By Lori Capullo –
El Mangroove, that is, a beautiful Costa Rica retreat that manages to be at once rustic and luxurious.
Costa Rica: the name alone sounds romantic…exotic…inviting. There are many ways to experience this lush, peaceful country, but arguably the best way is by immersing yourself in its natural wonders. There’s a variety of regions to choose from, each offering up its own kind of experience. But if you’re up for a visit that includes beach access, rainforest hiking and zip lining combined with luxurious digs, fine dining, topnotch cocktailing and the most relaxing of spas, book a stay at El Mangroove near the Gulf of Papagayo in the Provincia de Guanacaste. The property, part of The Autograph Collection of hotels, manages to combine creature comforts with the best that Costa Rica has to offer in the way of nature.
Located only 20 minutes from Liberia International Airport, the luxury boutique hotel, which is situated alongside an expanse of blacksand beach, houses 85 suites in two-story buildings placed among the mangroves. It feels intimate and cozy, yet it’s missing nothing guests might need or want. Nature buffs will feel the love immediately upon stepping into the open lobby/courtyard with its swinging orange basket chairs, lots of natural wood walls, stone pools, pillars and walkways with bamboo overhangs and fabric-wrapped lighting, and thatched roofs anchored by the pool, which is surrounded by a beach bar, restaurants, and a lovely little boutique selling swimwear, cover-ups, caps, T-shirts, jewelry, sunscreen and magazines. The weather can be brutally humid and intermittently rainy in the summer, which it was when we visited in June, so plan ahead and come armed with insect repellent and an umbrella in your backpack if you can (although an umbrella was no match for the downpours we experienced).
When the sun is out—or at least, the rain is not falling—take advantage of the hotel’s sports equipment and activities, from bicycling to paddle boarding, or just chill by the pool with a mojito. Whether you’re a spa person or not, the Bearth Spa, with its outdoor terraces and decks, is a truly Zen retreat that offers up natural treatments to soothe and rejuvenate at the same time, with its enclosed al fresco relaxation area arranged around a softly trickling, marble-enclosed pond that is literally all you can hear as you lie back and close your eyes. Those devoted to their workout regimens will be thankful for the fitness center fully outfitted with treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and pulleys, the placement of which allows full views through floor-to-ceiling windows of the sunshine and greenery that envelop the property.
Off site, among the popular excursions that should be at the top of your list is a hike along Rio Celeste, a river so blue that your friends will think you’ve added filters to the photos. Guided tours of the area, in the Guanacaste province, can include a dip in the hot springs around Tenorio Volcano and a peek at the Rio Celeste waterfall, but be prepared—this one will challenge your physical mettle. There are too many options to list for hikes in the area, but the folks at El Mangroove can help you arrange one that appeals to you, whether you’re a neophyte who just wants to revel in the beauty of the twisty roots and sky-high trees populated with howler monkeys swinging and squawking their way from tree limb to tree limb, or of the more adventurous ilk who won’t be satisfied until you’ve successfully traversed a hanging bridge.
Back at the hotel in the evening, sink your toes into the sand at an outdoor table by the firepit and relax with a glass of wine before dinner. All-inclusive packages and meal-inclusive packages are available for varying rates (check the website for current prices), and meals can be enjoyed outdoors at the beachfront restaurant set beneath the palapas or at the fine-dining indoor restaurant Makoko, which serves à la carte items in a chic, air-conditioned, glass-enclosed space for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both restaurants employ a farm-to-table approach to create fresh, delicious meals apropos of a tropical paradise. Afterwards, re-enter the modern world as you retire to your room, with its plush bed, blond wood furnishings, modern lighting and technology, and, of course, glorious views of the verdant surroundings beyond, a reminder of what awaits when you awake the next day.