My latest trip to Costa Rica had a common theme: you don’t have to sacrifice luxury for adventure. Yes, it’s true. You can have it all – authentic adventure and luxury in one trip! My adventure brought me off the beaten path to the wild southern zones of Costa Rica and to the coffee country in the Central Valley — in style! Allow me to bring you along for the ride…
My adventure began at Rancho Pacifico Hotel, South Pacific Coast.
I started my trip in the South Pacific region of Uvita. Getting to Rancho Pacifico Hotel from San Jose International Airport took about 4 1/2 hours with a stop to grab some food and visit the Tarcoles Crocodile Bridge, where a large population of crocodiles can be observed from the bridge. When I arrived at Rancho Pacifico, I settled in and toured their beautiful treehouses and villas – each with views of Playa Ballena and the rainforest. Rancho Pacifico is surrounded by lush, tropical forest with wildlife like sloths, monkeys, frogs, lizards, and birds. After settling in, I had an incredible dining experience – with a great drink selection! The property has culinary themes each night. For me, it was a barbeque and Italian meal…. delicioso!
Rancho Pacific is an especially good option for independent travelers looking for privacy and adventure. They have independent hiking trails accessible from the property like the waterfall loop trail that leads to a secret waterfall or trails up the mountain for incredible views overlooking Ballena Beach.
Rancho Pacifico will also soon be adding a new pool and yoga observation deck!
Stop 2: Kura Design Villas, South Pacific Coast
Imagine pulling up on a winding jungle road to a sleek private hotel in the middle of the forest. That’s exactly how I came upon Kura Design Villas. This ultra-modern adults-only hotel is perfect for couples with a romantic atmosphere and amazing views overlooking the rainforest and famous whale’s tail on the South Pacific Coast. There are only eight villas – two of which are the brand new master suites with outdoor infinity plunge pools overlooking the whale’s tail! Check out this video about the Kura experience:
Admittedly, this isn’t my video, but it illustrates the Kura Design Villas experience perfectly!
Stop 3: El Castillo Hotel, South Pacific Coast
I next visited El Castillo Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel overlooking the South Pacific Coast reminiscent of a European villa. With just six hotel rooms located within close proximity, the hotel cultivates a sense of community among guests.
The culinary experience at El Castillo is exceptional. They have a young talented chef who will bring you into town to the markets to buy ingredients for meals and snacks and explain each dish to you as you dine.
El Castillo offers a Chef’s Table experience with local, seasonal ingredients crafted into inspired dishes, explained and presented by their chef!
Another highlight of the El Castillo experience is its immediate access to Garza Island, a private island where guests can spend the afternoon with a picnic lunch from the restaurant. And my favorite unexpected surprise? The resident iguana who hangs around the property sunbathing by the pool.
Stop 4: Hacienda AltaGracia, Southern Mountains
Hacienda AltaGracia, an Auberge Resort, is a large sprawling hacienda offering a customizable luxury experience. The hacienda once was a fully functioning hacienda with over 28 indoor stables for horses and the largest riding ring in Central America. It has since been converted to the luxury hotel that it is today. The equestrian stable still stands and offers a variety of equestrian tours or you can simply tour the stable and pet the horses if you aren’t up to taking a ride. AltaGracia has a multitude of complimentary tours, many of which are exclusive to them. They have exclusive access to waterfalls, nature preserves, and coffee plantations around the area.
I’d highly recommend checking out the “relaxation room” at Hacienda AltaGracia’s spa, a large dark soundproof room with individual chaise lounges and reading lamps with curtains to separate your space from other peoples’. Despite AltaGracia’s off the beaten path location, they offer a kind of connected comfort with the option to log in to your Netflix and Hulu account from the room’s Apple TV for those of us that aren’t quite ready to throw out the WiFi password or our favorite shows.
Stop 5: Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Osa Peninsula
When I checked into Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula, I was given the rundown on the multitude of different tours offered daily which were included in my stay. I signed up for a hike with one of their on-site naturalist guides during which I was able to see all four monkey species native to Costa Rica: squirrel, white-faced capuchin, howler, and spider monkey.
The hiking trails were not the only place to see wildlife from Lapa Rios Lodge. There are animals all over the property. You may have monkeys come up close on the walk back to your room. There are frogs at the pool and crabs and lizards are all over the paths! The lodge even has an observation deck with views overlooking the forest for wildlife viewing. You’re bound to see animals even walking down to the beach, a quiet untouched stretch of sand where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
I was also impressed by the rigorous sustainability practices the lodge upholds. They are always looking for new ways to minimize their carbon footprint and were the first hotel in Costa Rica to attain all five leaves in sustainability, a measurement of sustainable hospitality and resource management put in place by the Costa Rican Tourism Board. They even educate guests on their environmental practices and urge them to get involved during their stay.
Stop 6: Starbucks’ Hacienda Alsacia, Alajuela
The highlands in Alajuela grow some of the world’s best coffee. So it’s not surprising that Starbucks has chosen the fertile patch of land now known as Hacienda Alascia for their new coffee plantation. At Hacienda Alascia, Starbucks is brewing up their own exclusive variety of coffee and offering coffee plantation guests a quick tour with a coffee flight at the end of the tour. They are also doing great things for the farmers in the area! They have an education center focused on teaching local coffee growers eco-friendly and sustainable practices as well as sharing which varieties are best to grow in the area.
Last stop: Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation, Central Valley
I ended my adventure at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort, Located in the Central Valley, Finca Rosa Blanca is a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of San Jose and a fantastic way to take in more of Costa Rican culture. While I thought my stay would mostly revolve around coffee, I was pleasantly surprised by the authentic, beautiful art in every nook and cranny of the hotel. The villas on the coffee plantation were warm, welcoming, and inviting! And a coffee tour during your stay is definitely a must! I don’t have a coffee problem, I swear…
Ready for your own luxury adventure? Customize your dream trip with a Costa Rica Expert!