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Understated Luxury Experiences in Nature

Luxury in travel can mean many things, and Costa Rica luxury is its own mini-diverse world of opportunities.

Opulent, extravagant constructions with some important XVIII century historical background are practically non-existent.

And for a reason. Costa Rica is known for its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and tropical wildlife. So luxury in Costa Rica often means providing you access to these experiences in an understated way.

It’s not to say that some of the properties built here are not screaming bold, modern design. Quite the contrary. There’s more than one monolith set on the dramatic slopes overlooking the ocean and covered with jungle flora here.

They all stand out as an amazing, state-of-the-art testament to modern architecture.
Another admired concept is properties that showcase ‘naturalist’ designs and are built with eco-materials. These locations integrate local culture, natural history, and the flow of the landscape in their design.

Both of these have one thing in common: unparalleled attention to detail and a desire to provide the best possible experience of Costa Rica’s natural environment.

Whether you are looking for a luxury resort on the beach, a boutique hotel, or a private home, Costa Rica has something for every type of traveler. But it all goes down to one thing, and that is to get the luxury vacation that’s best for you.

To decide which path to take, it’s best to get advice from a local travel expert. In this guide, you can find out about the top luxury beach hotels in Costa Rica, rental options and locations, and most importantly, what are the most luxurious, custom-designed experiences you can expect.

1. Expert Advice for the Luxury Traveler

In this episode, travel experts Shay Tippie and Aaron Vanecek talk about all things luxury in Costa Rica! During our conversation, we cover everything you need to know from the most luxurious hotels in the rainforest to how it is that Costa Rica combines both Eco and Luxury.

Aaron Vanecek

Aaron VanecekMora, Minnesota

Minnesotan that escaped the snow to fall in love with Costa Rica and raise my family here.

With tourism increasing every year, Costa Rica has positioned itself as a top luxury travel destination in Latin America.

Even the most discerning travelers can find a range of luxury options to choose from. This includes everything from brand-name resorts to unique upscale boutique hotels.

For those lovers of well-known brands, there are plenty of luxury chain-style resorts to choose from. Most of these are in the Guanacaste area on the Northern Pacific Coast.

In recent years, more of these large resorts have popped up. They offer travelers the reassurance of a recognized name while exploring Costa Rica’s natural beauty and adventures.

Some of these options include the Four Seasons, Hyatt’s Andaz Papagayo, Planet Hollywood, Westin, The W, and the JW Marriott.

Although you can find these resorts all over the world, each hotel finds creative ways to weave in authentic Costa Rican highlights.

Guests will find that the decor and ambience leave them with a luxurious taste of Costa Rica.

Book a personalized luxury trip

Luxury in Costa Rica can be found anywhere. From the lush mountain slopes near a volcano to the expansive views of the sea and a safe haven in the bustling towns, there is something for anyone.

Check out this hand-picked list of options across the country and enjoy some of the best luxury hotels in Costa Rica. The best thing is, a vacation package can have all of them and more!

Costa Rica is famous for its rainforests and mountains, where you can find various eco-luxury experiences. At the beach, there is even more of a chance for a luxury vacation. Resorts and boutique hotels both await for travelers of all kinds!

With both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica has beaches galore to provide an unforgettable luxury vacation.

There are some points to take note of when looking for beach luxury in Costa Rica, though.

The first point is which side of Costa Rica: Pacific or Caribbean?

The Caribbean Sea: Comfort in the Jungle

To many, the Caribbean conjures up images of luxury vacationing. They dream of turquoise waters and Caribbean island escapes like Mustique or St. Barts, places that define the image of luxury.

Costa Rica is different. History and logistics mean that Costa Rica’s Caribbean side is less developed than the Pacific.

The Caribbean side is beautiful as it possesses a large range of natural landmarks and wildlife. This makes it harder to get to, and tourism here is still, with some exceptions, more catered to travelers who want to immerse themselves into the jungle or relax in a hassle-free atmosphere at the beach.

Luxury here is not connected to opulence, but to service, modern comforts, expansive views, and access to unique wonders and national parks.

Manatus, in the Northern Caribbean, and Le Chameleon, on the Southern side, are some of the best examples of luxury on this coast.

The Pacific Coastline:
High-End Pampering

True lovers of beach luxury will find the Pacific side of Costa Rica more to their taste.

As mentioned, the province of Guanacaste is where most of the luxury is. This part of Costa Rica is home to some of the best beaches in the country, served by its own international airport in Liberia. Costa Rica luxury beach resorts and boutique options are both available here.

Costa Rica offers fantastic luxury rentals all throughout the country.

It’s very important to consider safety and security when selecting a private rental. This is why you’ll find the best vacation rental options within private developments.

World-Class Accommodations & Amenities

These properties offer rental accommodations but also act like a resort. On-site restaurants, 24/7 security, and personal concierge services give guests the best of both worlds.

Luxury homes in Costa Rica also allow large families to gather together in shared common areas while also providing privacy.

Expansive indoor and outdoor living areas, fully-equipped kitchens, private pools, chef services, and security are the main highlights guests can expect from a luxury rental.

Many upscale vacation homes feature impressive design and tropical chic decor.

These features help guests feel at home in Costa Rica.

Outdoor and Indoor Activities

The benefit of renting a vacation home in a luxury resort development is that oftentimes guests will have access to secluded beaches, on-site hiking trails, marinas, on-site restaurants, beach clubs, resort pools, and other activities like SUP, kayaking, surfing, boogie boards, and more.

There is something for everyone at these luxury rental properties.

Guests can branch out on their own during the day, and then all gather together later in their own living room to share stories.

The best resort properties offering luxury vacation rentals in Costa Rica are Tulemar, Los Sueños, Las Catalinas, and The Palms.

Costa Rica is now one of the top wellness destinations in the world.

With spectacular natural scenery, outdoor adventure activities, and the “Pura Vida” vibe, travelers are bound to experience a sense of wellness here.

Most of the upscale boutique hotels and large luxury resorts feature incredible spas with signature treatments using local natural ingredients like coffee or volcanic mud.

Wellness centers are also becoming a standard. They allow guests to stay in shape while on vacation, returning home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Spas in the Rainforest with Volcano Views

The best spas in Costa Rica take advantage of the rich forestry and awe-inspiring surroundings. They do their best to highlight Costa Rica’s natural beauty as part of the package.

Open-air treatment rooms overlooking the lush rainforest provide a calming connection with nature. It’s the perfect compliment to a relaxing massage, facial, or other indulgent spa treatment.

The Arenal Volcano area hosts most of Costa Rica’s top spas.

The Spa at Nayara Springs is one of the most luxurious options in the world for a tropical wellness experience.

With the best therapists and breathtaking treatment rooms, guests will leave feeling in perfect harmony with the natural environment during their luxury retreat.

Nayara Springs provides a romantic and intimate atmosphere, igniting the senses and creating a blissful experience for all guests.

Wellness & Yoga: Retreating to Reconnect

The concept of “wellness” is now a popular offering by most luxury resorts and boutique hotels.

Not only can you find state-of-the-art gyms, but many hotels offer yoga classes, meditation decks, and on-site hiking trails.

Some hotels like Casa Chameleon and Amor Arenal even offer yoga mats and dumbbells inside the rooms so guests can exercise within the comfort of their own suites.

The adventure activities, nature, decadent spa experiences, and fitness offerings make Costa Rica a top destination for luxury wellness travel.

While large resorts are an option for luxury travel in Costa Rica, the real treat is the upscale boutique eco-resorts and hotels.

Often located in secluded areas with unbeatable proximity to jungle, nature, and wildlife, these boutique hotels offer tropical luxury at its finest.

Some of the top luxury boutique hotels offer perks like indoor/outdoor showers, private jacuzzi/plunge pools, infinity pools with spectacular views, innovative restaurants, and personalized and friendly service.

Many travel writers describe these luxury eco-resorts as jungle chic. They often include luxury amenities while also exercising sustainable practices.

The way to define the luxury boutique experience in Costa Rica involves:

  • Incredible views
  • Magical settings
  • Impressive facilities
  • High standards of service

My favorite luxury boutique hotels in Costa Rica include Villa Buena Onda, Cala Luna in Tamarindo, and La Mansion Inn in Manuel Antonio. The Amor Arenal in the Arenal Volcano area is also a perfect example of boutique luxury.

Let a travel expert plan your trip

If you are unsure as to why Costa Rica would be the perfect luxury experience for you, think no more.

There’s a blend of traditional luxury—the finer things in life that you want when on vacation—with something more natural and, if you want, even more spiritual.

After all, there’s a lot to say for waking up in a rainforest with the sounds of the jungle. To many people, in this stressed-out day and age, that’s a luxury all by itself.

So with that said, here are three reasons why Costa Rica makes a great destination for luxury travelers:

1. Options for all Tastes

There’s a range of different hotels here, large and small, eco-lux or traditional luxury. And these are just examples!

Costa Rica offers a luxurious place to stay for pretty much everyone and although more expensive than elsewhere in Central America, luxury is catered here to a variety of traveler personalities!

2. Privacy & Intimacy

Most hotels in Costa Rica are small. It’s said the vast majority of places here have less than 20 rooms, which is about right based on my experience. There’s no better place than Costa Rica to relax in luxury without the crowds around you.

3. Adventure Opportunities

It’s not only about luxury hotels in Costa Rica. It’s about getting outside of them and into the forests, rivers, volcanoes, and beaches.

For such a small country, I don’t know where else one can do so much and still enjoy the luxuries of life at the same time!

One of the most unique selling points about Costa Rican tourism is the country’s ability to combine the eco-experience that made its name with the type of luxury that today’s high-end traveler expects.

This means Costa Rica provides eco-luxury like nowhere else in the world.

Costa Rica vs The World: The Luxury of the Small

It’s actually a testament to Costa Rica’s tourism industry that the eco-luxury sector is so powerful here.

Some countries, after all, go all out to corner the spring break market, or the market for inexpensive all-inclusives (as it happens in Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica).

Others try to capture the cruise ship market.

Here in Costa Rica, there has been debate going for both these types of tourism over the years. Some developers and politicians still see the benefit in massive resorts clogged up with thousands of people on a cheap vacation.

Yet most hoteliers and tourism insiders believe in a more boutique approach, a more exclusive approach, which provides better service and a more personalized retreat.

The History of Eco-Luxury: A New Tradition

It goes back to the early 1970s when Costa Rica started protecting its natural resources and opening national parks. People started traveling down here to see wildlife and experience the jungles.

Then pioneers like the late Michael Kaye came down and discovered the whitewater rafting potential of the Pacuare River. Suddenly, the idea of people paying money to raft or zip line or hike became more appealing than making money from destroying the forest.

Costa Rica isn’t a cheap destination, either. At least not in comparison to other countries in the region. You’re generally paying a little more to come here.

So if you’re paying a little more, why not pay for some luxury? This is where the term eco-luxury started.

Discover Costa Rica's eco-luxury

Hoteliers with imagination began building beautiful luxury lodges while keeping with the environmental goals of the country.

Nowadays, you have some perfect examples of eco-luxury in the Osa Peninsula with Lapa Rios and Copa de Arbol. Other examples include the Pacuare Lodge, accessible by river rafting, and Senda Monteverde.

These hotels offer a different experience from big resorts like the Four Seasons, aiming for a very understated and Costa Rican form of luxury.

It’s a chance to connect with pure nature in a tropical paradise while still keeping the amenities that a high-end traveler expects.

Once upon a time, a traveler either expected luxury or basic accommodations depending on where they were. If they were staying in a beach resort, then they wanted luxury. If they were doing a nature expedition, then they didn’t mind roughing it.

Costa Rica sought to seek a middle ground between the two extremes and today’s luxury eco-lodges around the country are a testament to that. This is the best way to see some of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.

Samuel Panthagani | USA
Dec 2019

“Best trip we've taken thus far!! All the arrangements from the time we got off the plane, to the time we were dropped off at the airport for our return home were just perfect, the accommodations at Arenal, Monte Verde and Coco beach were high-end and bathed you in luxury, and all the staff at every place were super nice, as were the drivers that transported us from place to place. We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation and are planning to go back soon!!”

About the Author

About the Author

Shay Tippie

I’ve always loved traveling, speaking Spanish, and had a strong desire to live abroad and work internationally. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Costa Rica for 13 years and have fallen in love with the nature, spectacular scenery, the peaceful lifestyle and Pura Vida way of life.

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