Looking to get fitter and better on holiday? Health and wellness at the Four Seasons Costa Rica is unrivalled!
By Chere Di Boscio
We had been driving for a long, long while, through rivers, rainforests and mud. Coming up to the Papagayo Peninsula from stormy Santa Teresa wasn’t as easy as we expected, and by now, our goals were different, but clear: my husband was desperate to throw himself onto a beach, and after a whole day in a car, I needed to move my butt.
Santa Teresa is surely a beautiful part of Costa Rica – out of the rainy season. But after five wet, humid days of being confined to an eco-hotel with no air conditioning, we were beyond ready to make like iguanas and bake in the sun’s rays. We were informed by our friendly driver – too late – that the north west coast of Costa Rica is rarely as rainy as the south, and he was right. The further north we went, the better the climate behaved, and once we arrived at the Four Seasons Papagayo Peninsula, the sun was positively beaming down on the property, seemingly by command.
Set on its own private peninsula in Guanacaste, the Four Seasons is a sustainable haven for those seeking to reconnect to nature and relax. As with all Four Seasons properties, this one is characterised by excellent service and personalisation.
For example? When I arrived to my room I was delighted to find an array of fresh and dried fruits; plantain, banana and potato crisps, and a selection of hot and cold drinks welcoming me. Clearly, the pre-arrival information I sent stipulating I’m vegan was well received. Also, no matter what kind of holiday you’re after, you’ll find it here. If you’re like my husband and prefer a simple beach holiday, there’s a spa, two beaches and three pools – some for adults only, some for families. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a more active vacation, there are wildlife tours, beach volleyball, kayaking tours and much more.
Wellness At The Four Seasons: Spoilt For Choice
As one of those ‘active’ vacationers, I was almost overwhelmed by the array of classes and events to choose from. Every morning, new possibilities are chalked onto a board by the Anejo tapas bar. On my first day, tennis classes, spinning, yoga and Pilates were available, as were beach kayak tours, guided nature hikes and snorkelling expeditions led by local expert guides, biologists and naturalists. Of course, the fitness centre and spa are always there to enjoy, as are the pools and beaches…what would you decide to do?
I ended up exploring the grounds, and was delighted by the sight of an iguana staring blankly at a family of tiny capuchin monkeys running along the shore. The flora is so lush and the fauna so abundant, you almost get the sense here that we humans are out of place here. I would have loved to have jogged along the 7 km driveway leading up to the hotel, but the heat was too much to bear, so I ended up going for a run in the well-equipped (and quite chilly) gym, and booked a massage in the spa for afterwards.
My therapist, whose name was literally Lovely, showed me around the facilities: the hot pool with a view of the forest; the large Middle Eastern style hamam; the lavish après care rooms. There’s an extensive menu of 90 minute treatments to choose from, including Ayurvedic, reflexology and Swedish based techniques, but I opted for something more unique: a Diquis massage.
Influenced by the traditions of Costa Rica’s (mostly lost) indigenous culture and their stone sculptures, this body therapy uses the ancient art of the placement of smooth, heated river and volcanic stones on specific points to loosen tight muscles and release stress. At the end of this blissful hour and a half, Lovely led me to a lounge where I nibbled from tempting trays of fresh fruits, homemade biscuits and teas to help ground me from what felt like a massage-induced trance.
World Class Cuisine & Unexpected Guests
That evening, my husband and I met up at Pesce, the Italian restaurant at the resort. We were advised to make a reservation, and with good reason: it was packed. Although fish is obviously the specialty here, there were sumptuous vegan offerings too: paper thin tomato and eggplant carpaccio for starters; a homemade pasta packed with asparagus, spinach and peas, slathered with fresh herbs and olive oil; and a hot, dense chocolate fondant with raspberry coulis for dessert. The amicable chef joined our table to talk about the growth of vegan cuisine and offer us some grappa, and before we knew it, we were the last people to leave the restaurant!
Full and happy, we returned to our villa to find an adorable, but unexpected guest at our door. It was a creature that looked like a raccoon/bear hybrid, and it was looking at us with pleading eyes, as a dog would when asking to be let indoors. Gently, I reached out, and this thing (which I later found out is called a coatimundi) let me touch it. Once again, I couldn’t help but feel we humans were interfering with the natural habitats of hundreds of displaced native creatures.
After such a memorable and extensive meal, I wasn’t sure we could dig into the massive breakfast buffet the next morning, but when you’ve got dozens and dozens of dishes to choose from, it’s impossible not to allow your curiosity to take over your appetite. We tried the traditional Costa Rican breakfast of refried beans, rice and pico de gallo, munched on exotic fruits, unique pastries and home baked breads, and chugged down a veritable rainbow of fresh juices.
Immersed in Nature
Lately, I’ve become interested in birds. Mainly because there are fewer of them every year. Thanks to the effects of 4G radiation, they’re losing their sense of navigation, and 5G is set to make that even worse. Pesticides on crops are also killing them off, as is loss of habitat. But given the density of plant life at the resort, I was surprised not to see more avian species here.
Well, the Four Seasons’ bird watching tour demonstrated beyond a doubt that these skies are indeed packed with the little fellas – you just may need some help finding them! Our expert guide provided us with binoculars and was a fountain of knowledge and information about our feathered friends. I learned that hummingbirds are amongst the most common species here, along with the tiny colibri, both of which we spotted. Sadly, we didn’t see the more exotic resplendent quetzal or motmot, but we did see several eagles, as well as shy howler monkeys and active beehives.
At the end of the tour, we headed to the resort’s nature center, where we learned loads of interesting facts about birds from the naturalist there. For example: did you know that some birds use spiderwebs to create their nests? Or that the resplendent quetzal plays an important role in various types of Mesoamerican mythology?
After the tour, I headed to the fitness centre once again, but this time, for a yoga class with Beto. I had been told by several staff members not to miss classes with this man – he has a guru-like reputation here. As soon as I laid eyes on his beatific smile, I could see why. There’s a palpable air of peace and calm surrounding him, and this is translated into his yoga instruction.
After our 1-to-1 class, Beto performed some sound healing on me. Whilst I had experienced this before with limited results, this time, my entire body tingled and vibrated. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I was suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude, happiness, and love, to the point where I almost wept.
Honestly – what more could you ask for from a holiday?
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An Interview with Herbiberto ‘Beto’ Peña, Health & Wellness Ambassador To The Four Seasons, Cosa Rica
After arriving to the Peninsula during a visit to study the indigenous Guanacastan Chorotega culture, Beto fell in love with the region and never left. Hailing from Quepos in Costa Rica, he got his start in health care as a nurse, before a passion for yoga made him realise he could heal people’s bodies in other, more holistic ways.
He is definitely a gifted yogi, reading each guest’s capabilities and ensuring their individual needs are met. He has a calm, warm aura about him, making me wish I had more time at the resort to make a deeper connection. As one of Costa Rica’s most sought-after wellness practitioners, he’s the obvious choice to be part of the Four Season’s team focused on expanding their holistic health programs. Here, I asked him a few questions to gain further insight about the future of such offerings at the hotel.
What does ‘wellness’ mean to you?
For me, wellness is the natural state of every human. When we are ‘well’, we all experience so many positive things like feeling happy, healthy, socially connected, having good mental and physical health, high life satisfaction and a sense of meaning or purpose.
Which elements of wellness do you think this hotel does especially well?
Wellness is a combination of all factors that influence our quality of life. As a company, Four Seasons has been working hard to offer high quality options to enhance all this aspect through various means, such as Millenarian Ayurvedic Medicine, Sound Therapies, Energy Healing, Fitness Classes, Meditation and Breathwork, as well as through different styles of yoga.
What’s your favourite wellness treatment here?
As a healer and wellness practitioner, I have experienced that wellbeing starts from a place of mental health. Having a calm mind will lead people to having more positive thoughts, be more productive at work, reduce their stress levels, avoid physical illness and be more in the present moment. That’s why if I had to choose my favorite wellness treatment, I would say meditation, along with breathwork and yoga, because all of these let me help people discover the roots for a more balanced lifestyle.
What do you love about this hotel the most?
I’d have to say the holistic direction that we are taking, and the commitment to offer the best wellness journey to our guests. In addition, the uniquely beautiful location helps one to embrace the whole experience.
What further plans does the hotel have for improving the wellness of their guests?
We are planning to create thematic wellness retreats, where our guests can take a break from their daily routines to nourish their mind, body and soul. We will be hosting internationally recognised Masters to help them along this magical journey. In fact, we are planning to incorporate many Shamanic rituals in our wellness packages. We are also planning to bring to life authentic native tribal healing traditions as part of our Spa Menu. Moving away from Costa Rican culture, we are also about to offer a full Ayurvedic experience, which will focus on nutrition. But there’s much more coming, too!