Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica
Epitomizing the very best of fine living, this sumptuous resort appeals for its exclusive and fabulous location and an Arnold Palmer championship golf course that is the finest in Costa Rica.
The jewel in the crown of the Peninsula Papagayo development, the Four Seasons set an entirely new standard for resort hotels in Costa Rica when it opened in 2004 and it’s still without equal for facilities and service. It's location is unparalleled. Commanding a undulating and woodsy peninsula that enfolds the huge flask–shaped Bahía Culebra, the resort stretches over 250 acres, with the bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The entrance gate is cleverly positioned where the bay first comes into view, laid out like a Hollywood stage set, with a dramatic copse of royal palms and a water channel featuring a beautiful triptych sculpture by renowned Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia.
The seven–kilometer driveway snakes along the undulating peninsula, slithering past forest–framed fairways with to–die–for views. Dropping down through screens of bamboo, guests arrive at the hotel's curvilinear entrance, where with some imagination you can detect in the plate–form roofline the architect's apparent inspiration: armadillos and butterflies. Riverstone pillars, a bamboo ceiling, and earth tone decor mark the airy lobby––open to fore and rear––centered on a simple fountain. To the rear, the atrium lobby opens below to the lobby bar, accessed by a travertine staircase. Soaring fold–back doors open onto two of the hotel's three angular pools, including a main pool and sundeck and a separate family pool for the kiddies. Waiters are constantly circulating to offer towels, cool washcloths, and ice water, plus the stations supply complimentary sunscreen or after-burn balm.
The hotel proper occupies an isthmus barely 80 meters wide: to one side a gray–sand beach runs along the bayshore; on the other, a glorious crescent of palm–shaded white sand shelves into the teal–blue Pacific. As at the pool, staffers are continually popping by to offer whatever you may need and fetch snacks or cocktails.
Sushi, seafood, and salads are served day and night in the casual indoor/outdoor Papagayo Restaurant, lit at night by exotic roof lamps resembling octopuses and starfish. The elegant DiMari Italian restaurant and a separate steakhouse in the golf club offer fancier options. The ambitious young chef will stretch hard if you order right and he has done an impressive job of sourcing top-quality ingredients from around the country—in some cases paying farmers to grow specific previously unavailable items just for the Four Seasons.
The full–service spa is a gracious contemporary enclave of peace and renewal featuring gorgeous use of frosted glass and a tiger–striped tropical hardwood, with long open–air whirlpools overlooking the beach. A full range of treatments includes options for both sexes, including a manly sports massage that’s great after a round of golf. The fitness center is one of the best in the country, with a wide range of the best equipment. Children go nuts over a fully–equipped kid's camp with a jungle playground for the kiddies and a dreamy rec room with video game consoles, a basketball court, and a giant TV with movies for older children and teens.
The golf course here has no rival in the region and is a big draw for its dramatic scenery—including water views from 14 holes in the dry season. With five sets of tees, it’s a fun course for golfers at all levels. Service here is top-notch as well, with circulating staffers bringing cold towels and a drink cart at regular intervals. There’s a driving range, full-blown pro shop, bar, restaurant, and set of locker rooms as well.
Accommodations sport a mix of styles and make liberal use of local hardwoods and many have balconies with stunning views. Rattan sofas with cushioned seats join cushioned wooden headboards, bamboo–framed floral prints, striped area rugs on glossy hardwood floors, and huge travertine patios with metal rails. Sumptuous silk spreads and fabrics in golds and blood–reds add to the luxurious feel. Humongous marble bathrooms contain high–end toiletries, thick terry–cloth robes, and pull–back screens for ocean vistas. All add up to some of the most delightfully deluxe digs in Central America. All come with CD and DVD players, divinely comfortable mattresses, and down–filled duvets and pillows. Only the very top suites have any kind of MP3 dock, however.
For those who can swing it, the spacious suites and villas here are well worth the upgrade. They go from large to "house–sized," the biggest having several separate bedrooms and baths. Many have their own plunge pool on a private deck an outdoor shower, and a full kitchen. These also look more like a typical Four Seasons, with more cream colors and fewer fiery accents. Sliding louvered wood screens, an outdoor dining room, a desk with copier/fax, and a big soaking tub are just a few of the extras, plus the suites are mostly in separate buildings with killer views of the sea and peninsula. The top one is a full-blown three-bedroom villa with its own pool, private lawn, and a wall of glass. If that’s not enough, several Residence Estates are large owners’ homes that are available as part of the resort offerings.
While the hotel still presents mixed messages on preserving the environment—such as serving bottled water transported all the way from Fiji and Scandinavia in its restaurants—it does more things right than most large luxury hotels. The golf course is a model for sustainability and each room has a reusable water bottle that can be purchased at cost and refilled at stations around the resort. The Four Seasons directly supports 4,400 children in 21 schools in Guanacaste through donations of textbooks, backpacks loaded with supplies, and facilities upkeep.
Standard room rates here start at where most other hotels in Costa Rica top off for a suite, but for those who like to combine golf and stunning vistas with world–class amenities and pampering, the Four Seasons Costa Rica stands alone in its class. Considering the easy flight options to nearby Liberia airport, this is also one of the most convenient resorts to reach in the country.
Web Address: www.fourseasons.com/costarica
Total Number of Rooms: 178
Published rates: $395 to $9,000, Residence Estates $9,000 to $15,000
Original review by Christopher Baker, updates and photos by Timothy Scott
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