Your adventure in exploring three vastly different landscapes – jungle, cloud forest and beach – begins with with an international flight to the gateway for discovering pura vida, Liberia. As soon as you touch down, prepare for the locals to welcome you with open arms; they have such pride for their country and love showing it off! Throughout your trip, this will be evident in off-the-charts service level and the true essence of hospitality.
Where do you take a group of travelers that includes a Gen Z’r, an Xennial, two members of Generation X and a Baby Boomer? Enter: Costa Rica.
When Long Island-based travel advisor Rebecca Alesia was planning her own family’s special birthday celebration for the “world’s most youthful grandfather,” her wheels were spinning with ideas. They needed a destination with adventure by day but the promise of respite in exquisite accomodations by night, food with local flavor but options for a range of palettes, and a focus on sustainable travel without sacrificing luxury. So, her solution was visiting three regions of Costa Rica by private plane, boat and car.
8 nights, 9 days
Multi-generation, empty nesters, nature lovers.
An active itinerary, changing destinations every couple of days as you venture between regions; packing light is a must.
The commute to Monteverde isn't for everyone - if you only have six nights; this can be saved for a future trip to the region.
Our family-friendly Costa Rica picks
Set in the rainforest with a view of Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, Nayara Gardens (and it’s sister resort, the adults only Nayara Springs) seems like it folded right out of a story book. The spacious rooms open up to private gardens that make you feel like you are sleeping in the jungle, and every terrace features a sneaky secluded jacuzzi. While they give the appearance of a safari lodge, inside there is every creature comfort, including all the tech you’d expect, pumping air conditioning for warmer nights, and an indoor/outdoor shower that was positively decadent. Multiple restaurants on site offer international cuisine, an outrageous breakfast spread, and a little wine bar for wiling away the evening hours. The pool and spa are five star and feature sweeping views of the forest around you.
The rooms are chic and sleek with views into the cloud forest; super comfortable beds and modern bathrooms. What really sets the resort apart, however, is the service and feel of the main lodge. With only 24 suites on property, every guest is treated like a member of the family. We played board games together as a family in the cozy bar while enjoying happy hour drinks and snacks; and watched families more brave than hours trek in from their nighttime safari. The food was lovingly prepared and exquisite, and the bartenders and wait staff were amongst the most friendly we have ever experienced.
The level of luxury and beauty found within this resort are unparalleled. The rooms are (as you’d expect; it’s a Four Seasons) spacious, sytlish, luxurious and stocked with amenities. The three pools make sure that whether you’re seeking to play, relax or just take a dip there is a place just for you. The restaurants are outstanding, service is on point, the golf is remarkable, there is a great kids and teens club as well as a “day camp” of sorts that allow your kids to become tiny adventurers. But the real dazzler here is the view - stunning from every angle, sunrises over the bay and sunsets over the ocean; there are quite literally views for days.
You’ll be greeted at the sleeve of the plane by your VIP host from Terranova, who will escort you through customs without any waiting. Expect to be whisked onto your private propellor plane for the 25 minute flight to Arenal (for those white knuckle fliers, this drive can be made in a manageable 3.5 hours via private car). Upon arrival at Nayara Gardens, you are created with fresh, cool washcloths and a local craft cocktail. Settle in, enjoy the view from your private terrace, and take a dip in their pool filled with water from the local spring. Or, enjoy a drink at the swim-up bar!
Spend the morning getting your adrenaline pumping on Costa Rica’s longest (and fastest!) ziplines. But if you think your legs have stopped shaking, you’d be wrong – because your next stop is the Hanging Bridges Mistico Park, where you’ll beg your fellow adventurers to stop shaking the bridge as you traverse through the treetops. Your naturalist guide will point out notable flora and fauna along the way including vipers, tarantulas and bats, oh my! Spend the afternoon recuperating with a day pass to Tabacon’s thermal springs where you’ll find dozens of cascading waterfalls and pools naturally sourced from local springs and heated underground by the volcano’s magma.
Today, you’ll spend several hours at Club Rio. Begin with some up close and personal time with the sloths, toucans and monkeys in their sanctuary. Next, suit up! It’s time for some white water kayaking. After a remarkably delicious lunch on the open-air terrace overlooking the river and rainforest; it’s time for a quick dip in the hot springs before your 90 minute, private guided sunset horseback ride. Just beware that along the way, you may run into a pack of howler monkeys yelling at you for disturbing their late afternoon nap!
Awake this morning and enjoy a lazy (finally, phew!) breakfast. At noon, you’ll meet your private captain to cross Arenal Lake for Monteverde. As you drive up – literally into the clouds – to Senda Lodge, the comforting smell of bonfire and marshmallows toasting will greet you. Take some time to chill in your accommodation as the sun sets; adult beverages (did someone say bloody mary?), highly recommended. After a relaxed dinner looking down on the clouds, enjoy family bonding time in the lodge.
You’ll feel like you’re on the set of Jurassic Park as a seasoned naturalist walks you through the Cloud Forest Reserve. You’ll see trees that are more than 300 years old, the world’s smallest orchid (smaller than a pencil eraser but perfect and beautiful) and the origins of medicine used to treat Parkinson’s, depression and cancer. Spend the afternoon at a hummingbird sanctuary and marvel at the colors and speed. Take the evening to completely relax with the family.
It’s time to leave Monteverde and head back down the hills to the beach! Upon arrival at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, you’re greeted with a cold drink served in a coconut, and suddenly feel like you’re at a Caribbean resort, despite that just yesterday you were a wilderness explorer! As your whisked to your room by golf cart, you’d be hard pressed not to gasp in marvel at the epic sunset greeting you. Check into your suite and enjoy the stunning view of the bay; just make sure to lock your balcony door or the monkeys will absolutely let themselves in!
Today, it’s time to get out in the ocean! Take your pick of SUP, wave runners, catamarans and kayaks. The water is crystal clear, warm and blue, and the snorkeling can’t be beat! Spend the afternoon at leisure by the pool (would you your sunglasses polished? Or perhaps a fruity frozen drink brought to you poolside? How about a pineapple kebab?). Be ready at 5:30pm sharp for your private photography session; after all, what would an epic vacation be without an Insta-worthy new photo or two?
No alarm clocks today. Wake up to the sound of the ocean lapping at the shore, and enjoy your room service breakfast (compliments of Virtuoso). You’ll be sad to leave this incredible country tomorrow, so make sure to make the most of today. Spend some of your afternoon out on the ocean or in the spa, with the rest left to soak up with the family, all while taking in the amazing natural beauty of the peninsula.
Take a short, 30-minute car ride back to Liberia International Airport…you can sleep on the plane, and when you do, you’ll surely dream of pura vida!