One of the perks of being a travel advisor is that I get to travel to a lot of incredible destinations to scope them out for my clients. After all, the best way to sell something is to have seen it firsthand. Not only do I get to see and experience what is offered, but I also see the other people and get a feel of the overall vibe. You may absolutely love the look and amenities of a hotel or destination but certain elements- that are often not so visible- can turn what you think will be a dream vacation into a nightmare. For instance; if the resort throws raging parties every night and you like to have a quiet sleep at 10; if you need to be constantly connected, but the Wi-Fi is iffy; or if you have a hard time walking and the property is spread far out over a hill; it may not be the best fit. Navigating these less obvious elements is one of the myriad of reasons to use a travel agent.
When I got invited to spend a few nights checking out Nayara Springs in Costa Rica, I jumped on it. Not only was Costa Rica on my short list of countries to visit, but Nayara Springs holds an impressive number of awards, including: #1 luxury hotel in the world Trip Advisor 2016 and 2017, the #1 Resort in Central America by Travel & Leisure 2016, #1 Spa in the World by Conde Nast Traveler 2016, 50 Best Resorts in the World by Conde Nast Traveler, One of the Most Romantic Hotels in the World by Trip Advisor 2017, and 100 best hotels in the world T+L 2016.
Located in the Arenal Volcano National Park, snuggled by rainforest, Nayara Springs creates an exclusive private getaway miles away from the rest of the world. It’s so private that the zika mosquitos weren’t invited! Well...in truth, this area of Costa Rica doesn’t have Zika due to the elevation and the volcanic air.
There are two hotels on property; Nayara Springs, which is adults only, and Nayara Resort and Spa, which is family friendly. Each hotel has their own check-in, restaurants, and facilities. Guests 16 and over can walk freely between the two properties. The hotels are spread over a hillside so there are distances- and some hills- to walk to get from place to place. You can, however, call for a staff member to pick you up in a golf cart.
Both hotels are built in a villa concept; all rooms have individual entrances and a private outdoor area with an outdoor shower. The rooms are large! The Casita Deluxe, the entry level category in the resort side, is 850 sq ft! Villas in the Springs side are a whopping 1500 sq ft, which is admittingly 4 times the size of my New York apartment. The bathrooms are humongous with ample closet space. Couples don’t just have his/her sinks, but full sink areas.
Villas at Nayara Springs come with all of the standard 5* amenities and also some unique surprises, including free mini bar (not alcohol), free international calling and free laundry. The laundry service is incredible. I sent my dirty clothes out in the morning and everything came neatly folded and sealed in plastic bags. For the first time my suitcase felt less stuffed coming home than when I left! And yes, there’s Wi-Fi throughout the property that really works!
The outdoor space is truly special. Each villa has a large patio with a day bed, table and chairs, and a hammock. But that’s not all! Each villa also has its own private thermal hot spring plunge pool…with jets! All outdoor patios are surrounded by over 1000 flowers, so yes, bathing suites are optional. Rooms on the Resort side have a hot tub instead of the pool. While they are nice the pool is 100% worth the upgrade.
I spent most every free minute on my patio, even taking my breakfast there. The surrounding vegetation creates a very private slice of heaven. While you can hear the voices of other guests when they walk by, the resort is very quiet. Even at capacity, the resort doesn’t feel full. There are always open cabanas and seats at the swim up bar. While the property is great for groups, it’s not a place where you interact with others and make friends. Guests tend to keep to themselves, enjoying the time with those they came with.
The staff is unbelievable and very friendly. When the inevitable bug came in my room, a staff member came within two minutes of me calling them. The Costa Ricans are so warm and friendly and were very much concerned with me enjoying my stay. Unlike many resorts, their service felt genuine- not like they were waiting around for a tip.
While there are a ton of adventure activities outside the property, if you’d like to stay put there are still a number of fun things to participate in from taking a cooking class to planting a tree to encourage the sloth population to grow (there are currently about 10 that live on property.) My favorite activities were the mixology class and the coffee class. Even as a non-coffee drinker, the coffee class was fascinating. We learned about the production of coffee beans, the traditional method of pouring coffee in Costa Rica, and sampled several different varieties.
If you like to stay active there is a gym, but I recommend taking a yoga class in the outdoor yoga pavilion instead. The pavilion feels like a tree house in the sky, creating a very zen-like aura. My favorite part of every yoga class is corpse pose at the end, but the live guitarist and singer make this corpse pose extra special.
After your workout, reward yourself with a massage at the spa. Treatment rooms are outside, surrounded by the green of the rain forest. I spoiled myself with a deep tissue massage and I can honestly say that it was one of the best massages of my life. As an avid spa-goes, I don’t give that title lightly.
There are several dining options, ranging from buffet to fine dining, and the food was good and diverse. The drinks were absolutely incredible. There’s a vast cocktail list and all the drinks are creatively presented. There’s even a wine bar with automated pouring. I enjoyed trying all of the South American wines that I’m not familiar with. We even got a bachata lesson from the staff.
If you’re looking to make your trip a bit more romantic, you can book Besame Mucho. Besame Mucho is a Moroccan-style private dining pavilion, which comes with personalized waitstaff.
I truly enjoyed my time at Nayara and left feeling relaxed and pampered. While my body left a bit heavier, my mind left much lighter! I look forward to returning and having a little romance at Nayra of my own.
Good for: Couples, adventure lovers, coffee fanatics, those looking to relax, and groups. While it is family friendly, the vibe and activities are much more adult friendly.
Bad for: Party animals, those looking to meet friends, those looking for constant activities.
Starting Price point: Casita Deluxe (Nayara Hotel & Resort)- $390/nt, Springs Villa- $750/nt
Special amenities that you get when you book through me: $100 Spa Credit, and upgrade/early check-in/late check-out based upon availability.