Costa Rica in 5 Days and 2 Amazing Resorts
Costa Rica is such a diverse country that one can’t see it all in one visit. The country has amazing people, diverse landscapes, and wonderful adventures. I was fortunate to visit both the beaches and mountains of Costa Rica in 5 days and 2 amazing resorts.
My first stop in Costa Rica was to the Pacific side of the country. The Papagayo Peninsula is well known for its beautiful beaches, wonderful resorts, and close by adventure activities such as hiking to stunning waterfalls and zip-lining. The nice thing about the Papagayo Peninsula is that it is a short drive to Liberia International Airport which has direct flights – many less than 4 hours! – from a number of US cities. Compared to many other tropical locations, Costa Rica remains less built-up and thus feels more intimate than say many hotspots in Mexico.
Arriving at the Andaz Papagayo, you are greeted in open air lobby overlooking Culebra Bay. It is an incredible view. After an expeditious check-in, a golf-cart took me to my suite. Depending on your mood, golf carts can be one of the best ways to get around the property as it is wide and sits up on the hill. My suite was on the top floor and had an amazing view of the property and bay. I would recommend a high floor room as you will get much better views than if you are on the ground floor.
The Andaz Papagayo caters to all guests. For those looking to relax, there are multiple pools and beaches that guests have access to as well as a delightful spa. I spent most of my time at going back and for the between the main pool and the adult only pool. While smaller, the adult only pool was extremely quiet and served as nice break from the larger main pool. The beach at the Andaz Papagayo is small, but great for a swim and to relax by with the sounds of the ocean. I spent more of my time at the pools, but the beach was nice to have to break up where and how I wanted to spend some of my time relaxing.
Adventurers have lots of options at the resort. There are plenty of watercraft to enjoy to include stand-up paddle boards, canoes and jet skis. I chose to jet ski and enjoyed zooming around the bay seeing the different beaches and landscape surrounding the resort. For those who prefer their activities to be on-land, there are plenty of hikes and zip-lining opportunities that the property can coordinate for you. Families are well taken care of with a kids club to help keep them entertained (though the monkeys bounding through the trees will probably be their highlight).
Other activities for adults include ceviche making classes as well as a mixology class. I took part in the latter and I highly recommend it. Not only was it fun to learn about how and why different items are mixed together in your favorite drink, but it was a great happy hour before dinner. Speaking of food, the Andaz Papagayo doesn’t disappoint. Food is served at a few restaurants, all with local authentic dishes and more traditional resort fare. The small plates at Chao Pescao are not to be missed.
After a few days of relaxing by the beach, it was time to head to the mountains and experience a different part of Costa Rica. My next stop was at the Hacienda AltaGracia, by Auberge Resorts. The fastest and easiest way to the resort is by private plane as the resort has its own dirt runway. If small planes aren’t your thing, you can get there via car or bus, but it will take you a few hours vs about 30-45 minutes depending on if you are flying from Liberia or San Jose.
The Hacienda AltaGracia is probably the most unique resort I’ve ever stayed at. Tucked away on the hillside looking up at Costa Rica’s highest mountain – Cerro Chirripo – the Hacienda AltaGracia is a place to play, but also be pampered. There are no rooms at the resort, only haciendas. Each is well appointed to satisfy even the most discerning visitor, but still maintains an authentic Costa Rican feel. As I said, this isn’t your average resort. Soon after my arrival I was taken by golf-cart to meet with the hostler who would show me around the stables and introduce me to the horse I was going to be riding that afternoon. After a quick tutorial, I was up and riding through coffee fields, through the forest, and up the mountain. I stopped many times to take in the view of waterfalls and the valley below, which included breathtaking views of the property itself. The clouds began to roll in from the mountains and it was time to head back to rest for a bit before dinner. Dinner at Ambar was a treat with all organic and locally sourced foods – I indulged in an organic chicken breast before preparing for a busy second day at the hotel.
The morning of day 2 was spent hiking to a beautiful three tiered waterfall while eating fresh rambutan along the way. Back at the resort after lunch, called for some time at the pool. The infiniti pool overlooks the valley and is a perfect place to enjoy some sun. Afternoon showers are common during the rainy season. Fortunately, the Hacienda AltaGracia has one of the largest indoor pools I have ever seen! With beautiful floor to ceiling windows, it is really impressive. It is the perfect place to lounge after getting a treatment at the spa. So rain or shine there is lots to do at the property.
Before having to say goodbye – sadly – on my third morning, I was treated to an ultralight flight. For those not familiar, an ultralight plane is a one or two person fixed wing aircraft. With its small size and quiet engine, you can get really close to the landscape. We flew around and saw beautiful coffee fields, small villages, impressive waterfalls, mountains and the ocean. Yes, we flew all the way out to the ocean and back. I can’t speak enough about this experience – if you ever get a chance, sign up immediately!
Costa Rica has so much to offer whether you spend your time at the beach or in the mountains. With so many different places to go and stay, it can be tough to narrow down how to spend your time. I can’t recommend the Andaz Papagayo and the Hacienda AltaGracia enough. They are two of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed and when I go back to Costa Rica, I will be hard pressed to decide to stay anywhere else.
Adam! Beautiful post, beautiful photos. I was lucky enough to have been to Costa Rica about 30 years ago. Thanks for this information about these resorts…maybe its time for a trip back!
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