Where to Stay and Play in Guanacaste: Costa Rica’s Golden Coast

Costa Rica’s longtime maxim, pura vida—which translates to “pure life”—wonderfully sums up what the Latin American nation is all about.

Dotted with roughly five million natives (a.k.a. ticos), the aptly named “Rich Coast”—home to a vibrant mix of flora and fauna—is bursting with life and color, with over a quarter of its land roped off as protected natural territory. Hands down one of the most enchanting sites in the world, the colorful land draws million of visitors every year with its captivating naturescapes.

Waterfall Costa Rica

Haute Living recently ventured to the country’s province of Guanacaste, one of Costa Rica’s most scenic swaths and a popular destination among foreigners. Read on for where to stay and play on the coastal stretch, a zestful land just five hours from New York and less than three hours away from Miami via air.

Where to Stay

Tucked along the beaches of the Peninsula Papagayo, Hyatt’s Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort—the hotel brand’s first locale in Latin America—is the ultimate home base for a luxurious Costa Rican sojourn.

Just 20 minutes from Liberia International Airport by car, the sprawling property—beautifully designed by local architect Ronald Zürcher—boasts a modern yet organic aesthetic, featuring eclectic, bonnet-shaped common spaces and an open-air lobby/lounge. Embracing Costa Rica’s ubiquitous laid-back nature, the hillside resort refrains from following the typical check-in routine; instead of having to queue up behind a bulky counter upon their arrival, guests are treated to one-on-one greetings at a modest podium and quickly whisked away to their rooms.

Andaz Lobby
Andaz’s open-air lobby

Photo Credit: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Andaz houses 153 guest rooms or 21 luxury suites—thoughtfully outfitted with wood and stone furnishings and decor meant to evoke an indigenous feel, each sumptuous space features baths with relaxing rainfall showers that open to private balconies overlooking the glistening bay.

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Large Suite
Andaz Large Suite

Photo Credit: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

The resort’s plethora of amenities include two waterfall infinity pools—including one adults-only pool with bar service—and three restaurants including Rio Bhongo, which serves toothsome Costa Rican cuisine all day and night (start your day with an exotic, continental-style breakfast spotlighting fresh local ingredients, and try the roasted red snapper with coconut rice and patacones or traditional arroz con pollo with yucca fries for dinner).

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Rio Bhongo
Rio Bhongo

Photo Credit: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Chao Pescao, a lively spot that serves a slew of mouthwatering small plates, is punctuated by a cool cocktail bar helmed by mixologist Clark Jimenez (a finalist in the 2013 World Class Bartender of the Year competition), who whips up whimsical libations highlighting a collection of housemade bitters and infusions. Last but not least, enjoy a delectable seafood dinner in a more formal and low-key setting at Ostra, where diners are given the rare opportunity to create custom ceviches at a special station (select and combine your own protein, trimmings, and finishing sauce in a mixing bowl, and voila).

Ceviche at Ostra
Create your own ceviche at Andaz’s Ostra

Photo Credit: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

With nine posh treatment rooms (including three outdoor spaces and a couple’s suite), the resort’s 11,000-square-foot ONDA Spa offers a host of unique therapies inspired by the country’s culture. Polish your skin with locally-grown rice and beans, nourish it with a mixture of Costa Rican clays and seawater, or repair damaged dermis with a blend of aloe vera and tropical fruits.

ONDA Spa Room – Andaz Peninsula Papagayo
Andaz’s ONDA Spa features nine sumptuous treatment rooms, including three outdoor spaces.

Photo Credit: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Where to Play

Adventure seekers and nature lovers alike will delight in the country’s tropical rainforests and extraordinary wildlife.

Embark on an exhilarating jaunt through the Costa Rican jungle at Sensoria, a privately-owned reserve poised at the foot of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano that offers daily eco-tours of the lush spread. Armed with a walking stick, you’ll partake in a guided trek through the dense vegetation—if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some of the forest’s native critters—and have the chance to dip into five volcanic pools along the way (note: while the main hike is extremely doable for most, the optional side-trips to the first two waterfalls may be a bit challenging for some).

Sensoria Waterfall – K. TablangPhoto Credit: Kristin Tablang

As you enjoy the authentic lunch that immediately follows, you’ll be invited to view a reel starring the nighttime movement of the environ’s most imposing inhabitants, such as jaguars pumas, and ocelots.

Home to one of few tropical dry forests left on the planet, Palo Verde National Park is a phenomenal spot to observe a host of Costa Rica’s native creatures. Meander down the brackish Río Tempisque on board a quiet boat steered by knowledgeable locals and keep an eye out for elegant egrets, mischievous capuchins, and idling iguanas—not to mention sly crocodiles.

Palo Verde National Park – K. TablangPhoto Credit: Kristin Tablang

Those looking to kick back and relax against a tranquil natural backdrop should pencil in a day trip to The Springs. Located at the foot of the majestic Arenal volcano, the luxuriant spread boasts a bevy of amorphous hot mineral springs, rich with medicinal elements.

Drained each night, the therapeutic pools—whose temperatures range from 83˚ to 103˚ Fahrenheit—are replenished every morning with filtered water sourced from nearby springs. Be sure to sip on a cocktail at the sweet swim-up bar—positioned at the heart of the resort’s largest pool, La Laguna)—and take a turn on the water flume, “the Monkey Slide.”

The Springs Resort Lagoon Bar – K. Tablang
La Laguna Bar at The Springs Resort

Photo Credit: Kristin Tablang