From the print edition
Perched beneath a gazebo surrounded by tropical gardens and rain forest, we’re waiting for the mud we’ve bathed in to dry. A toucan cries in the distance as thermal waters whoosh past, and I realize I’ve probably never felt this relaxed in the presence of my parents.
That’s pretty much the point at Blue River Resort & Hot Springs, a remote jungle property in Dos Ríos, located northwest of San José in Alajuela, at the base of the active Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. The owners purchased the resort’s 25 acres (and an additional 75 acres of lots) four years ago from Tico villagers, and their grand vision was to create a retreat for both international and local couples and families to kick back, soak up the nature and shed stress as if it were an obsolete layer of skin. For those willing to take a bit of a beating along the path to get there (the resort’s gravel driveway extends 1.5 hours north from just outside of Liberia, the provincial capital of Guanacaste), that vision has been realized.
Nearing the property, guests find themselves in a less-polished but considerably quainter version of Costa Rica, where villagers hack at the ground with machetes and still transport crops via oxcarts. According to Daniel Apelboim, the Israeli co-owner of the resort, the property is now an economic stimulator for three surrounding villages, from which he draws and educates employees.
The abodes of resort guests are not as rustic as what surrounds – the 20 junior suites are hardwood affairs with modern amenities (think giant flat-screen TVs) and all the trappings of cozy haciendas. Each unit features two queen-sized beds, a spacious and well-stocked bathroom and a hammock-clad private balcony.
Although the water temperature sometimes fluctuates without warning in the showers, a hot bath in the natural spring pools is just a short walk from the cabins, and is always available. The green hot springs mineral water is heated by the nearby volcano, and there’s also a cold pool which is best entered via a swift and twisty blue water slide.
Surrounded by the pools and the tropical foliage is the resort restaurant, where guests take all their meals. The selection is vast, and that’s no accident. Guests often stay for three or more days, so it’s important for them to have a variety of meal choices. The pescado entero (whole fish) was by far the best entrée, perhaps because the Tilapia comes from a nearby fish farm. The shrimp scampi and shrimp cocktail appetizer were also very tasty.
The resort offers a plethora of activities, including hikes to nearby rivers, tours of the botanical gardens (which include a hummingbird sanctuary, orchid display, fish and turtle ponds and a butterfly habitat), spa treatments (at the facility and in-room) and the complimentary mud bathing experience. And for thrill-seekers, the area also features all the requisite Costa Rican adventures – a zip-line canopy tour with nine cables and a Tarzan swing finale, horseback riding to a waterfall and hikes in the Rincón de la Vieja National Park. When the volcano isn’t too cranky, it’s also possible to climb it.
I toured Rincón de la Vieja with my parents and we spotted an endangered collared anteater feasting on termites, along with plenty of birds, iguanas and majestic flora. On the zip-line canopy tour, I convinced my father to ride one cable a cabeza (upside down) and he claims he will never forgive me.
Blue River Resort & Hot Springs is located in Dos Ríos, 1.5 hours from Liberia by car. It’s at the base of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano on the Carribean side. The hotel can arrange a shuttle for you to and from almost anywhere in Guanacaste. Domestic airlines Nature Air (www.natureair.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com) offer daily flights from San José to Liberia. Prices for the rooms range between $110-$170. For information and reservations call 2206-5000 or visit www.blueriverresorthotel.com.