Few nearby restaurants or shops outside the resort
Easily among the most luxurious resorts in Central America, The Four Seasons is as close to perfection as it gets. With two beautiful beaches, ocean views from each one of the sumptuous rooms -- decorated in materials including wood, bamboo, and stone -- and an 18-hole golf course, the resort makes it possible for guests to spend their whole vacation on-site. Those who do choose to explore beyond Peninsula Papagayo should note that the roads in Guanacaste are in poor condition.
Peninsula location with gorgeous ocean views and a design that incorporates local flavor
The Four Seasons is located on the isthmus at the tip of the Peninsula Papagayo, an exclusive hideaway in northwest Guanacaste that's home to 15 miles of coastline, tropical forests, and diverse wildlife. And since it's on an isthmus, sandwiched between two beaches, the views are phenomenal: Most rooms at the resort have at least a partial view of the blue ocean or bay.
The remote location is beautiful, but it's also, well, remote. Though the concierge can arrange any number of outdoor excursions -- horseback riding, zip-lining, volcano hikes -- some guests are content to never leave the property. Fortunately, the design of the resort is distinctly inspired by the Costa Rica location, so all guests can experience at least some aspects of the country's local charm. The open-air lobby has square stone columns, beamed wood ceilings, and a tinkling fountain, while rooms are decorated with bamboo, rich wood, and stone. Suites have undulating roofs inspired by armadillo shells, and are perched in the hills amid the trees; the hotel likens them to luxury tree houses.
The location and the design would be enough, in itself, to make the Four Seasons noteworthy, but it's the addition of the brand's typical doting service that truly makes it five-pearl. At both beaches, for example, the hotel provides water, towel and sunscreen stations, Evian spritzes, and afternoon popsicles.
The Four Seasons is located on Peninsula Papagayo in Guanacaste, a dry, sparsely populated area of the country that's known for its beautiful beaches (including ones where sea turtles nest), surfing, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, and its string of large resorts. The region is home to seven national parks, including Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, where visitors can hike past boiling mud pots and smoking fissures. Guanacaste has a lower elevation than other areas of the country and an arid climate, so there are no rain forests here, but the dry tropical forests are still wildlife rich: Visitors can spot howler monkeys, sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and iguanas.
45-minute drive from Liberia International Airport; $150 for a private car, $40 per person (12 and over) on the Four Seasons shuttle; or $80 in a taxi
4- to 4.5-hour, $350 shuttle ride from San Jose International Airport
40-minute flights available from San Jose to Liberia through Sansa and NatureAir
20-minute drive to Witch's Rock, where zip-line canopy tours take place
2-hour drive to Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park
The majority of the Four Seasons' 155 rooms are located in one of three four-story buildings and face either the bay or the Pacific Ocean. They all have wood floors and detailing, rattan furniture, and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. The highlight, though, just might be the balconies -- most of which have at least partial bay or ocean views, and sliding doors that guests can leave open to bring the outdoors, in.
Suites -- described by the hotel as luxury tree houses -- are perched in the hills and have extra-large terraces, some with plunge pools.
Most rooms are within walking distance to the lobby and pools, but the hills can be steep, so you may need to call the front desk for a golf cart to transport you.
All rooms include:
Comfortable beds with down pillows and down duvets
$80 per night charge for extra adult guests (two adults included in the room price)
Cielo, Brisa, and Terraza Rooms are all 603 square feet, and have a king or two double beds. The main difference is the floor and the view: Terraza Rooms are on the first floor and have forest views, Brisa Rooms on the second and have partial ocean or bay views, and Cielo rooms on the third and fourth floors and also have partial ocean or bay views.
Canopy Suites have either one or three bedrooms, and some have plunge pools. They're up in the hills and have forest and/or bay views, and range from 1,025 to 2,480 square feet.
The Miramar Suite is 4,219 square feet and has two king beds and two double beds. Special features include an open-air courtyard, a private outdoor shower, a dining room the seats eight, a private pool, and bay views.
Private residences range from 1,700 to 6,662 square feet and come with full kitchens with stainless steel appliances as well as a printer with copying and faxing capabilities. Some have plunge pools.
Everything you'd expect at a luxury resort, including three lovely pools and a first-rate spa
The resort's three pools are located behind the main building, surrounded with plenty of brown cushioned loungers and umbrellas and flanked by beaches on either side. The largest pool, Ticos pool, is on the top level and has a bridge connecting one side to the other. Blanca Pool, the second-largest pool, downstairs to the left, overlooks Playa Blanca, and the Quiet Pool, downstairs to the right, overlooks Playa Virador. The pool area is perfectly lovely, with stone walls and lots of palm trees, although it's not as large or impressive as the JW Marriott's.
Spa offers facials, body treatments, and massages using local ingredients, such as rainforest muds. The relaxation areas with plunge pools and ocean views, as well as the infrared saunas, are free for all guests to use.
Fitness center is two levels and has numerous cardio machines (including treadmills and ellipticals) equipped with TVs and iPod docks, as well as free weights, weight training machines, spinner bikes, exercise balls, stretching mats, and an outdoor terrace (where classes are sometimes held) overlooking the ocean. Personal trainers and classes in aerobics, yoga and Pilates are available.
24-hour business center located off of the lobby has four computer stations, a color printer, fax machine and copier.
Four tennis courts with clinics, private lessons and player match-ups available
Trail of Giants guided tour through the tropical dry forest surrounding the golf course, where guests can learn about the area's plants and wildlife
Hiking trail (a little over half a mile) along the peninsula, starting at one beach and ending at the other
Between October and February, guests can watch leatherback turtles laying their eggs at protected nesting sites on the peninsula shoreline
Classes including dance, cooking, beach meditation, and beginners Spanish are available
Concierge available from early morning to late at night
Playa Virador faces the Pacific Ocean, and tends to be quieter than the Playa Blanca. Expect beautiful white (and some gray) sand, and, in the evening, beautiful sunsets. The waves are gentle enough for safe swimming, although jellyfish can occasionally be a problem. There's drink service, but no food service -- you'll have to sit at a table behind the beach if you want to eat.
Playa Blanca faces the bay, and is the busier beach, with food and drink service directly to the lounge chairs, a water trampoline, and an activities desk where guests can rent water sports equipment (including kayaks, paddleboats, and Hobie cats). There's also a wooden boat filled with ice where the fresh "catch of the day" is displayed at 11 a.m.; guests can pick out a fish and have the chef cook it for them.
Both beaches have stations with ice water, sunscreen, after sun relief, and towels.
The Four Seasons' par-72 championship course, designed by pro golfer Arnold Palmer, has panoramic ocean views from several of its holes, and the surrounding forests are rich with wildlife (including both howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys). It's a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning its construction was, and its operation is, more environmentally sensitive than your typical golf course.
Both a kids' club and a teen center -- available for free
The Kids For all Seasons kids' club, for children ages four to 12, is equipped with numerous toys, games, puzzles, a TV and video game controllers, computers, and -- in an outdoor area -- ping pong, foosball, air hockey, and a kiddie pool. Four Seasons staff supervise the play area and the excursions, which include sand castle building and soccer.
Papagayo is the hotel's main restaurant, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual atmosphere. The breakfast buffet features a made-to-order egg and omelet station, a waffle station, pastries, cereal, and fresh fruit. Local specialties and seafood dishes are served for lunch and dinner.
Congo's Bar & Grill is a poolside restaurant serving casual local and American fare for lunch (and on certain days of the week, dinner).
Di Mare serves Italian cuisine and seafood dishes for dinner in a fine dining atmosphere. A screened outdoor seating area overlooks Playa Virador and the Pacific Ocean.
Caracol is a casual steakhouse located at the Bella Vista Clubhouse overlooking the golf course and the ocean. Dinner items include USDA choice cuts of steak with a choice of crusts, such as truffle butter or Costa Rican coffee; pan-seared Pacific red snapper; and spice-rubbed local pork ribs.
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