The Luxe Life in Costa Rica

Once a haven for backpackers, now clients can enjoy this Central American country in luxury

By: Joshua Hinsdale

Once a haven for student travelers, backpackers and other budget-conscious visitors, Costa Rica is now a legitimate destination for the luxury set. From the hills above San Jose to the beaches and the rainforests, Costa Rica tempts high-end travelers with pristine settings and lavish accommodations.

A sampling of the country’s new and recently renovated upscale properties reveals just how much things have changed since the days not long ago when a hotel with both air-conditioning and hot water was considered luxurious.

The Alta Hotel in San Jose offers 23 spacious rooms and suites, each with private patio or balcony. The roof-top penthouse has a spacious dining room and large balcony with a Moroccan fountain. In the afternoon, guests gather at the glass-tiled pool and outdoor Jacuzzi to sip cocktails and soak up the sun. Active travelers can hit the poolside exercise room then relax in the sauna or go for a massage. At meal times, the chef at La Luz restaurant combines regional and California cuisine to prepare unique steak and fish dishes served up in a cozy dining room with commanding views of the valley. The staff can also serve picnic meals in the poolside garden or under a 100-year-old Guanacaste tree.

The La Paz Waterfalls Gardens Hotel in Vara Blanca is one of the country’s more unique luxury properties. Located on the grounds of a nature park, the rooms at the Peace Lodge blur the line between indoors and out. There are spacious balconies in the treetops, stone fireplaces, skylights, waterfall showers and mosaic-tiled jetted tubs, all giving your clients the feeling that they are living in the rain forest. In-room conveniences include satellite TV, stereo, refrigerator, coffeemaker and even an aromatherapy kit. A two-mile hiking trail near the Poas Volcano with five waterfalls, zip-line tours and river-rafting expeditions create plenty of postcard moments. Guests can even work with the hotel’s butterfly nursery, collecting eggs and tending to the caterpillars.

Travelers seeking a real natural thrill should head to the 106-room Tabacon Hot Springs Resort & Spa in the country’s north-central region. Surrounded by rainforest and built at the base of the Arenal Volcano, the hotel’s main attraction is a series of hot springs and thermal pools, filled with mineral water that is naturally warmed as it passes through the depths the volcano. The Iskandria Spa offers unique treatments utilizing the thermal water, plus more traditional European-style therapies. Rooms feature superior linens, plush cotton bathrobes and room service. Guests go hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and fishing, but the real highlight is witnessing an eruption, when glowing red lava rocks explode from the volcano and arc across the sky.

The opening of the Four Seasons Costa Rica, the chain’s first property in Central America, puts to rest any doubt that the country is a bona fide destination for luxury travelers. Located in the northern Pacific province of Guanacaste, it features such signature touches as marble bathrooms with soaking tub and glass shower, down pillows, duvets and terry bathrobes. The resort’s residential furnishings, DVD players and high-speed Internet access put the 163-room hotel on par with the finest hotels of the world. Combine that with the 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course, two virgin beaches, scuba center and eco-friendly activities program, and your clients have the perfect blend of natural splendor and crafted elegance.

Though backpackers can still find what they’re looking for in Costa Rica, luxury travelers can have many of the same exotic adventures, then end the day relaxing in the Jacuzzi and sleeping on imported linens. That’s how clients define the good life in Central America.


The Alta Hotel
Alto de las Palomas
San Jose, Costa Rica
(506) 282-4160

La Paz Waterfalls Gardens
Vara Blanca, Costa Rica
(506) 225-0643

Tabacon Hot Springs Resort & Spa
Mailing address:
Box 181-1007, Centro Colon
San Jose, Costa Rica
(506) 519-1900

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Peninsula Papagayo
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
(506) 696-0000