time in Costa Rica when you make that perfect batch of tortillas back home.
Fostering a mindful communal experience in the isolation of Los Altos de Eros
Occupying 28 acres of a mountaintop, Los Altos de Eros is a six-room boutique hotel in an isolated region overlooking the Pacific Ocean, mountains, and valleys. Your journey to the hotel begins with a climb up a steep, rocky road that slips through a tropical jungle before you plateau at your destination — a romantic paradise. The hotel layout immediately creates a sense of intimacy between couples and guests. Together you’ll share meals, daily yoga practice, and stories around the infinity pool.
Your days begin with a family-style breakfast before packing a day bag and hitching a ride to Playa Avellanas where you’ll be greeted by Lola, the resident pig. Alternatively, take a hike, partake in yoga or join a cooking class where you’ll prepare a tantalizing four-course meal of local delicacies, like shrimp ceviche and mahi-mahi, which will be served to you by staff. For an additional cost, you can book plenty of other activities, including communal lunches and dinner at the restaurant or eco tours that toss you into the rich Costa Rican culture from surf lessons to sport fishing. Or, pick a few treatments and spend the day at the spa.
Sharp design and a transcendental natural setting at Kura Design Villas
Rising above the bluffs of the southern Pacific Costa Rican coast is Kura Design Villas. Guests are treated to an intimate experience in six villas which bring high-end architecture into the local aesthetic of teak woods and spotless glass that never interrupts the views. You might even get lucky and catch a humpback whale, playfully bucking amid the waves with equal glee as the local and international surfers who regularly flock to the region.
Taking center stage of the property is the infinity pool with a 180-degree view of the Pacific. Its open all night long for swims under the dramatic starlit sky, illuminated by the moon until the orange dawn ushers in a thousand shades.
Wake up with a dive just before the sun rises for yet another mystical experience. Mother Nature’s presence is inescapable with Marino Ballena National Park nearby.
Every room comes outfitted with binoculars, so you can follow the path of the bright toucans and cheeky monkeys daily. No detail here goes overlooked by the property designers — giant floating beds in the villas invite afternoon delight, solar panels and rainwater lower the ecological footprint, and the locally-inspired menu infuses bright, sweet fruits into each course. Fish is 100 percent sustainably and ethically caught, but vegans and vegetarians are not limited in their menu selections with many of the leaves and veggies grown right on site.