Lost in Costa Rica: Earth Friendly Pampering

Costa Rica, Hotels & Resorts, Spa & Beauty — By on September 14, 2009 at 5:00 am

Last month, I traveled to Costa Rica for an extended getaway with my boyfriend Jeff before he left for law school. We decided to combine our adventure with a long-overdue Pressner family vacation-and I recently wrote about that experience for our good friends at Jaunted.com. I’ll also be sharing those adventures on Lost Girls World-read on, or visit Jaunted for the full series.


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Ever wonder where this whole sustainable travel, eco-tourism trend got its legs in the first place?  During my trip (the first of many Costa Rica vacations I plan to take!), I learned it was the formerly impoverished banana republic of that Costa Rica almost single-handedly spawned the concept back in the 70s.

After the price of “yellow gold” crashed back a few decades ago, the nation fell into a devastating depression. Sensing that CR needed to identify an alternative industry-and fast-a few government smarties kicked off the nation’s Green Revolution, reforesting huge tracts of jungle that had once been clear-cut for farming and turning them into protected wilderness areas and national parks. By successfully marketing itself as a nature-lovers paradise, Costa Rica no longer needed to export bananas to survive. They started importing tourists.

And with those tourists came the birth of another trend: Eco-Spas.

It’s no coincidence that nearly every hotel, resort and treehouse lodge has been built with its own in-house pampering zone. As my family and I discovered, twittering birds, trickling tropical waters and verdant green canopy provide a pretty kick-ass backdrop for massages, and there’s nothing better than a rubdown after days spent zip-lining, hiking and white water rafting. With so many top-notch spas to choose from, it’s tempting to get a treatment every day, so rather than fight the feeling, that’s pretty much what we did. The fam and I personally checked out these four spas across the Northwest portion of Costa Rica-but we highly suggest that you do a follow up yourself.

The Golden Gecko Spa (Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal) This boutique spa consists of just two treatment suites set within a lushly landscaped tropical forest, but don’t let the diminutive size fool you. From the pre-treatment foot scrubs offered on a private terrace to the freshly picked flowers floating in a water bowl under your massage bed to the soundtrack provided by nature, no pampering detail has been left unexplored. After the treatments themselves (a word: outstanding) best part about visiting the GG is that you’ll never feel rushed here-you can bliss out in the his and hers soaking pools or remain on the table for as long as you’d like after your massage.

The Grand Spa (Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, Arenal) You may have dipped in a mineral hot spring before, but until you’ve soaked in the acres of thermal pools, waterfalls and steaming black rivers at Tabacon, we dare say you’ve never truly experienced them. This is a family friendly place, but quiet corners of the resort were practically built for couples, as was the award winning full-service spa. My sister Jennifer and her fiancé Trent raved about the side-by-side massage done in one of the outdoor bungalows, and loved that they got to wash the therapist-applied mud off of one another once they were finished.

Spa at the Four Seasons Costa Rica You might expect that this is the best spa game in the country, and the Four Seasons doesn’t disappoint-or rest on its considerable laurels. Spa Director Todd Hewitt consistently introduces new treatments (recent additions: a bamboo massage, ear candling and a holistic full-body rebalancing retreat) in order to keep the experience fresh for spa guests and mixes international-style treatments with local products and ingredients. Since you’re not likely to be in a rush on Peninsula Papagayo, take an extra half hour to chill out on the balcony relaxation area and take a dip in the the outdoor soaking pool overlooking the gulf.

Spa at the Occidental Grand Papagayo While massages are one of the few options not included in the price of the all-inclusive resort, it’s worth booking at least one treatment in one of the private open-air huts. In addition to massages, the resort offers facials, mani/pedis and salon services, along with steam and sauna services.

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