Sometimes when I travel I feel like I know the place before I even step foot on the land. There's a familiarity in some cases but Costa Rica was the opposite. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, no preconceived ideas, so every moment felt like getting to know something truly for the first time. I can tell you that there is so much magic hidden beneath the canopy of this gorgeous place. It's just raw. It's nature in it's purest form, which of course is likely part of the inspiration behind Pura Vida.
I was introduced to this gorgeous country by the lovely Andaz Papagayo property who showed the most incredible hospitality and really helped me uncover the meaning behind living a pure life. The Guanacaste region sits in the north west of Costa Rica and has been largely unspoiled and relatively new to development. The property sits tucked in the Papagayo peninsula and is an architectural wonder that almost disappears like tree houses in the jungle landscape. From the moment I checked in the sensory experienced began. First time seeing a monkey in the wild! Black sand beach! A bush filled with hundreds of butterflies! Plumeria!
There are so many reasons to love this place and I know already that I have to return to explore even more. Some of my favorite experiences below!
Jungle Treehouse Therapy
One of my biggest passions in life is uncovering beauty rituals in exotic places and understanding how nature is used to pamper, heal and bring happiness. These natural techniques are so pure and simple and completely experiential. The spa at the Andaz is built to fully envelop you in nature in open air treehouse style treatment rooms (umm, yes please!). We had access to the stunning Presidential Suite which has a private outdoor tub shaded by jungle palms. No surprise that I indulged in both offers.
- Some treatment rooms have soaking tubs with large windows open to the jungle. I could live in these treatment treehouse honestly! They are so magical and you get an outdoor shower, tub, bathroom sinks and a balcony to sit on while they scrub your feet before the treatment with indigenous ingredients. I mean, how decadent! Perfect for honeymooners or solo retreat travelers
- Try the Cana Brava massage. It's deep tissue and uses basically a bamboo rod to work knots out. Super unique!
- I loved all of the indigenous ingredients to choose from for the foot scrub. They were in these gorgeous glass bottles and filled with local treasures like beach sand, volcanic clay and beans.
Beautify with Volcanic Energy: Mud Bath & Hot Springs
What made this so fun was that it was completely unplanned. I took a private tour with a company named Tropical Comfort, recommended from the Andaz concierge. It was a choose your own adventure plan so I went privately with a driver/guide and off we went with nothing but time! I read about these hidden hot springs by the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park and after a 21km jungle hike this was like the clouds parted and this place just sparkled.
The volcanic mud is one of the most incredible exfoliators I've ever put on my face. My skin was baby soft after! It was insane! The mud is heated by a spring vent that feeds the soaking tubs.
How to Get There: About 1km from the Las Pailas ranger station, turn toward Rincon de la Vieja Lodge and the Santa María sector. The hot springs will be on your right. Walk across the rope bridge to the hot springs across the river. That's where the mud is!
An Apothecary for Your Beverage
The food in Costa Rica is incredibly fresh and delicious. When we hiked my guide pulled a Cas fruit (like a guava) off a tree and handed it to me to eat. I also drank from the river waterfall. It's incredible. The Andaz has some of the best food I've had anywhere in the world. Honestly, it is truly that good. We took a mixology class to discover how to mix a drink using fresh ingredients. If it's a craft cocktail then pure ingredients are almost always used in fun, creative ways. Our mixologist would infuse his own syrups with things like lemongrass or lavender. We used a piece of fresh cut sugar cane to muddle citrus. The hotel has a bunch of amazing classes that immerse you in the local culture. I recommend this and the ceviche which I'll cover in a separate post.
Hikes & Waterfalls
Costa Rica is so rich in natural gorgeousness that I can't even scratch the surface. If you have the time I recommend renting a car or taking a private tour.
Rincon de la Vieja National Park Waterfall Hopper- Moderate to Difficult
- Catarata La Cangreja (pictured) and Cataratas Escondidas (steep climb). La Cangreja is gorgeous and completely remote. Escondidas is across a gorge so you can't get close to this one. The view on the way up winds along the volcano and is quite a steep climb. Great view though on a clear day! There are also plenty of monkey spottings along the way for both.
- Rio Celeste- Another long hike but the water is a vibrant shade of blue due to the minerals from the volcanic activity
Easy to Moderate
- Oropendola Waterfall- Accessible by horseback, scenic long hike or 15-min drive and short hike
- Llanos de Cortez Waterfall- This is right off the highway and has a small beach in front of it. Gets crowded but great, easy waterfall to spot, hang and swim in.
Good To Know
- The Andaz Papagayo is only 45 min from the Liberia Airport. Really easy to get to!
- They have paddle boarding, wave runners and kayaks to take out on the bay
- I loved the third floor rooms because you have a great view of the water above the tree line
- The rooms all have beautiful indoor/outdoor rainforest showers
- There's an adult pool and a family pool and there is also a kids program
- It's great for solo travelers or couples, foodies will LOVE this hotel
- You can do yoga in those beautiful circular buildings by the lobby. Perfect spot, unless you prefer black sand beach :)