In Costa Rica, the commonly used phrase “pura vida,” which loosely translates to “pure, simple life,” is more than just a token tagline slapped onto airport souvenirs. According to the official 2021 World Happiness Report, Costa Rica ranks 16th in the world. It’s a dopamine-inducing way of living, and one that’s become the guiding mantra at Auberge Resorts’ Hacienda AltaGracia, a new wellness-focused property that reflects the uniqueness of its surroundings.
Situated about 95 miles south of San José, and nestled into the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains, the resort’s 50 villa-style casitas are scattered across 864 tropical acres, which include a “sustainable” coffee plantation, 28 horse stables, and an organic garden that provides ingredients for AltaGracia’s five restaurants. In some ways, it feels more like a new, Utopian colony—a post-coronavirus Eden—than it does a hotel.
But its crowning jewel is a hilltop-perched, state-of-the-art spa facility and hydrotherapy center. The hotel partnered with the New York City–based wellness brand the Well to oversee its programming, and a wellness coach will set up a pre-arrival consultation to discuss any goals or areas of concern.
A blend of newfangled treatments and therapies will address them all. Drawing from local customs, they include meditative river baths and a form of massage that uses freshly picked native herbs and flowers. It even promises to release your chakras, whatever that might mean.
There’s good reason to emulate the Costa Rican lifestyle. The 87-mile-long Nicoya Peninsula is lauded as one of the world’s five “blue zones,” indicating it has a disproportionately high number of residents who could live to celebrate their 100th birthdays. The rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, are lower than elsewhere in the world, too. No wonder many Costa Ricans seem so blissed out. And for non-nationals seeking “pura vida” with a side of Ethereum, the country’s flourishing Bitcoin eco-system has made it a welcoming haven for crypto types and expat retirees alike.
But how much of this exemplary lifestyle can one fully adopt on holiday? An Ambien-free night’s sleep may be achievable, thanks to the peace and quiet provided by the residential-feeling casitas designed by Nina Gotlieb. A New Yorker, Gotlieb understands the importance of stylish and livable retreats that convey a sense of escape as much as of place.
Instead of suffering from the noise of sirens and upstairs neighbors, one will enjoy the sounds of some of Costa Rica’s 900-plus species of birds. It’s a surprisingly pleasant wake-up call, and it’s even easier to get up knowing that a bracing cup of AltaGracia’s estate-grown coffee is waiting.
The food situation is promising and uncomplicated. (Meals are included in a “holistic” package deal, along with wellness-and-activity programming.) Grano, one of the hotel’s five sustainably focused restaurants, has a largely plant-based menu that reflects the ancestral cuisine and biodiversity of the area. All of the seasonal ingredients, from pejibaye to rambutan, are Costa Rican–sourced, and many classify as superfoods.
Breakfast might be fresh-pressed green juice and gluten-free granola with local yogurt and fermented honey, which is just the thing for a physical-activity-filled morning ahead: horseback riding, tree climbing through the jungle’s canopy, a bird-watching hike up through the mountains, and restorative yoga. (Make sure to hydrate.)
Any and all of these can be coordinated through your compa (“friend,” in Spanish), a personal concierge and diligent dream weaver assigned to you for the duration of your stay. After all that, it’s probably wise to book a lymphatic-drainage massage at Casa de Agua, the spa and hydrotherapy center. Especially taxed muscles might appreciate maderoterapia, a locally derived form of massage employing several differently shaped wooden rolling tools that deliver pleasure and pain in equal doses.
While lounging poolside in the glass-walled pavilion overlooking the valley, it may feel as if you’re levitating somewhere between earth and heaven. Let the oligarchs and tech titans of the world invest their billions in cryogenics and rocket safaris. Here on terra firma, there’s a much more pleasant way to live long and prosper.
Laura Neilson is a New York–based writer and a contributor to The New York Times, T magazine, WSJ., and The Wall Street Journal