Pristine, Private: A Costa Rica Sanctuary
Luxury resorts take great pride in characterizing themselves with a few well-chosen buzzwords... private, exclusive, home away from home. And while there are many select, secluded retreats around the world, few are as select, and as secluded, as Hacienda Cabo Velas. When you arrive at this pink adobe, thatch-and-green-tile-roofed property on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, it's just you, the friends and family you brought with you, and the staff hired to take care of you. A staff that includes a naturalist guide and the cowboys who tend the resort's 1,700-acre ranch.
Hacienda Cabo Velas is part of the small Sanctuare collection, a new breed of resort group that is upping the ante on the definition of privacy. The hacienda is never rented out to more than one group at a time, and that group (up to 16) virtually ownsfor the duration of its staymuch more than just a few swanky rooms. It is in possession of three diverse environments. A marine ecosystem encompasses five sandy beaches, a dry tropic forest includes lagoons and mangrove estuaries, and the working ranch ranges from livestock pastures to tropical fruit groves.
With its remote, rustic surroundings and traditional architecture, Hacienda Cabo Velas surprises when it comes to its interiors. They are stylish. Not casual, tropical stylish, with lots of rattan and brightly colored throw pillows, but stylish in a tasteful, comfy, contemporary way that puts many of today's hip urban hotels to shame. Accommodations consist of eight suites in four thatch-roofed ranchos on one of the larger beaches. Their walls are painted a soothing shade of cream, their Zennish beds rest on platforms made of honey-colored wood, and gauzy drapes separate their master bedrooms from their airy, naturally-lit sitting areas.
In addition to its own master bedroom with a spacious dressing room and bathroom with indoor/outdoor shower, each rancho has a smaller upstairs bedroom with dressing and bathrooms. Private patios are dressed up in sunny yellow paint jobs, accented with louvered wood doors and adorned with fun, shapely sofas. And although it's not in plain sight, technology is available: telephones, Internet connections, fax machines, cell phones and even an office... although why anyone staying here would want access to an officewhen horseback riding and bird-watching are on offeris a complete mystery. There is also air-conditioning, although it's nicer to simply open the windows (they're screened) and turn on the ceiling fan.
Another aspect of the hacienda that emphasizes its exclusivity is the dining room in the Main Rancho. Anchored by a gorgeous timber table, it is surrounded by screens and framed in columned archways, with each arch framing a not-so-still life of palm trees and ocean views. Guests can eat here or outside on the tiered terrace facing the water, dining on international cuisine accented with traditional Costa Rican flavors, such a locally farmed beef and fresh local veggies, fruits and herbs.
While there's plenty to do on the ranch, there are a few enticements to lure guests beyond the property's bordersnext door is a national park, where Leatherback turtles nest in season, and within an hour's drive are two championship golf courses. Whitewater rafting, visits to local villages, and canopying by cable along jungle rooftops can be arranged.
The practical details: Hacienda Cabo Velas is north of the town of Tamarindo, 45 minutes from the international airport in Liberia; the resort has its own airstrip, and you can charter a plane in. The hacienda is rented out for a week at a time (feel free to stay longer), and stays include accommodation, all meals and beverages, full use of the ranch including horses and the services of a resident naturalist guide.
(Updated: 06/24/08 HC)