Costa Rica’s Eco-Friendly Kasiiya Papagayo Retreat

A rejuvenating sanctuary set oceanside

The Papagayo Peninsula has quickly become one of the most coveted destinations in Costa Rica, with several of the country’s most exclusive resorts claiming this thin branch of land as home. Opened in December 2018 the intimate Kasiiya Papagayo is a unique, eco-friendly and deeply rejuvenating sanctuary in this warm-spirited nation.

Nestled within its own private peninsula, Kasiiya offers 123 acres of secluded peace and tranquility. Visitors are on a dirt road for 30 minutes before arrival, miles from the closest property, on a path at times so bumpy that guests are shuttled in a dust-covered Land Rover Defender. But, once past the gate, you descend down a hill into your own cloistered universe.

Warm tropical water surrounds three sides of the property—with three beaches only accessible to Kasiiya guests. (While all beaches in Costa Rica are public, theirs can only be reached by boat.) The welcoming area and Beach Restaurant play central hub for the property, with five “tents” off to one side running along a gold-sand beach. A pair of even more remote suites atop a nearby hill are opening in 2020.

Although the staff of over 20 cater to a clientele of at most 10 people, Kasiiya is not one of those resorts where servers hover, but should you need anything, a request is only a holler away on a provided walkie-talkie.

Both breakfast and lunch are served in a long cabana overlooking Laguna Beach, under wooden slats offering plenty of shade, while a soft breeze blows in from the bay. The Argentinean chef Guillermo changes meals daily, using 90% organic produce sourced from local farms—meaning there’s usually a bounty of exquisitely fresh fruits and vegetables. Dishes include avocado toast, marmalade made on-site, Casado con camaron and fish tacos.

While referred to as “tents,” the living quarters are quite luxurious. After two years testing various prototypes in heavy wind and rain storms, renowned French architecture firm AW2 figured out the best structure and settled on airy timber-framed buildings, skinned with canvas. Almost 2,000 square feet in size, the chic suites feature a large bedroom boasting 270-degrees of windows—one looking out to the bluest water in Costa Rica.

Even though energy consumption is closely monitored, modern luxuries like WiFi, ceiling fans and air-conditioning are standard. Coolers substitute for refrigerators and are refreshed throughout the day, keeping juices and sodas cold. Guests can choose between indoor and outdoor showers, and closing up rooms up for artificial cooling or opening windows (bug screens still closed) to let in the refreshing breeze.

Atop a steep hill sits the Sunset Lounge, where you’ll venture every evening to catch burning colors as they light up the sky. Sipping delicious mixed cocktails and eating hors d’oeuvres, guests can soak in 360-degree views of the Pacific Rim—from islands to the mainland to the larger resorts across the bay. There’s a small library as well, where you can wait for dishes like freshly caught mahi-mahi and octopus, gazpacho, ceviche, sabih salad and more. A dessert celebrating Costa Rica’s two extreme seasons, constructed of dried cocoa crumbs over mango parfait, is especially glorious.  

Should you get restless from lounging in hammocks, Kasiiya boasts plenty of distractions. We spent one morning working with their dedicated movement master Bruno, imitating animal walks across a big shaded yoga platform,  leaping over stumps, and climbing a ladder four stories up a tree. Crafting his own proprietary philosophy combining capoeira, tai chi, krav maga, yoga and more, Bruno Giustozzi will match the difficulty of his session with your goals.

Afterward, we kayaked out to a snorkeling spot with world-class visibility, loaded with gleaming parrotfish, starfish, jellyfish and sea urchins. We spent the next two hours hunting for uni, which the chef would later prepare as appetizers.

In a resort bursting with unique offerings, it is noteworthy that Kasiiya’s masseuse might be its most singular. To get to the spa, guests take an electric cart into the heart of the jungle and cross a rickety swaying rope bridge. The building itself resides at the intersection of two large waterfalls, offering surreal solace. Unlike spas that play recorded whale song or rainforest sounds, this one has a real-life soundtrack. 

There, Yamuna (born Juan Carlos Fonseca Schmidt) meets guests with a wide smile. He might walk you past a hive of tiny bees whose honey locals use to cure eye infections and a tree that only grows in pairs—one poisonous and the other its antidote. This is where the lessons in nature begin, as Yamuna uses crushed leaves for scents and prepares his own oils—one for winter, another for summer. Learning acupuncture techniques and Eastern nervous system philosophies from his Chinese grandmother, Yamuna later studied in Europe, South America and India. In the latter, he earned his spiritual masseur name. Combining these various schools of training, Yamuna’s massages are a handpicked chemistry of aromas, temperatures, sounds, sensations, pressures and even vibrations, as bells are a powerful component of his work. The resulting wellness program is careful alchemy that produces unreal results.  

Kasiiya takes its eco credentials very seriously. Everything is powered by solar cells, the arrays tucked away in different areas of the property. These even power the golf carts. Water is pulled from springs and collected from rainwater during the wet season. Toilets are compost, but there is nearly no difference from modern plumbing. Suspended wooden pathways connect every location, and not a drop of concrete can be found anywhere—even as a foundation.

While the resort remains true to its green standards, Kasiiya’s guests will never long for luxury. Whether it’s the quality of food, the suppleness of pillows and linen, every detail is deeply considered and flawlessly executed. The symbiosis with the environment becomes even more important because of exactly what Kasiiya Papagayo represents.

When you come here, you are stepping into the jungle. Not a traditional resort with a couple of trees between concrete casitas, at Kasiiya you are a guest of nature. Iguanas will run across your path, you’ll hear monkeys fighting in the trees, see capuchins racing across the grass. You’ll wake up every morning to a chorus of birds outside your window, backed up by waves lapping on the beach only 40 yards away. This profoundly organic environment will only bolster your decision for selecting a resort that legitimately cares for its environment.

Images courtesy of Kasiiya Papagayo