Ahhhh, The Spa

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Hotel Punta Islita.
Hotel Punta Islita.

Costa Rica is abloom in spas, sprouting up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. It’s no surprise to find fine facilities at such resorts as Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (fourseasons.com/costarica), which has ample and luxurious facilities and treatment options, as well as scheduled classes in yoga, aerobics and other disciplines; or JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa (jwmarriott.com/sjojw), which has a smashing, state-of-the-art, 22-treatment room facility, as well as excellent beaches.

Complementing those experiences, eco-lodges in all corners of the country now offer spa treatments born of rainforest ingredients, and welcome yoga retreats for groups of the like-minded to meditate on the jungle-surrounded platforms. Two, among a dozen examples, come to mind: Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge (nicuesalodge.com) and Hotel Hacienda Sueño Azul Resort (suenoazulresort.com) in the Sarapiqui region.

Serenity Spa, which started out with a little storefront spa in Jaco, now operates the Serenity Spas at Villa Caletas (hotelvillacaletas.com), Hotel Si Como No (sicomono.com) and Hotel Villa Blanca Cloud Forest & Spa (villablanca-costarica.com). But perhaps no spa is better known in Costa Rica than the 114-room Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort (tabacon.com), the first on the block some 20 years ago and whose facilities just keep getting better and better. Now a member of The Leading Spas of the World, the Tabacon resort sits at the foot of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna de San Carlos. Among the resort’s singular features are 12 natural hot spring pools, natural waterfalls, lagoons, and thermal river pools, all in lush garden settings. There are 11 outdoor treatment bungalows and an extensive menu of indigenous and therapeutic treatments, and therapies that include a 3-unit temazcal. Complementing the spa and hot springs, for wellness, there’s Ayurvedic dining, and for romance, its signature Gala Dinner is set in a private rainforest bungalow with a private chef.

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.
Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.
One of the newest upscale, beachfront resorts is Pranamar Villas & Yoga Retreat (pranamarvillas.com), located by the sea in Santa Teresa on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. It has a beautiful open-air yoga space, and a range of daily classes is offered, led by a steady stream of visiting teachers; groups use the spot for longer retreats. The beautiful Luna Lodge (lunalodge.com), overlooking Playa Carate on the Corcovado National Park border, has a lovely spa on site where holistic balance instructors guide clients to drawing on the primeval energies of the rainforest; there is a special retreat center offering a full schedule of dedicated yoga and wellness programs.

There are many good reasons to stay in one of the 24 elegant, art-filled villas at Xandari Resort & Spa (xandari.com), perched on a hill overlooking coffee plantations and the Central Valley. Sybarites and relaxation-seekers can enjoy a little all-natural TLC at the Spa Village, a collection of thatch-roofed rooms surrounded by gardens. It’s perfect for San Jose-based visitors or those just arriving or departing at the San Jose airport. This is a good choice for pampering, with jacuzzi soaks infused with fresh-cut herbs, and scrubs and wraps with ingredients like ground coffee from beans produced on-property, raw sugar and honey.

Tour Talk

Chicago-based Costa Rica Experts (costaricaexperts.com) offers a full roster of spa vacation packages. For example, the 7-night Pampered Indulgence program spends three nights at El Silencio Lodge & Spa (elsilenciolodge.com), set in an isolated and beautiful cloud forest setting, yet close to San Jose. The lodge’s chalets have private viewing decks and fireplaces, and in addition to the full-service spa with a forest-bound yoga platform, guests have a personal eco-host guiding them on one mystic hiking tour and an Arenal Volcano tour. The next four nights are spent at Hotel Punta Islita (hotelpuntaislita.com), perched high on a hill overlooking the northern Pacific coast. In addition to amenities such as the onsite Casa Spa, activities include pool and beach swimming, and optional horseback riding, kayaking, birdwatching, canopy ziplining, surf school, regional cultural tour, and a 9-hole golf course. The cost of $2,395 pp covers daily breakfast, all transfers overland, and local air.

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