Valerie Wilson Travel

Costa Rica

“Pura Vida” is a popular phrase in Costa Rica that encapsulates the country’s way of life. It translates to “pure life” or “simple life.” It embodies the idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures and appreciating the beauty of nature. My one week wrapped in Costa Rica’s pristine natural beauty and the warmth and friendliness of the people has made it a “must visit” recommendation for me.

My clientele generally seeks family focused vacations that tend to work around school calendars. Because of these academic schedules, there are certain migrations that people make for the holidays. For instance, the Caribbean or Mexico remain a popular choice for families with young children during the East Coast’s cold and dreary winter months, while Europe remains a favorite during the summer months. As children grow older and their activity levels and opinions increase, families prefer destinations that offer the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation.

A less-than-6-hour-direct-flight away from both JFK and EWR, Costa Rica has emerged as a top choice for families with older children. My first visit to Costa Rica was this past July, and because I traveled with my boyfriend, I was able to experience the country from a romantic perspective while keeping families in mind. It was the perfect destination to relax and reconnect with ourselves and with nature. I hope after reading this you will consider this destination for your clients, couples, and family alike!

July falls into Costa Rica’s rainy season which typically lasts May through November. However, there’s a delightful “Vernillo” or “little summer” during this period that lasts the last two weeks of June through the first two weeks of July. During this period, rainfall significantly decreases so we experienced sunny days while hearing the rain only overnight. It was a wonderful time to experience the country’s lush beauty with verdant landscapes, vibrant foliage, and waterfalls swelling.

Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Upon arrival through the gates of Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, well past midnight, we were welcomed with fresh, chilled coconuts that instantly washed away the stress of the long travel day. Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica exudes understated luxury and was an ideal beginning to my journey in Costa Rica. From the moment you step onto the property, there’s an immediate sense of calm and serenity. It’s the ideal fusion of nature and luxury, expertly balanced. Earth tones, open air design, unobtrusive passageways, natural wood elements, and local art create a serene and immersive atmosphere. The attentive staff, elevated service and multi-faceted dining experience lived up to Four Seasons reputation for exceptional service and hospitality. We were greeted with warm smiles by everyone we met. We were also able to communicate via the Four Seasons app throughout our stay with real time and prompt responses with each interaction.

We stayed in the Cielo Room, aptly named after the sky and renowned for its stunning vantage point for glowing sunsets, partial bay and tropical forest scenery, and the sounds of the lapping ocean. The room features a large screened-in furnished terrace which we originally thought was to keep away potential mosquitoes, but later discovered was to keep out curious monkeys and other animals. The spaciousness and modern amenities of the room and en-suite bathroom were exceptional. It was truly a haven for luxury and comfort. Its prime location, just a 3-minute walk from the resort center added to this room categories appeal. For those who want a more secluded feel, I would recommend staying in a bungalow, or for larger groups or families seeking a lavish and exclusive experience, a residential estate villa offering multiple bedrooms, expansive living areas, private pools and breathtaking ocean views throughout.

One of the best features of this resort is its versatility and accessibility to the pools and beaches. The two pools in the heart of the resort offer ample chaises and umbrellas. Coupled with the choice of two pristine beaches just steps away, it’s the best of both worlds. The newest and most exciting update to the resort is scheduled for this November: Virador Beach Club which went into construction shortly after our departure.

For the active travelers, there’s an 800-step trail/stair climb through nature that will get your heart pumping while passing birds and Halloween crabs. Granted there are so many activities off the property from ziplines to hikes, we did not have to venture too far to explore the coastline of Papagayo! From our beach chaises, we took a few steps into the calm waters and were whisked away on a private jet ski excursion arranged through Swiss Travel, a vendor also partnered with the Four Seasons. Their knowledgeable guide took us on a scenic ride to various rock formations, snorkeling spots, and through caves. While the activities are undeniably incredible, lounging by the pool and beach with delicious lunch and fresh pressed juices was just as nice.

A significant highlight of our stay was the resort’s yogi master, Jose. He conducts a sound bath experience which I can only describe as life changing. While I have done multiple in the past, there was no experience like this one. While the experience is offered to everyone at the resort, it ended up being just my partner and I in the session. After setting our intention, with eyes covered, comfortably reclined, Jose played instruments in a deliberate, meditative and harmonious manner. You cannot leave the resort without visiting Jose. And here’s some exciting news: the resort is in the process of building a dedicated Wellness Shala/yoga pavilion, also set to be completed in November.

Nayara Springs

We were so sad to leave Four Seasons, but it was on to the rainforest. We took a 3-hour private car transfer to Nayara Springs (word of advice: bring some Dramamine for those winding roads…and there are a lot!) Nayara Springs is a part of a trio of interconnected resorts on the property, the others being Nayara Gardens, the oldest and more family-friendly, and Nayara Tented Camp, the newest, and also family-friendly. All 3 resorts are nestled in the heart of Arenal Volcano National Park meaning the views and activities nearby are nothing short of amazing. While you may stay at only one resort, it is likely you will spend some time at all three, whether dining or just wandering around looking for sloths and birds. We loved the breakfast view of the Arenal Volcano at the restaurant at Nayara Tented Camp so we would make the uphill trek daily after yoga. For those with mobility issues, Nayara runs golf carts all day and night to take you to various parts of the property. I would also recommend leaving your high heels at home. Comfortable shoes are a must!

Nayara Springs is part of Relais & Chateau and is the most secluded and romantic of the three. This adults-only eco-resort has only 35 villas. All accommodations at the 3 resorts feature private plunge pools that are fed by natural mineral hot springs. Our villa was beyond spacious with a four-poster bed, an indoor/outdoor living room, and an enormous bathroom with both an indoor and outdoor shower. For guests traveling as a family, I would recommend Nayara Tented Camp. It is a great hub to experience the offerings of the Arenal region with access to wildlife tours, volcano hikes, and canopy adventures.

One of the big draws in the Arenal Volcano region is the La Fortuna waterfall. To reach this natural wonder, visitors traverse a series of suspension bridges known as the ‘Mystic Hanging Bridges.’ From there, you descend 600 man-made steps that lead to the picturesque waterfall pool. We arranged to see the waterfall with a private guide through Nayara. Just moments after leaving the resort gates, our guide spotted a sloth perched in a tree with his tripod, setting the tone for an immersive excursion. Having a guide transformed what would have been a nice nature walk into an enlightening experience surrounded by wildlife we might have otherwise missed. Despite the waterfall being a major attraction, the area didn’t feel overly crowded. What added to our peace of mind was the knowledge that all guides are educated and licensed by the government, ensuring a high standard of quality and safety throughout the entire experience.

On another day, we embarked on a canyoning adventure with Pure Trek, where we rappelled off rocks into waterfalls. Accompanied by three guides and a professional photographer, we were picked up in a sturdy 4×4 for a 30-minute drive through the rainforest. After being outfitted in proper gear and briefed on rappelling techniques, our exhilarating journey began. We did a total of 5 rappels into the depths of a 350-foot canyon. With each rappel, you can feel the force coming off the waterfall. In between descents, you have the opportunity to spot wildlife and wander through the rainforest. This excursion is perfect for those looking for a lot of adventure, coupled with amazing photo opportunities. I would recommend a to book a private excursion like we did.

One of the last things we did was a lava field walk through the dried lava fields left behind by the 1968 eruption of the Arenal Volcano. The hike offers amazing views of the volcano and is very moderate. The resort can arrange transportation to the area, and I do not necessarily recommend going with a guide unless you are particularly interested in the history of the eruption and its impact on the town. It is a perfect, self-paced activity. After all our activities, we had the best couples massage at the Nayara Springs Spa in an open-air treatment room with the sounds of flowing water and calls of birds as the backdrop.

Our vacation divided between Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica and Nayara Springs was the epitome of luxury and natural wonder. From the elevated comforts of the Four Seasons to the intimate seclusion of Nayara Springs, we enjoyed two worlds of exquisite beauty. As we departed, we carried the memories of adventure, romance, and the harmonious beauty of Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

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