The only thing better than enjoying a luxurious vacation at a full-service tropical resort is knowing it’s yours, all yours. Tierra Magnifica, a boutique resort hotel on northwestern Costa Rica’s NicoyaPeninsula, is indeed as magnificent as its name implies, and caters almost exclusively to private groups. This ensures its guests total privacy, personalized service and free reign over the six acres of terraced villas, nature trails through tropical dry forest, ocean-view pool, yoga pavilion and private waterfall.
Tierra Magnifica rests on a hillside overlooking the Pacific beach town of Nosara, which has built a reputation as a prime surf destination and as the yoga capital of Costa Rica. Utterly hypnotic and relaxing, the site overlooks tropical forest canopy and the soothing white-tipped waves of Playa Guiones.
The unique resort specializes in hosting intimate and luxurious weddings, family reunions, corporate and personal development retreats and private family vacations.
The idea for Tierra Magnifica sprung from Steve and Maggie Jacobus’ custom travel company, Activated Life Adventures, when they realized clients were searching for a private, high-end location dialed in to their specific event needs.
“We founded this concept because there isn’t anything else like it available,” says Steve Jacobus, 46, a native of the U.S. city of Milwaukee. “We create an environment that enhances whatever people come here for.” Since its inception as a bed-and-breakfast and small retreat venue in 2006, Tierra Magnifica has evolved into an exclusive tropical villa estate. The resort continues to grow and change in response to how the property is used by guests.
“Everything we have today is based on four-and-a-half years of how people have responded to being at Tierra Magnifica,” Jacobus says.
The resort’s very design reveals an intention to bring groups together while providing quiet spaces for individual reflection.
Guests are naturally drawn to the open-air kitchen at the heart of the property, where cook Kattia López reigns as the queen of culinary delights. Quiet spots abound, and several thoughtfully placed hammocks beg an afternoon nap in the gentle breeze, as do small sun decks fitted with cushioned lounge chairs. Native flowering trees shading the ocean-view pool attract tiny hummingbirds to their blossoms.
Tierra Magnifica’s six deluxe suites are equipped with sprawling king-size beds, large glass doors that frame the uninterrupted ocean view, and lemongrass aromatherapy dispersers, which naturally repel insects. Three thatch roof, ocean-view standard rooms are also available. Balconies yawn out over tropical forest, where the natural alarm clock is the call of the howler monkeys moving through the canopy. Balinese furniture, such as the whimsical canopy bed in the couples’ suite, complements the serene, almost meditative feel of the villas. The effect is Mediterranean, yet tropical, exquisite, yet authentic.
While remaining truly luxurious and indulgent, Tierra Magnifica adheres to a philosophy of sustainable development and environmentally friendly practices. The terraced structures cropping out from the hillside are designed to minimize environmental impact and maximize the sweeping views.
The deluxe rooms have “green” or “living” roofs topped by verdant flower-rimmed lawns. This naturally cools the rooms, provides a permeable surface for rainwater and creates additional livable space from which to enjoy the views. Bathrooms are stocked with Bio-Land biodegradable organic soap, shampoo and conditioner. The kitchen staff strives to use local, organic produce and free-range meat, seasoned with fresh herbs from the budding organic garden out back. In May, construction will begin on a gray-water recycling system, four additional green-roof villas and an ocean-view, solar-heated infinity Jacuzzi.
Resort amenities include daily maid service, concierge, spa services, on-site massage, yoga classes, restaurant, bar and 24-hour security. The staff is proactive in anticipating the needs and preferences of guests, handcrafting an entire experience down to details of meals, tours, lessons and in-country transportation. Off-site activities include kayaking on the NosaraRiver, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, zipline canopy tours, ATV tours and a waterfall hike.
Tierra Magnifica supports small, local businesses whenever possible. Guests who want to learn how to surf are referred to the newly opened NosaraTicoSurfSchool, a Tico-owned and -operated surf outfit in town. The resort also offers hand-line fishing tours with locals, which have been known to end with beach bonfire fish cookouts at sunset.
The abundance of fresh seafood is an asset of the location. I was charmed by the cooking creativity and skill of both cook López and Tierra Magnifica manager Jacob Mendelson. I enjoyed a leisurely dinner that started with an appetizer of fresh tuna sashimi with wasabi and pickled ginger and a small bowl of sesame poki (a Hawaiian raw fish dish), followed by a main course of roasted tenderloin with orange-passion fruit reduction, dill buttered potatoes, fresh vegetable medley and spicy green mango salad with a kick of jalapeño. Despite my best efforts, the staff would not divulge their secret recipes for either of their signature dishes: the Magnifica guacamole and ceviche.
In addition to hosting private events and vacations, Tierra Magnifica opens the property to the public for a variety of retreats, events and programs, from community yoga and belly-dancing workshops to wilderness adventure camps. The resort will be hosting its annual Caricaco Music Festival April 24 (see box). Tierra Magnifica also specializes in crafting enriching, unifying experiences for individual guests, families and youth. The upcoming Power of Choice Workshop, a three-day personal development experience facilitated by South African inspirational speaker Reon Schutte and executive coach Herb Stevenson, will be held May 13 to 16.
The popular Spanish Immersion Vacation, a program that combines interactive language learning with outdoor and cultural activities, will offer two sessions this year in July.
For the younger crowd, Ryan Jacobus’ Costa Rican Wilderness Camp for boys ages 14 to 17 promises an action-packed week of learning wilderness survival skills in nature. The camp, set for June 19 to 27, will be led by Schutte and the Jaco buses’ 15-year-old son, Ryan.
Getting There, Rates, Info
From San José, head west on the new highway to Caldera or theInter-American Highway
toward Liberia. Turn left onto the Puente de la Amistad road to Nicoya. Travel through Nicoya toward Sámara and Nosara. About 20 km after Nicoya, at the gas station, turn right onto the gravel road to Nosara (24 km). Follow signs to Garza, Nosara and Playa Guiones. Once in Guiones, continue 2 km past Coconut Harry’s surf shop to the hill road (first right turn). Travel to the top of the hill and follow the signs to Tierra Magnifica.
Published individual room rates are $155 deluxe and $95 standard. Rates for full property rental vary depending on the type of retreat. For more information, call 2682-0270 or 8892-2138, e-mail [email protected] or see www.tierramagnifica.com.
Caricaco Music Festival
Taking its name from the Tico word for the colorful hermit crabs that populate the beach, the Caricaco Music Festival will bring Costa Rican musicians to Nosara for a loud and lively festival April 24, stretching from the afternoon into the night.
National acts will include: blues, rock and funk band Jippo; roots, funk, electronic and rock band Cocofunk; Los Cuchillos, a ’60s surf, garage and rockabilly band; and Lucho Calavera, playing a musical fusion of funk, rumba flamenca, cha-cha-cha and Tico rhythms. Two local Nosara acts will play acoustic sets to open the festival.
Tickets cost ¢6,000 ($11.50) if bought in advance at the Frog Pad in Nosara, or ¢8,000 ($15.40) at the gate. The event starts at 2 p.m. and is set to run until midnight.