Photos by Katherine Vallera
Perhaps you’re feeling stressed out at work, or maybe your family is driving you crazy. We’ve all been there! Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. Sooner or later, you’re going to need a break from the grind. To quote Nobel Laureate Betty Williams, “when all else fails, take a vacation!” If a getaway that includes plenty of rest and relaxation sounds like a splurge that you need in your life right now, treat yourself with a trip to Costa Rica that combines the Andaz Papagayo with the Nayara Resort.
It’s the nature and tranquility of Costa Rica’s tropical rainforests alongside the laid back culture and philosophy of pura vida (pure life) that make this destination absolutely sublime. I recommend starting your Costa Rica vacation with a stay by the sea at Hyatt’s Andaz Papagayo Resort, located on a peninsula in the region of Guanacaste. This resort is only a half hour drive from the Liberia airport, and with so many airlines offering nonstop service from the U.S. to Liberia, you can start to unwind and enjoy as quickly as possible.
This resort features inviting décor inspired by the natural flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Each room offers a private balcony, some with outdoors showers, as well as stunning views of the Culebra Bay. The Andaz Papagayo is built on a steep incline from the ocean, but never fear if you’re not great with walking up hill. They have plenty of golf carts to transport guests around the property. The fresh sea breeze combined with the resort’s eco-centric concept, substantiated by thatch roofs and hard wood furnishings, inspires a sense of grounding and earthiness. The resort’s overall atmosphere is tranquil and secluded, and nowhere is this serenity better experienced than at the Onda Spa.
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Alongside the more standard spa services, the Andaz Papagayo’s Onda Spa offers more authentic Costa Rican experiences. Those who wish to feel fresh and rejuvenated might consider the Gallo Pinto Scrub, or else indulging in the Guancaste Journey, a two-hour-plus treatment that utilizes indigenous Chorotegan ingredients. I received a deep tissue massage called the Cana Brava. For this service, my masseuse used bamboo sticks to rub chamomile and olive balm into my muscles to relieve soreness and increase circulation. The Cana Brava Massage is intense and I personally enjoyed it, but I would not recommend it for individuals who prefer a more delicate touch.
Spa services are performed in peaceful, private rooms concealed within the lush tropical rainforest. Guests who visit the Onda Spa for treatments can customize their experience with options regarding musical preferences, the gender of their masseuse and whether or not they would like air conditioning. What made my Cana Brava Massage even more memorable was that it took place during a thunderstorm. Obviously this is not something that you can request, but being massaged outdoors while listening to the rain was an incredible experience to enjoy nonetheless.
Many guests like to spend their days relaxing around the Andaz Papagayo’s heated swimming pools, which are surrounded by cushioned loungers and bean bag chairs. In the evenings, the resort’s restaurants are alive with music and entertainment. I had the opportunity to experience a mixology course hosted by Christian Bolanos, who taught our class how to make exotic cocktails using various ingredients and sophisticated techniques. Perhaps the pinnacle of this class came when we learned how to caramelize our cocktails using a kitchen torch. Overall, the mixology course was fun and a fantastic precursor to fine dining at the restaurant Chao Pescao, which incorporates traditional Costa Rican cuisine with a gourmet twist. Meanwhile, seafood fans might appreciate the Ostra Restaurant at Andaz Papagayo, which hosts live demonstrations to prepare fresh ceviche by the sea.
From the Andaz Papagayo, take a trip inland to the region of Alajuela for an incredible stay at the Nayara Resort in the district of La Fortuna. The drive between these hotels can take approximately three hours, so ask your travel agent to reserve your transportation in advance. They can arrange your airport transfers as well, so everything’s taken care of before you arrive. What makes La Fortuna and the Nayara Resort worth visiting is their proximity to the Arenal Volcano. Dormant since 2010, visitors can still witness steam as it escapes from its vents. The volcanic hot springs, which are fed by underground geothermal heat, have become one of La Fortuna’s most popular attractions.
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It is believed that bathing in hot springs has a therapeutic effect due to the temperature and mineral content. Soaking in this water can improve blood circulation, relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote sleep. While some visitors to La Fortuna clamor to share neighboring hot springs open to the public, there are no outside visitors at the Nayara Resort. Instead, guests who stay at the Nayara Resort’s adults-only section, referred to as the Nayara Springs, will enjoy the private hot spring fed plunge pools that are attached to each villa. The plunge pools are surrounded by tropical foliage, which is strategically planted to isolate the villas, thereby affording guests a clothing-optional experience.
I would rank my villa at the Nayara Springs as tied with my overwater bungalow at Le Meridien Bora Bora for personal favorite accommodation of all time. It was just so intimate while immersed with breathtaking scenery. Every morning, I’d rise from my luxurious four poster canopy bed and open the doors that led to my patio. There I had an outdoor lounging bed, a table and chairs and a hammock. Just a few more steps and I’d dip into my private hot spring, which included optional jets and spectacular views of the volcano. I cannot fathom a more relaxing experience, especially when you factor in a trip to the spa.
The primary concept behind The Spa at Nayara Springs is to bring body, mind and nature together in perfect harmony and peace. Not unlike the Andaz Papagayo, the Spa at Nayara Springs utilizes local and organic ingredients to offer treatments that are unique to Costa Rica. Treatments include Rainforest Aromatherapy Massages, Hot Stone Massages, as well as chocolate and coffee body scrubs. During my stay, I tried a Volcanic Mud Massage with minerals for detoxification that also nourished my skin. I also appreciated the morning rainforest yoga classes, which incorporate peaceful live music for even more zen. Never before had I done yoga with an acoustic guitar playing to tranquil singing. The instructor’s easy to moderate pace was calming as she led the class through a variety of asanas. These complimentary yoga sessions are offered daily on the Nayara Resort’s elevated pavilion.
Guests who stay at the family-friendly Nayara Hotel next door have access to the spa and yoga classes as well. They do not, however, have private hot spring plunge pools. Instead, rooms at the Nayara Hotel include balconies with Jacuzzi tubs. The experience is not quite the same, which is why I would recommend paying more for the adults-only Nayara Springs. The private hot spring plunge pools are well worth the upgrade.
The gastronomy at the Nayara Resort was delicious and gourmet with all fresh ingredients. Their extensive wine list allowed for excellent pairings. I would recommend the whole grilled lobster at the Altamira Restaurant and pairing it with the Chilean Chardonnay. For a more romantic setting, guests might enjoy dinner at the adults-only Amor Loco, located across the bridge from the spa. The plush seating and Moroccan inspired décor provides guests with a luxurious oasis. This is the place to have a cocktail by the pool or to enjoy live music while gourmandizing on the chef’s exotic cuisine.
The biggest news from the Nayara Resort is that they are in the process of adding new facilities to enhance the adults-only experience. These additions include a new lobby, Italian restaurant, hiking trail, as well as an incredible three level swimming pool. The project will be completed by Dec. 15, but in the meantime, guests are not disturbed by construction. I am pleased to report that I experienced no disruption during my stay at the Nayara Springs.
Far from disrupted, I departed from Costa Rica feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world! Between the gourmet food, cocktails, yoga and spa treatments, the stress I’d been carrying just melted away. If this is a sensation you’d like to experience, talk to your travel agent about planning a Costa Rica getaway that includes Hyatt’s Andaz Papagayo and the Nayara Resort. You work hard to take care of your job and your family, you deserve a relaxing vacation!