Upon my arrival at Recreo, a luxury resort at the tippy top of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, I was instantly compelled to snoop. (An expansive five-bedroom villa with seemingly infinite closets and secret nooks will do that). After 10 minutes of rummaging in the recreation room’s drawers, I emerged in the ultimate vacation get-up: a jungle explorer hat, binoculars, a maraca and a sturdy African club that I found on a shelf. I also discovered candleholders shaped like star people, miscellaneous drinking glasses, the board game Cranium and a small wooden manger.
For me, these items provided little more than amusement. But their residency in our villa, along with everything else about my Recreo experience, led me to conclude that the U.S. owners of this remote Costa Rican beach resort had thought of everything.
Situated on 32 hectares of land near the infrequently-visited Playas Rajada and Jobo, the seven villas at Recreo provide as much variety as the assortment of wonders inside of them. Whether it’s the intimate one-bedroom studio separated from the rest of the property by about a million stairs, the five-bedroom party mansion that the two of us stayed in, or something in between; Recreo seems to have digs for any occasion.
Modern furniture and fixtures adorn each of the villas, but there also homages to Costa Rican history and culture. An oversized mortar and pestle once used for grinding corn is on display in Villa 19, and traditional oxcart parts are scattered throughout the resort. The only features the unique villas seem to have in common are the private pools and full kitchens, and I don’t recommend a grand tour unless you want a serious case of villa-envy. It happened to us in Villa 6. The floor-to-ceiling windows, moat and incredible mountain-and-sea view blew us away. Even the shower had a jungle view. Fortunately, we were able to recover after returning to our villa (19) to take a dip in its long pool and lounge on its plush wrap-around couch.
After a relaxing afternoon and a lunch of lomito, fresh salad and patacones prepared by an exceedingly talented personal chef, we were ready to further explore. We set out on the gravel path lined in magenta Bougainvillea flowers, coconut palms and fruit trees that are frequented by spider and white-faced monkeys. The path is large enough for a car, but Recreo is best traveled by golf carts, which can be rented for $40 per day or $200 per week. Zipping around in these carts amidst the mysterious, prickly-treed landscape of Guanacaste, one is tempted to hoot like a sabanero (cowboy), and I can’t say we didn’t.
Outside of Recreo’s gates, a five-minute golf-cart jaunt down a dirt road leads to Playa Rajada, a quiet beach known for its spectacular sunsets. Unlike most of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Rajada is practically empty, making it perfect for a relaxing getaway. Guests can check out snorkel gear, boogie boards, kayaks and other sporting equipment (including basketballs and tennis racquets for the resort’s convenient and well-maintained courts) from the front desk. And although I do recommend kayaking and snorkelling just off the coast, where octopuses and lobsters can be spotted, beware of paddling too close to the rocky outcroppings. Sizeable waves occasionally break near them, and one managed to capsize my kayak.
While the beach offers a fairly spectacular sunset, so too does the mountain-top lookout on Recreo’s property. The area is equipped with WiFi and a bar that can be stocked and staffed on request, and offers expansive views of Playa Rajada, Playa Jobo and even a stretch of southwestern Nicaragua. Most importantly, though, its the ideal vantage point to kick back with a glass of wine and watch the area’s famous sunsets, during which dramatic pinks streak the sky as a fuchsia sun dips into the Pacific.
Going There: Recreo is most easily accessed by flying into the Liberia airport and taking the road to La Cruz. After arriving in La Cruz take the turn off to El Jobo and continue towards Playa Rajada. Airport shuttles can also be arranged for $50 per adult per way. Recreo offers seven-night, all-inclusive packages during the holiday season, which include meals prepared by a private chef. The packages are priced by villa ranging from $4,046 for the one-bedroom villa (up to two people) and $20,230 for the five-bedroom villa (up to ten people). Off-season rates are as little as $189 per night for the one-bedroom villa and as much as $429 per night for the five-bedroom villa.