Little Black Book: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
As the weather gets cooler and your mind starts wandering to warm vacations, make sure Costa Rica is on your list of places to check out. The country, one of the most prosperous and safest in Central America, not only offers gorgeous scenery and relaxation, but an abundance of activities to satiate even the most adventurous member of your travel group. We recommend experiencing the Pacific side of the country–a providence called Guanacaste–which is renowned for its white sand beaches and surf, set against a backdrop of active volcanos. Plus, there's no such thing as hurricane season here! Book your ticket into Liberia's Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, and read on for all the things to see and experience.
Where to stay
As one of only two resorts on the posh and picturesque Peninsula Papagayo, the newly opened Andaz offers guests one of the most gorgeous stays in the country. Although it would rather bill itself as a “lifestyle” property instead of a “luxury resort,” the Andaz doesn't skimp on a single detail, offering private open-air spa suites that overlook the ocean, indoor/outdoor walk in rain showers, multiple pools, complimentary minibars, and rooms outfitted with sleek and modern technology. The design of the property is inspired by the organic natural beauty of Costa Rica, and guests will often find themselves coexisting with the local flora and fauna–whether that's sharing cocktail hour with a howler monkey or the road with a family of pizotes, a South American mammal commonly spotted in the region. Service here is friendly and attentive–but never pushy or invasive–and everything is accommodated with a genuine spirit that embodies Costa Rican pura vida.
All the rooms are spacious, but the best ones to book are in the Bay View category, which offer floor to ceiling views of the pristine waters of Culebra Bay, and a private furnished balcony from which to take it all in. Local design touches such as woven textiles and wood furnishing reflect the Costa Rican aesthetic, but modern amenities including floor light sensors and sleek tech products make staying here as comfortable and convenient as it is authentic. The architecture and interiors are minimalist and soothing, and while beautiful in their own right, do an exceptional job of highlighting the splendid natural beauty of the local terrain. If this all sounds like a feast for the eyes (and naturally, Instagram), you're right…and you're in luck because the resort-wide (high speed, really) WiFi means you can share every breathtaking snap on social media to your heart's content.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Coffee Shop at Rio Bhongo
Coffee connoisseurs, rejoice! Just because you're in vacation doesn't mean you'll have to settle for anything less than what you usually get at your local artisanal coffee shop. Costa Ricans love their coffee and you can order it brewed the traditional local way or however you wish at Rio Bhongo. Every day of the week, the cafe highlights a different blend from local purveyor Cafe Britt, including a few house blends made especially for the property. Guests may find themselves so enamored with the coffee here that they're inspired to take a barista class, offered right at the cafe a few times per week.
If speciality cocktails are more your scene (and really, who doesn't love a handcrafted drink), head over to Chao Pescao, where the talented mixologists can whip up anything to satisfy your mood or palette. Using all fresh ingredients and a fully stocked top shelf bar, the drinks are just as delicious and inventive as those you find in a New York speakeasy…but with the added benefit of a full ocean view.
A visit to Costa Rica is not complete without experiencing a variety of seafood prepared the local way–ceviche! With 13 different types of ceviche (plus a vegan option), guests can–and are encouraged to–try a little bit of everything. A full dinner menu is also available, with entrees ranging from catch-of-the-day seafood bisque to slow-cooked lobster to steak if you wish to mix up your surf dishes with a little bit of turf.
Half cocktail lounge and half sushi bar, Tico's at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo is the perfect dinner destination for groups and friends. The Asian inspired menu features a variety of signature rolls in addition to all the classics and also includes warm bites such as lobster pizza and spicy buffalo shrimp. The airy space is outfitted with cozy couches and communal tables to encourage an endless night of socializing.
One of the more formal and fine-dining destinations on the Peninsula, Cena Sociale specializes in contemporary Italian cuisine with a fully stocked wine cellar. For special occasions, the restaurant also includes a private dining room and can accommodate a variety of special requests. The menu highlights here are definitely the pastas, from classic dishes such as Spagettini Al Pomodoro to more inventive creations like Ox Tail Tortellini and Thai Red Curry Risotto with Alaskan King Crab.
Sometimes after days of trying new restaurants, you might start craving something a bit more casual and familiar. When that feeling strikes, head to The Dive Bar at Marina Papagayo, a waterfront eatery that serves a classic bar menu including burgers and wings.
What to do
Borinquen Zipline Tour
It's impossible to think of Costa Rica without thinking of ziplining–and for good reason. With such gorgeous scenery from rainforests to waterfalls to volcanos, the entire country is outfitted with zip lines so tourists can experience the best views from above. Most locals agree that the best tour is at Borinquen, located at the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. The day of adventure includes horseback riding up to the zip lines, then a thrilling 10 cable ride, and concludes with a spa afternoon at the hot springs. Many tour companies offer this package, but your best bet for a personalized and VIP experience is to book through Costa Rica Private Tours, where the entire experience can be customized for you and your party.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
The best way to enjoy the pristine views of Culebra Bay isn't to sit on the beach–but to get right on the water! The still waters make standup paddleboarding incredibly relaxing–and an activity that you'll definitely look forward to every day.
A Night Out in Playa de Coco
The little town of Coco is where all the local Costa Ricans go to party and is filled with bars and restaurants. Most establishments are locally owned so visitors can get an authentic taste of the Pura Vida life!