Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, with the Gulf of Papagayo to the west and Culebra Bay to the east, the Papagayo Peninsula is a world unto itself. While it retains distinctly Costa Rican character, it holds a unique vibe thanks to its topography. While there is a small number of private homes and one other resort on the peninsula, it is the Four Seasons property at the end that does the most with the land. Following a grand re-opening in December 2017, after a $35 million renovation, the stunning Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is a prime example of the Toronto-based company’s approach to luxury travel.
Reaching the resort, which is spread out over 1,400 acres, is an experience. Rows of giant palm trees greet guests before they pass through an outer gate that separates the rest of Costa Rica from the world of the peninsula. An undulating road cuts a path through the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course (featuring jaw-dropping hole after jaw-dropping hole). The anticipation builds as guests pass through a Jurassic Park-style inner gate, then another 10 minutes down the road ,the resort property itself comes into view for the first time. Seen from elevation you can’t miss the effort that was put into better integrating the resort with the existing environment during the renovation.
The visual impact of the two main buildings is minimized by their curved construction which seems to make them bend with the land itself. Individual bungalows dot the hillside of the peninsula overlooking the communal areas below. Their presence is masked by building materials that are authentic to the region. The goal of the property is to deliver a seamless indoor-outdoor experience and NYC-based Meyer Davis Design Studio did a fantastic job of bringing the natural world into these spaces by using an appropriate color palette, local artisan pieces and native textiles.
True to the Four Seasons ethos of making each guest feel special, every room has a view of the water, leaving guests to choose whether they prefer to take in sunrise or sunset from their balcony. For those that want the best of both worlds, there are some units with views to the east and west, including impressive panoramic vistas from the private villas. The ultimate way to stay is at one of the three estate homes stashed at the top of the hill where the peninsula ends. Each of these gorgeous homes bring with them a fully inclusive experience, making all dining and activity options a part of the retreat.
While total privacy and turn-key living may be reserved for guests who opt for the private residences, a serene and invigorating experience is available to all, especially this September and October during the first annual “Wellness Season” at the property. One of the hallmarks of any Four Seasons resort is the number of activities available to guests on a daily basis and from now until 31 October, several of them are complimentary at Peninsula Papagayo. Unlimited yoga and fitness classes, kayaking, snorkeling, cycle tours, and guided hikes are great options for time between relaxing on the beach or by one of the pools.
The standout experience of our visit is the moonlit stand-up paddle boarding tour. Setting out from the beach on the Gulf of Papagayo, we enter the dark water with our LED-equipped paddle board for a 30-minute excursion under the light of a full moon—that occasionally would be obscured by passing clouds. With the fading sound of surf rolling into the shore, as we put distance between ourselves and land, we become immersed in a new world—one in which the board beneath our feet serves as the only reminder that we’re not dreaming. Physically plugged in, mentally drifting, we gaze out into the dark, the horizon occasionally illuminated by lightning from a storm so far off that the clap of thunder is no match for the soft sound of water lapping at the edges of the board.
Images by Andrew Maness