The renovated lobby at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo // © 2015 Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Feature image (above): Guests can golf at the 18-hole, par-72 Arnold Palmer-designed course. // © 2015 Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
“Con mucho gusto.” These three words seemed to echo during my time at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo in the country’s Guanacaste region. Meaning “with pleasure,” it’s the Costa Rican way of responding to “gracias.”
This positive energy is infectious at Four Seasons Costa Rica. After all, when you’re staying at a sprawling 45-acre resort perched on an isthmus, flanked by two beaches and inhabited by buoyant clans of howler and white-faced monkeys, any attempts to deny the pura vida (pure life) mentality will fail.
The results of a multimillion-dollar refurbishment, completed in late 2014, were on sparkling display when I visited. Highlights of the redesign include vibrant color schemes; low-slung tables made from indigenous trees; neon Acapulco-style rope chairs; and a handcrafted Tico mosaic ornamenting the lobby.
The resort’s 180 rooms, which include 30 one- or three-bedroom suites and five residential units, were also updated. I stayed in a Cielo room, which felt more like an imaginative, ritzy tree house than a typical hotel accommodation — sliding wood doors open to a large oceanfront balcony, netted in to keep pests out and cooled by an overhead fan. Other lovely details include hardwood floors; a marble bathroom with a soaking tub, a walk-in shower and L’Occitane products; free Wi-Fi access; and nightly turndown service.
Another strong selling point is Four Seasons Costa Rica’s new restaurants. At the Latin-inspired and alfresco Sol y Sombra, I savored every bite of raw hamachi, served with aji Amarillo chili sauce and garnished with passion fruit, mango and cilantro. The slow-braised pork with chipotle tostones (fried plantains) outshined the rest of my dishes. For a more elevated ambiance, a tapas-style dinner at Cena Sociale Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar will not disappoint. Order the risotto with oyster mushrooms and truffle oil. Supplementary culinary options are Tico’s (also new) for cocktails and light fare, Caracol for prime steak and CR Burger Shack.
Besides taking a dip in one of four pools (including an adults-only pool) or playing golf on the 18-hole, par-72 Arnold Palmer-designed course, there’s a smorgasbord of activities to keep busy. Most are offered gratis, such as a mixology class, a cooking class, a coffee-tasting experience, an introduction to surfing and various tours, including kayaking, bicycling, hiking, bird-watching and more. Other activities, such as a fitness boot camp, a pottery workshop and a chocolate-making class, require an extra fee.
Four Seasons Costa Rica has a strong relationship with travel agents and appreciates the business they provide, according to resort manager Manuel Leal. What sets the resort apart from competitors, he says, is more than just the property’s high tier of luxury.
“The ambiance of the surrounding nature and fauna plays a major role, but most of all, it’s the Costa Rican hospitality of our staff,” Leal said.
It wasn’t long before I adopted “con mucho gusto” into my own vocabulary, thoroughly charmed by how the phrase epitomizes the Four Seasons Costa Rica experience: With pleasure.