Hot Springs at Rincón de la Vieja National Park

2015-01-04 16.14.29I’m one of those people who is always cold, so when I’m in New York I can come up with practically any excuse to visit the russian baths.  In Costa Rica, after tubing down the Río Negro nothing feels better then relaxing in the thermal (aka hot springs) by Rincón de la Vieja National Park.  Located 4k away from the check in desk you can drive or horseback ride there.  Walk through the tropical try forrest and you discover the will stumble upon the Río Negro (Black River) Hot Springs.

2015-01-04 16.18.48 Six pools with thermal waters heated naturally by the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. The soothing mineral waters are crystal clear, all natural, and the river flows through the pools constantly refilling them with water. To get the full experience start off by smoothing the volcanic mud all over you (like a spa mud treatment), then wait 10 mins for it to dry.

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Wash it off in the ‘refreshing’ (read that as very cold!) river shower and then ease your way into one of the 6 majestic hot springs.  Seriously this is the perfect way to end your day!2015-01-04 16.45.13

 Relaxing and rejuvenating = my idea of a fabulous time

Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin

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Where to stay in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica: Gaia

 2015-01-08 07.12.50Manuel Antonio Costa Rica is uniquely breathtaking with the beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park (full of lots of animals- more to come on that), beautiful beaches (including the one where Castaway was filmed), good waves for surfing, rafting, zip lining, and more. over the edge gaia

If you are planning a trip to Manuel Antonio you must stay at Gaia Luxury Boutique Hotel and Reserve, a 5 star Eco-friendly adult and teen only resort.  Nestled in the costal forest and surrounded by its own private nature reserve the property is spectacular.  With 5 levels of  infinity pools, a pool bar in the middle and waterfalls flowing over you while you gaze out on the natural reserve and to the beaches it is absolute heaven.2015-01-08 12.51.57

We stayed in the Deluxe Suite and let me tell you, it was one of the nicest rooms we have ever stayed in! When you enter the first floor you find a cozy living room and dining room with it’s own balcony that includes 2 lounge chairs resting on it which is quite nice.  The bedroom has a lovely king size bed (automen at foot of bed has extra pillows and blankets in it) large closets, window into the living room, tv, coffee maker and full length mirror (yes that is important, I hate when I have to do a balancing act on the edge of a bathtub to see what I look like before going out). The bathroom is huge with his and hers sinks double jacuzzi bath (looks like one of those outdoor jacuzzis), but takes an hour to fill so prepare ahead if time!  The best part of this suite… head up the stairs to your very own private roof deck with reflecting pool, shower, canopy beds and chairs!  We had lunch up there a few times and had bottle of wine for sunset, it was perfect.2015-01-08 07.04.51The restaurant on the property “La Luna” is one of the best places to watch the sunset, with 180 degree panoramic views of the Pacific coastline and surrounding rainforest.  There is live music and a tapas menu for sunset and then the music continues through dinner.  The restaurant serves international and local cuisine and includes complementary breakfast.  The breakfast was was amazing.  There was a fruit station full of delicious and there was a selection of breads then choose a main dish from the menu.  The omelets, waffles and local dishes were great!  For dinner the tuna appetizer as delicious and refreshing but it was the coconut crusted mahmahi that was one of the best dishes I had on the entire trip! Don’t miss out on that.

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For your complementary 20 minute treatment you have a a choose of a facial, mini back massage or reflexology, I went with the facial which was surprisingly very nice (normally I’m not a huge fan of facials).  Maybe it was so wonderful because of the head massage while my face absorbed the scrub.  We also got massages, it was one of the best massages I have ever had in my life! FYI Couples massage costs $160.  There is a gym that is open 24/7, it’s small but has everything you could need. 2015-01-08 12.51.08

The hotel sits on a vast tract of lowland coastal forest originally serving as the site of Jardín Gaia, a center for native orchid´s conservation and endangered wildlife rehabilitation. Today the land remains set aside as a refuge for these many precious species. It is here that only our privileged guest may take in the sights and sounds of Costa Rica´s lush and exotic natural gifts.

The staff is amazing, extremely helpful, and had great recommendations (will post about those restaurants next).  If you are going on your honeymoon or a romantic trip I highly recommend you stay at Gaia

 

Gaia, Carretera Quepos – Manuel Antonio, Km. 2.7, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Raphaels Terrezasa in Manuel Antonio

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Raphael’s Terrazas, located in Manuel Antonio has a relaxed atmosphere and the perfect outdoor terrace o enjoy sunset.  Their are lots of fish options and combinations. The grilled mahimahi with shrimp was excellent served with a small potato, vegetable slaw and a plantain.  My husband had the salmon with rice.  Overall the food was good but didn’t compared to the other places we had been in Costa Rica.  Restaurants tend to close very early, like 10pm and we had gone to dinner at 8 which meant we were pretty much the only people there.  I think Raphaels would have been fun if it were more lively and a better experience if you go for sunset and catch the beautiful view.

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Raphaels Terrezzas, Manuel Antonio RoadManuel Antonio National Park,Costa Rica

Zip-line in Manuel Antonio

2015-01-08 09.24.45If you have been following along you know I’m a bit of a zip-line junky, so when I found out that there was another completely different zip-line experience in Manuel Antonio I had to try it out! You can get picked up at 7am or at 1030am and head out into the forrest.  The course beautiful with a total 15 lines some which were connected by suspended bridges you had to cross.  I got to go upside-down on 2 of the runs which was a to of fun. 2015-01-08 09.48.16 HDR Then you will take the longest zip-line which is over 1.5miles; it was incredible.  Since it is SO long you go in pairs side by side and ‘race’ your partner to the finish line.  You stop once for a water break and once for a watermelon and water break which was quite refreshing.  Then you go on the fastest line they have where go up to 55 miles an hour! It is such a rush! 2015-01-08 11.12.29Then get ready to repel down to the finish.  It’s a big drop and an awesome way to end the course.  After a traditional lunch is served of chicken, salad, rice and beans.  If you are in Manuel Antonio definitely do the zip-line!

Best seafood restaurant in Manuel Antonio

z 1For some of the best seafood in Manuel Antonio you must have dinner at Z Sea Restaurant which is only a short walk from Gaia hotel. The restaurant is beautiful and definitely stands out amongst the laid back town.  Inspired by St Tropez this all white restaurant with romantic lighting and the open air breeze it is perfect for a date night. Keep in mind restaurants close at 10, so go on the early side! Z is famous for its seafood but also has a nice selection of steaks, pastas and sandwiches.  If you are doing for seafood (which I would recommend) definitely try one of the seafood sample platters for 2 or 4 people. The ‘royal’ includes crab, muscles and lobster and a shrimp cocktail.zWe chose the 2 person traditional sampler that came with dorado ceviche, dorado, sea bass, mackerel, tuna and vegetables all prepared in different fashions.  The crusted sea bass was my personal favorite.  We shared the creme brule for dessert which was good but the homemade chocolates on the house were phenomenal!  They also give you a complementary glass of lemonchello or amaretto which was a nice way to end the meal.  All of the above plus 2 glasses of wine , a Caesar salad and a large bottle of water total with tip and tax was $100.  The staff was very friendly and attentive, and the experience was fabulous, if you are looking for great seafood in Manuel Antonio I highly recommend Z Sea Restaurant.

Z Sea Restaurant,  Plaza Yara Hotel, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Best beach in Manuel Antonio

2015-01-08 13.17.22The Manuel Antonio North beach is one of the most beautiful pristine beaches we have ever been to (and we’ve been to a lot of beaches!). There is a shuttle from Gaia Hotel that will take you there every hour which is super convenient.  Rent chairs, umbrellas, surf board or order food/drinks at Marys which has a relationship with the hotel so you can put the charge on your room ($14 for 2 chairs, a giant water and surfboard). 2015-01-08 13.18.38The sand is soft, the waves are perfect for a variety of surfing or body surfing levels.  The beach is very clean and feels untouched, you will have the perfect here so enjoy it!

Italian cuisine in Manuel Antonio

gondolaIn the mood for some Italian food while in Manuel Antonio? Head over to Gondola Restaurant.  The atmosphere is very laid back and simple but the food bursts with flavor.  Start with the caesar salad that comes with homemade croutons. gondola1I had the mahimahi with pesto mashed potatoes and broccoli in a lemon sauce which was incredible, one of the best fish dishes I had on the trip! gondolaThe bolognese pasta was also quite delicious and the portions were a good size so we weren’t overly full and had room for dessert. Try the grilled pineapple with strawberry ice cream it is refreshing and will satisfy your sweet craving:) For a laid back evening with good food head over to Gondola.

Gondola Restaurant, Hotel Tres Banderas | Manuel AntonioManuel Antonio National Park 6350Costa Rica

Zipline and White Water Tubing Adventure in Guanacaste

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For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time it is no secret… I love zip lines! If there is a zip line wherever I am traveling in the world…I will find it!  If you are staying in Guanacaste you MUST do the Canyon tour at Guachipelin.  This a day full of different action packed activities that will blow your mind and yes it is awesome for all ages.  I highly recommend getting the full day pass ($75/per person) which includes white water tubing, horse back riding (we skipped this), zip lines, rapelling, Tarzan swing, rock climbing, 2 water falls and a visit to the hot springs!  Sounds awesome right?! So I’m going to breakdown each of the exhilarating parts of your day starting with the Rio Negro Tubing Adventurerafting 1

First off, you must wear Tevas, aqua socks or sneakers (no flip flops) if you’re like me and the last time you wore a pair of Tevas was at sleep away camp many years ago (I’m not telling you how many years!) you can buy a pair of aqua socks at the main desk for $20.  As a group you pile into a van that takes you to where all the equipment is,have the usual safety briefing and then walk to the foot of the Victoria Waterfall where the tubing adventure begins.  This was legit white water tubing on class 3 rapids, you will get bounced and turned around, and drop over a few waterfalls- it is an absolute blast! tarzan1

It’s pretty clear… I have done a lot of zip lines: full ropes course style, through rain forests and even directly into the ocean. This zip line course was something completely different than anything I have ever done and it rocked! The adventure takes place in a majestic canyon created by the erosion of the Rio Blanco river over a million years.  You start with 4-6 regular awesome zips across the Forrest, then fly directly next to a waterfall which is pretty incredible.  When you get to that landing you might be a bit confused (this was something I had never seen), on the edge of the platform facing the waterfall is a slide (like you would see in a playground) but it has been cut in half… once you are hooked in you actually slide down the slide down the half slide over the waterfall canyon.  Don’t be surprised if you get that ‘I’m on a roller coaster about to drop feeling’.  I tried out the batman style of flying which I was surprised wasn’t my favorite.  My new favorite mode of zip lining- going upside down (I know it sounds crazy but wow what a rush, I can’t wait to do it again!repelIn between one of the canyons you have to repel down the canyon and then rock climb you way back up to the next platform.  This was my fist time rappelling (shocking right?!), not as scary as I had expected and now I’m looking forward to doing it again.  Check out the Video HERE The Tarzan swing will really blow your mind as you pretend you are Tarzan literally swinging over a canyon– yes it was insane!!  Truly one of the most beautiful experiences I have had as you are surrounded by to much beauty.  In total there are 12 zip line cables, 24 platforms, 2 climbing walls, a hanging bridge, via ferrata (rappel) and the amazing Tarzan swing. rock climb

Next stop…the hot springs! Check back in

Hacienda Guachipelín, Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Las Pailas

Open daily from 8am to 5pm

 FYI: Children must be at least 8 years old, or 1.30 meters tall (4.3 feet tall) to go on the tubing adventure.

Where to eat in Guanacaste: Ostra

7fea5c5cc9eec330db0a45af5809e470If you are vacationing in Guanacaste a dinner at Osta Restaurant located at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is a must!  The hotel itself is beautiful and has a similar in style to the four seasons with a number of pools and a killer view.  To start make sure you make a reservation for this exotic indoor/ outdoor restaurant specializing in Seafood (otherwise you won’t make it through the front gates!).andaz-peninsula-papagayoThe restaurant is beautiful, and creates an elegant sophisticated atmosphere with white curtains flowing in the wind or creating little private dining cocoons. When you walk past the bar area you will sea a different kind of bar next to it.. ..a ceviche bar.andaz4-608x608You are reading that correctly, we’ve all seen the potato bar, the taco bar, the salad bar (of course) but this was the first time I had ever seen a make- your-own Ceviche bar.  Obvisouly we had to start here.  Order your drinks and head up to the bar, where the chef will explain all of the ingredients, let you smell or taste some of the sauces and concoctions he uses to craft customized fabulous ceviche. Check out the ones we made below. Delicious and fun!2015-01-05 21.27.36

For the main course there is a nice selection of seafood , I recommend the seared tuna with herbed penne; the unusual combination is a delicious perfect pairing and the shrimp with pumpkin risotto was a creamy treat. This is not your average seafood restaurant it is a full exotic dining experience

Ostra, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Where to stay in Guanacaste Costa Rica: Four Seasons

Four_Seasons_Golf_Resort_Papagayo_001For this years ‘winter trip’ we decided to explore two different regions of Costa Rica: Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio.  Over the next few weeks I will be posting all sorts of tips, restaurant reviews, cool things to do in Costa Rica, the best surf spots and more!  To kick things off, let’s start with where to stay in Guanecastse.  First off, getting there is easy, fly into Liberia airport and then it is an hour and a half drive away.  The Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo is incredible, I mean ‘honeymoon amazing’ hotel. The views and property are truly breathtaking, hosting one of the top 50 golf courses in the world, overlooking the water no less was stunning (more about the golf to come).  There are 4 pools all of which are quite large, a jacuzzi in its own waterfall cove and beaches on both sides of the property, one with a surf shack, beach tennis and lots of hermit crabs (that scurry along the beach like moving rocks) the other with more lounge chairs and better sun. During the day the staff was fantastic, even handing out mini picoles and frozen coffee treats.2015-01-06 14.50.49

The rooms are nice and spacious, have a private enclosed sitting area, comfortable king sized bed, large bathtub that has window into main room (same style as the Unique) which means you can watch TV while bathing and the shower has window.   On our second night we had an unexpected visitor….2015-01-04 22.59.15

There are restaurants, all of which have outdoor dining areas. 1.Sol y Samba the Latin inspired rotisserie and fish house. There is a wide selection of ceviche but my favorite was the ‘Thai inspired’ with peanuts and the quinoa balls were fantastic.  There is live music every night so you can always go for sunset, tapas and cocktails. 3 The main restaurant serves breakfast daily with a buffet or an a la cart option.  The omelets are great but it’s a bit pricey.  For lunch we dined at our lounge chairs by the pool,favorite dishes of our stay: the burger, grilled mahimahi sandwich and quesadilla. 2. Cena Sociale: Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar which specializes in modern italian cuisine with the freshest local and organic ingredients.  This innovative ‘tapas style’ italian food was our best meal of the entire trip!  Start with the truffle beef tartar and the burratta caprese salad, both perfectly delicious and refreshing.  For the main dish we shared the three meat ragu pasta dish, seriously out of this in your amazing and the short ribs which melted in your mouth.  For dessert their homemade gelato is a must! They make 18 of their own flavors, my personal favorites: hazelnut and chocolate peanut butter. Caracol Steakhouse and CT Burger both located at the Golf Club.2015-01-05 15.59.02

Make sure you spend a day at the The Beach Club, an absolute beautiful hidden gem. When you arrive it looks more like you are in Fiji with a black pool that has a bridge leading to a island of lounge chairs on it, lined with infinity pools you have the perfect view of the beach which is lined with hammocks, day beds and comfy chairs. There is a separate 3 lane lap pool and one of the largest jacuzzis I have ever been in (it was fabulous). There are 3 restaurants at the Beach Club:  a ‘sports bar that has tv’s and a pool table, a lunch restaurant (or eat on your lounge chair) which served up one of the best Chinese chicken salads and chicken hummus sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.  You need a reservation for the dinner restaurant which serves contemporary fair. The beach provides the most perfect view for sunset so definitely head over to the beach club around 5pm and grab a cocktail! FYI the beach club also offers a smaller spa for massages and a gym for those of you who want to get a quick work out in.2015-01-05 16.59.50

Speaking of a spa and gym..a trip to the Four Seasons isn’t complete with out visiting their super swanky spa with a variety of treatments, dry sauna, rain showers, full makeup bar,  cold plunge pool and super hot jacuzzi on a balcony set with the stunning backdrop of panoramic views. Random – they have the best spa robes I’ve ever wrapped myself in, I wish they gave you these in the rooms (don’t worry you still get nice lightweight waffle robes and yes I realize I sound like a brat, but the spa robes seriously rocked).  As for the gym, it has a ton of treadmills bikes, stepper/elliptical mix, weights and a great view.

If you are a golfer you will love this place! The Golf Course is one of the top 50 golf courses in the world and let me tell you it is absolutely stunning! If you aren’t up for the course head over to the driving range which costs $20/pp for clubs, next to it is a small mini golf area which is actually a bit tough!  There are also 4 tennis courts.  Definitely take a golf cart and explore the property, it is a fun, beautiful ride where you will encounter lots of monkeys and iguanas.2015-01-06 17.15.35 HDR

 Overall there really is nothing like The Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, it is well worth the trip..as for the negative.. They nickel and dime you ie grabbing a muffin for our drive on our last day cost $6, it was good but not that good and getting a transfer to a restaurant (that was a 10 min drive) costs $60, there were others, so go in knowing this will not be a cheap vacation but it definitely is worth it!