Worth Noting: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Papagayo

Matthew Wakem / Courtesy Four Seasons Resorts

A 12-year-old resort still shines as the best luxury property near top-notch surfing beaches.

On a recent surfing trip to Costa Rica, we spent time at the Four Seasons Resort on the Papagayo Peninsula, located on the northwest side of the country in Guanacaste. Though the property is 12 years old, and a Hyatt Andaz opened next door just two years ago, the hotel's stunning architecture with its open-air pavilions, two-story high ceilings, stone walls, and wood and wicker furnishings is still unsurpassed in the area. From the 47 villas spread across the mountainside to the striking spa with its hydrotherapy pools overlooking the ocean, the resort makes the most of its location on the peninsula.

The resort’s surf program takes place in several locations throughout the area depending on your skill level. One of the most well known breaks, Witch’s Rock, is accessible only by boat and reserved for more advanced surfers. On the property’s Playa Blanca beach is a surf school for coaching beginners and a Moonlight Stand Up Paddleboarding program that takes place at dusk—the boards feature LED lights so SUP-ers can view the marine life below as they paddle.

Our time at the spa included a Thai massage with native Costa Rican Claudia Varela that was the best we have had outside of Bangkok, and the deep-tissue session hit every pain point and sore surfing muscle.

But athletic pursuits and recovery aren’t the only draw. The hotel’s mountain-top restaurant Caracol sits a short distance from the property, where Chef de Cuisine Gerardo Astorga, who has been with the resort since 2006, and Executive Chef Mario Alcocer, who came here in 2013 from Four Seasons Resort Westlake in California, create inventive dishes using local produce and herbs from their on-site garden. During our visit, standout meals included the local tuna tartare, and in this "hard-to-get-good-meat country,” a porterhouse steak for two that rivals anything at the best New York City chophouses. Last December they introduced their own signature beer, a Guanacaste Pale Ale that embodies the distinct flavors of the region with notes of green grapes, mango, avocado, and Costa Rican Rambutan.

When booking a stay, the standard rooms with their timeless tropical elegance have screened-in balconies and seating areas that create an extension that turns the already oversized room into a junior suite. Rates from $500; 26Km al Norte del Doit Centre Liberia Guanaste; 50-6/2696-0000; fourseasons.com.

For more on Costa Rica, see our piece on Auberge's brand new resort in Pérez Zeledón »