We asked Andrea Arroyo, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions she could find—not just her own, but also those of the local connoisseurs, including some she works with every day at the Resort. Arroyo, who has received the Golden Keys Clef d’Or distinction for excellent service and knowledge, was happy to share some of her favourite things to do in Costa Rica, including ecotourism activities such as zip-lining, river rafting and exploring wildlife.
Into the wild
A flagship destination for ecotourism, Costa Rica is legendary for its natural wonders. Scientists come from all over the world to study Palo Verde National Park, a rich ecosystem of rivers, marshland, mangroves and the very rare dry tropical forest. (Some of the world’s most diverse dry tropical forests are found in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province.) The park teems with wildlife, including crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas and more than 300 species of birds. You can see it all on a flat-bottom boat tour.
Out and about
The best way to see the landscape is often from above, as in a zip-line tour through the canopy. Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour is located just 20 minutes from the Resort. To view the peninsula from the water and to see aquatic life, hop aboard the Resort’s 14-metre (47-metre) Goombay catamaran for a sunset cruise on the Gulf of Papagayo. Venturesome travellers flock to the Canyon at Guachipelin, where you can rappel, rock climb and swing through the jungle before a horseback ride and a chance to swim beneath a cool waterfall.
If golf’s your game
At the Arnold Palmer–designed Four Seasons Golf Club Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, breathtaking views over the Pacific Ocean or Culebra Bay await at 14 of the 18 holes, along with significant elevation changes and tremendous variety. The signature sixth hole features a dramatic 446-yard par-4 with a tee shot that plays 61 metres (200 feet) downhill to a receptive valley-shaped fairway. The course also utilizes many eco-friendly practices and is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
You don’t have to leave the Resort to experience Costa Rica’s natural beauty. Check the activities schedule to see if you can catch an early morning birdwatching walk, on which you can spot some of the 120 different bird species as well as howler and white-faced monkeys and iguanas. Each afternoon, a guide leads a trip on the Trail of the Giants, which runs alongside the Resort’s golf course; you will learn about the 25 species of giant trees found on the peninsula, as well as the endangered birds, monkeys, iguanas and butterflies that live among them. Explore on your own by hiking the hilly 1-kilometre (0.6-mile) trail connecting the beaches on either side of the peninsula.
Dine like a local—only better
The most typical breakfast choice in Costa Rica is a rice dish called gallo pinto. It can be prepared many different ways, but the one firm rule is the secret ingredient: Salsa Lizano, a mild red sauce. Savour an excellent version of this specialty at the Resort’s Papagayo restaurant. The abundance of fresh seafood on the peninsula also provides great options for lunch and dinner. Arrange a visit with one of the Resort’s chefs to Playa Blanca, where you’ll meet with a local fisherman and pick out the fish you’d like to enjoy that evening for dinner. By the time you arrive for your reservation at Di Mare or Papagayo, the dish will be prepared to your taste—and paired with wines by the sommelier.
Adventures at sea
The Catalina Islands, off the coast of Guanacaste, are among the area’s top sportfishing spots. Head out for a half-day inshore or full-day offshore fishing excursion in pursuit of striped marlin, sailfish and dorado. (Four Seasons encourages catch-and-release fishing for marlin and sailfish, but some fish can be brought back to the Resort and prepared for dinner.) The Resort’s PADI Gold dive shop offers several opportunities to get your feet wet, from in-pool “Discover Scuba” sessions to multi-day certification, rescue diver and nitrox courses. After you hone your scuba skills, embark on a day or night boat dive, or venture out for a multi-dive trip to the Catalina and Bat islands.
Ecotouring hot spot
Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a starkly beautiful area with widespread thermal activity, located two hours from the Resort. The park’s natural features include geysers, vents and fumaroles, as well as the Santa Maria volcano, which rises to 1,916 metres (6,286 feet). Hire a guide to best explore this dramatic landscape.
The small town of Tamarindo caters to surfers of all abilities, offering easy access to a number of beach and reef breaks, such as Playa Negra, Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point. Located on the northwest Pacific Coast, this is an ideal spot for exploring a variety of surfing breaks in a short period of time.
Turtles at night
Located near Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, Las Baulas National Marine Park is an important nesting spot for leatherback sea turtles. Every year, hundreds of leatherback turtles make the journey to nest here. The leatherbacks, which are the largest of all living sea turtles, arrive November through April to mate and deposit their eggs.
Want to learn and experience something new on your visit? The Resort brings a variety of Costa Rican cultural offerings right to you. Several days each week, you can attend an on-site market where you’ll see the work of local craftspeople and learn how they create masterpieces in wood and pottery. Get in on the action yourself by attending one of the Resort’s regular classes, which rotate among topics such as salsa or merengue dance, Spanish for beginners, and Costa Rican cooking.
The art of pottery
Guaitil, on the Nicoya Peninsula, is so renowned for its pottery that resident artisans support the entire village by selling traditional pieces. The art of pottery perfected by the Chorotega Indians is still passed down from generation to generation, starting with the all-important gathering of tan, red ochre and black sands for the clay. Each colour requires a rigorous journey on foot to one of three mountains, and the finest sand is reportedly found at the opening of iguana nests.
During the destination’s green season (May through mid-November)—when sporadic rains ensure landscapes stay extraordinarily lush—attend one of the Resort’s daily Sunset Sessions on Playa Virador for bocas (snacks) and cocktails. With a comfortable seat on the beach, guests can take in the scenery while enjoying the sounds of local music.