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Natural Healing

by Sandra Ramani

Wellness and sustainability always take center stage in Costa Rica. Home to more than six percent of the known biodiversity in the world, the Central American country— tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea—has long recognized that its strength lies in its natural bounty. As a result, it’s become a global leader in ecotourism and sustainable practices, and has dedicated itself to celebrating “Pura Vida,” a pure and simple way of life.

There are plenty of ways to engage with nature in Costa Rica, from surfing and birdwatching to soaking in hot springs and hiking in one of 30 national parks. Visits to wildlife rescue centers, rural communities and sustainable farms can also help round out the experience. Hotels and resorts here celebrate the setting, too, in everything from their design to their wellness offerings. Here are six places to check in to experience some natural healing—both in the spa and out.

The Retreat Costa Rica
Healing is at the core of all aspects of this sustainable sanctuary, which is the brainchild of celebrity chef, bestselling author and health and wellness coach Diana Stobo. Spread out on a quartz mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Retreat features 13 phone- and TV-free rooms, each equipped with essential oil diffusers, bath products made with organic and raw ingredients, and a selenite crystal to help activate chakras.

The property is also home to organic gardens, an organic coffee plantation, two farm-to-table restaurants, saltwater pools and jungle and river paths that lead to views of the water. The 8,000-square-foot Vida Mía Healing Center and Spa was built using Feng Shui principles and offers organic treatments designed to heal and nurture. (The Retreat also grows its own medicinal herbs and makes scrubs, tinctures, infusions and creams for therapeutic treatments.) Customized to each guest’s needs, the anti-inflammatory cuisine is crafted using organic produce and sustainably sourced proteins. Multiday wellness programs are available, and The Retreat follows a long list of sustainable practices, from reforestation and river cleaning initiatives to partnerships with the local community.

Cielo Lodge
Spread over 380 mountain acres behind the southern port town of Golfito, overlooking the Golfo Dulce inlet, this eco- lodge—opened in January 2021—keeps things intimate with just six Canopy Suites, which together can accommodate 12 to 24 guests total. In addition to relying on solar and micro-hydro power and biodegradable supplies, Cielo has partnered with several environmental and wildlife NGOs and a governmental rainforest protection program to help keep its part of Costa Rica pristine.

Guests can get a feel for the area with visits to local farms and indigenous communities. The latter might include a talk on native medicinal plants and herbs by a Ngöbe shaman. Naturalist-led rainforest walks, detox hikes, sunrise yoga, forest bathing, mangrove tours, whale watching trips and private surfing experiences can also be arranged—or guests can stay on property to enjoy the saltwater pool, holistic massages, flavorful cuisine and stunning sunsets.

High above a valley in Costa Rica’s northern rainforest, this luxury lodge has been flying under the radar since it opened a couple of years ago, making it an ideal place to get away from it all. The exteriors of the six lodges and one three-bedroom villa were designed to blend into the surrounding trees and flora, with vegetation-topped “living” roofs and the use of raw natural materials worked by local artisans.

Under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Luc L’Hourre, the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly menus aim to “capture the spirit of the region” with sustainable ingredients from area farms and the on-site organic garden. Head out on a medicinal plant tour, waterfall hike, horseback ride or chocolate- making session at a cacao farm, or spend your days at the spa, enjoying therapeutic treatments using organic products.

Kasiiya Papagayo
Swahili for “find your pace,” this serene, eco-friendly lodge is an idyllic place to focus on mind and body wellness—in whatever ways appeal to you. Start the day with a private yoga or movement session, explore the 123 acres (including two secluded sandy beaches) on a naturalist-led hike, or head to the spa for treatments that were developed by the in-house healer and incorporate local oils, muds and volcanic stones. Enjoy the coastal Guanacaste region’s popular pursuits like surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving, then refuel with gourmet meals crafted with fresh ingredients from local farms. The seven tent-style suites are equipped with open-air living rooms, outdoor showers and vintage tubs, and have names like “Laughing Whale” and “Lazy Turtle” in honor of native wildlife.

Kura Boutique Hotel
Created by an architect and a biologist, this stunning mountaintop retreat brings sustainable luxury to Uvita, a southern, Pacific Ocean-side region known for its lovely beaches, Marino Ballena National Park and annual visits by Humpback whales. An adults-only property with just eight suites, Kura features perks like a saltwater infinity pool, creative meals made with local and responsibly sourced ingredients (many from the on-site gardens and greenhouse), and a rooftop lounge where guests can do yoga, enjoy cocktails or just relax with a book.

The open-air Spa Shà offers an array of massages, facials and body treatments, many performed with Costa Rican products like coconut-infused coffee, organic tropical fruits, sea salt and sand. And everywhere you look, there are unobstructed views of the mountains and ocean to help you connect with the destination— and the moment.

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica
Built with natural materials like lava rock, stone and cana brava (a local species of bamboo), this resort sits on a plateau at the top of the Papagayo Peninsula, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A certified sustainable property for its environmental practices, and home to an Audubon International-certified golf course, the resort recently underwent a $35 million reimagination that upgraded everything from the 181 treehouse-inspired rooms to the restaurants and lounges; the latter celebrate locally sourced ingredients, including tropical fruits, fresh fish, rainforest honey and artisanal cheeses.

The spa is home to 18 treatment rooms, a two-story lounge and signature services like a healing bamboo massage. Running from August 15 to October 31, the resort’s second annual Wellness Season will allow guests access to complimentary Ayurvedic or wellness consultations, unlimited yoga, wellness and fitness classes, healthy cooking classes and community voluntourism activities.

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