With its coastal towns and lush rainforests, Costa Rica has long beckoned vacation-goers seeking a quiet respite. The air is fresh, and the vibe is laid-back — it’s only fitting that the local saying is pura vida, meaning pure life in Spanish. The country calls both adventure seekers and those who want to relax and rejuvenate, but the good news is you don’t have to choose between the two. It’s a place where relaxation and adventure combine with sustainability to create the perfect trip. Whether your ideal day entails a massage in the open air, eating locally sourced food, or adventuring beyond your accommodations, here are two areas of Costa Rica where you can find it all.
La Fortuna – Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa
Being flanked by two bodies of water, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, means that the 802 miles (1290 km) of coastline are tempting, yet many head inland to La Fortuna to experience the healing of volcano-heated springs. Although the town is peppered with places that promise a hot springs experience, only one destination — Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa — offers soaks in the volcanic river.
“As the largest network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs, the hydrotherapy of the cascading waterfalls provides optimal relaxation,” says Andrey Gomez, General Manager of Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa. “The water is naturally heated by the springs underground by the Arenal Volcano, which also happens to be the water source for all rooms and plunge pools on property.”
Tabacón also recognizes the accountability of harnessing the power of nature, so sustainability is kept top of mind. Not only is volcanic spring water naturally fed into the rooms for use in the bathroom, but guests also stay in accommodations filled with ethically sourced items. Choose a room with a private plunge pool and a view of Arenal, or book private accommodations beside the river in a tropical setting. “The outdoor bungalows are tucked away in the rainforest with the sounds of rushing water lulling you into a relaxing haze,” adds Gomez.
Part of the resort’s allure is simply soaking in the many rock-bed pools of varying temperatures. Still, those wishing to experience wellness further can book a spa treatment or massage in the rainforest while being pampered with local, organic products made especially for the resort. “We also believe the mind-body connection is vital to restoring and maintaining health,” says Gomez. “The spa experience at Tabacón offers guests a chance to reconnect with their spirit in nature.”
The culinary and beverage offerings are also thoughtfully curated with a local focus, and while on-site, folks can take classes to learn about cooking or Costa Rican coffee culture. Those wishing to add on adventure-centric activities can also take advantage of Tabacón’s offerings. Whether you zipline through the forest or ride up to the volcano on horseback, thrills await, but it’s also perfectly appropriate to eat, sleep, and relax the day away in a beautiful setting. No matter what you decide to do, Tabacón is the ideal inland retreat.
Santa Teresa – Hotel Nantipa
If you genuinely desire to head to the coast, you won’t be alone choosing Santa Teresa on the Pacific coast. The area isn’t overdeveloped, yet offers a vibrant community with a mix of folks from all over the globe. From restaurants of varying cuisines to boutiques catering to surf culture, adventure sets the tone for Santa Teresa. Yet, you can certainly live a more laid-back life or combine the two, during a stay at Hotel Nantipa.
Because the town attracts many vacationers, Hotel Nantipa does its part to ensure that it doesn’t have a negative impact. “Nantipa has worked hard to develop and maintain sustainable practices wherever possible, and our aim is to help Santa Teresa maintain its authenticity through mindful tourism,” says Harry Hartman, Owner and General Manager of Hotel Nantipa. For example, only six trees were cut during the building process, and the wood was used to make furniture for the guest rooms.
In addition to employing local residents and using biodegradable products, the property has special programs for saving water, consuming electricity responsibly, and handling waste property. Guests can also help by participating in a beach cleanup or bringing supplies to help local projects. Hartman adds, “Guests are invited to spend ten minutes on the beach picking up micro-plastic residue carried in by the tides, raising awareness of the effects of single-use plastic pollution on our oceans.”
Regarding wellness, Nantipa has the NUMU Wellness Center, a haven for those seeking inner peace. “As the Chorotegan word for ‘sun,’ the concept of NUMU is to honor nature’s energy in all treatments by harnessing the superpowers of local, organic ingredients in an open-air setting,” says Hartman. “The menu includes a wide range of options from scrubs and body wraps to massages, yoga, and reiki in the treatment rooms, on the beach, or in the privacy of your room.”
Adventure centers around the water, so you can stroll and watch surfers ride the waves or try to catch one yourself. Lessons are available on the beach, just a short walk from Nantipa. Those with culinary interests should prioritize plans to dine at Manzú, a beachside restaurant on the property, or head to one of the specialty-focused restaurants nearby. The hotel also has a central pool and beachfront villas with private pools to encourage you to relax and stay for a while.