7 Things We Loved About Four Seasons Costa Rica
It’s always a delight when we get to return to the best luxury resort in a country many years later and see how it has progressed. We recently returned to the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, just before its 20th birthday, and it was a great experience all around. We can’t say it looks brand new since, unlike at a new resort, all the trees and plants are mature, but after major renovations, the hotel looks shiny and impeccably maintained all around.
While the renovations were spread all across the property and more are on the way, like a hillside “Wellness Shala” yoga center with a huge platform and a view, the two key areas to get a revamp were the swimming pool complex and the suites. We covered all of those aspects in detail in our review of Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, so go check that out if you’re planning on flying into Liberia and booking a stay.
Even in our longer reviews, however, we can’t get to everything. So here are a few aspects of this standout property that were especially impressive, along with a video tour that will give you a feel for this high-end Costa Rica luxury resort.
Three Pools and Two Beaches
If you want a change of scenery when you’re lounging at this resort, you don’t have to go very far. Three swimming pools offer different vibes. The largest one at the top is closest to the main buildings, with two lunch restaurants and many of the resort’s rooms nearby.
The one below that is roped off for adults only. This one has several staffers fetching drinks and food in an area that’s off-limits to splashing kids. It has lounge chairs and shaded cabana daybeds (with a hefty US$600 additional fee) and looks out at the beach and water through the trees.
At the bottom is another pool open to everyone, this infinity pool being just above the beach. It’s only steps away from the open-air beachfront restaurant and bar.
Then when it comes to beaches, you could sit at one and watch the sunrise, then hit the other one at the end of the day for sunset. That’s because the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo is not only on the large peninsula it is named for, but it occupies a smaller peninsula that’s part of the whole, a finger extending out into the Pacific Ocean.
In both spots, the water is calm enough that the little ones won’t get knocked over and they’re both long enough for a stroll. Kayaks and paddleboards are at the ready, with guided tours available some days, and often there are activities on the beach that are included in the rate. In the video above you’ll see s’mores night in action.
Paradise for Kids in Costa Rica
My daughter is off on her own now, but when she was little I brought her to Four Seasons Punta Mita and it spoiled her for years. After the Four Seasons organization gets to your children, you’ll have trouble living up to that standard in any future stays.
That’s especially true at the Four Seasons in Costa Rica because they go out of their way to make sure the kids are happy so the parents are happy, from toddlers up through teens. There are planned activities every day for the whole family and just for kids, so they can do something active and educational every day in this nature-focused country.
The kids club here is the coolest I’ve ever seen, something clearly put together by a talented designer who wanted to impart a sense of place. There are nooks with pillows that look like rocks, stuffed sloths hanging around, and modular furniture units that can move around. Outside is a playground and shallow pool. For the design they brought in Athens-based architect Polyanna Paraskeva, known for creating functional learning spaces exclusively for children
Then when they get to the beach, the little ones will be delighted with all the sand toys sitting out waiting for them: toy trucks, buckets, shovels, sand castle molds, and more. Every restaurant has a kids’ menu and there are all kind of fun smoothies, shakes, and mocktails for them.
Teens aren’t left out though: they have their own hidden-away club with a pool table, video games with shaking chairs, and an outdoor basketball and soccer area.
A Dedicated Tasting Room
The last time I experienced a hotel with its own rum room was in the now-defunct Mukul in beleaguered Nicaragua. There’s one at this Four Seasons though called La Reserva and it’s an expansive place full of natural light. Naturally they have every version of Centenario Costa Rican rum for you to try, but also bottles from all over the region such as Ron Zacapa, Botran, Diplomatico, Abuelo, and Flor de Cana.
The resort offers regularly scheduled rum and chocolate tastings, a class on making your own infused rum, and mixology classes where you can hone your bartending skills. You can experience it if you don’t drink alcohol too: there’s also a coffee tasting workshop.
A Low-key Relaxing Spa
I have found over the years that I seldom get good spa photographs because by nature, spas are meant to relax you, not distract you with a bunch of showy designs that draw your attention. The spa here embraces that philosophy, with a space that lets the nature outside through the windows be the focus while the interior is minimalist and calm.
The facilities include what you’d expect in terms of steam rooms, saunas, and whirlpools, with a nice relaxation area for before or after your treatment. I went for a deep tissue massage and really needed it, with a laptop-work-induced knot in my right shoulder that I couldn’t seem to shake.
My therapist went to work on my whole body but with a focus on getting rid of that knot and he succeeded. He also spent some time afterward talking about some stretching exercises to try and those have helped as well. See the treatment options here.
Local Drinks and Ingredients at Four Seasons Costa Rica
One of the first things I look at when I pass near a hotel bar is whether they have any local beer on tap. Then I look at the liquor selection to see if they’re stocked up on what’s from that country. This resort made me happy with its craft beer from a local brewer that I got to order on tap and there’s plenty of rum from Costa Rica available, not just in the tasting room.
More importantly, the kitchens source all that they can from within driving distance, including good Costa Rican coffee, the wealth of tropical fruit that’s available all year, and vegetables grown on nearby farms. I had some delicious juices in the morning and some very fresh-tasting salads that clearly didn’t come from a plastic bag.
The property has its own organic garden for many items such as herbs and microgreens, mitigating the need to transport those from outside the gates.
Concierges on Call Through an App
The Four Seasons properties all make use of an app that you can install on your phone, an app that recognizes who you are and which resort you are in. It was a little buggy for me when I was at the new Four Seasons Tamarindo in Mexico, but it worked flawlessly in Costa Rica except when I was on an excursion and got out of range.
The main public area at this Four Seasons Costa Rica is fairly compact, so it’s not a long trek to get to the lobby and talk to the concierge, but with this app it’s easy to reach them and get a response at any time, no matter who is on duty. I was able to arrange that excursion, make dinner reservations, confirm a spa appointment, and even rent a car then change the pickup time when something came up.
A month later I’m still dealing with an overcharge from National to get a partial credit back on the car, so I’m really glad I have this team in my pocket to sort it out instead of trying to deal with a foreign rental car company on my own, long distance.
The Original Sustainable Luxury Resort
When I first visited the Four Seasons Costa Rica more than a decade ago, the resort was doing what many industry skeptics said couldn’t be done: wean luxury travelers off of single-use plastic water bottles. It turns out that the vast majority of travelers will do the right thing if given the chance and this resort proved it was no big deal to use refillable containers instead.
There are refilling stations throughout the resort and at the golf course. Guests are encouraged to drink the perfectly good Costa Rican water that’s probably purer than what you get in your local supermarket. Bamboo straws, cardboard cups, sunscreen dispensers, and cloth laundry bags in the rooms keep the plastic away from the peninsula.
These are just the most visible differences though. By serving more dishes that use local ingredients and putting system changes in place, the resort has lowered food waste by half. Instead of tossing items that are getting replaced, there’s a system in place to donate them to regional organizations serving families in need.
Recent renovations to the golf course irrigation system have decreased water use by 20% and increased the vegetation by 12 acres. The course is one of the few in the world to be designated as an Audubon Reserve. See more on their dedicated sustainability page.
See more photos and our detailed review of this Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica.