Why Costa Rica Makes For A Great Post-Pandemic Vacation
There’s no denying that the world has been topsy turvy for a while now, and a good getaway could be just what you need to destress and reset. As destinations slowly open to visitors again, each with their own set of restrictions and requirements, planning travel has become less about your bucket lists and more about your tolerance for what it takes to go there. To that end, Costa Rica has always been an amazing destination packed with thrilling adventures, and with the current ease of entry, it checks even more boxes than usual when it comes to traveling abroad. With two international airports and nonstop flights from most major U.S. cities, Costa Rica is extremely accessible. Once there, you can easily sink into the Pura Vida way of life, creating lasting memories at this safe and friendly destination.
Getting In and Around Costa Rica
Entering Costa Rica comes with two requirements for U.S. citizens: all visitors must have travel insurance, and they must fill out an online form before they arrive. This is pretty simple in today’s world, as no COVID testing is necessary. To be more specific, the mandatory travel insurance must cover lodging in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19 illness. Only a hand full of companies offer these policies, and Trawick International had the most cost-effective rates as of June. Yet I was surprised to find that purchasing a policy through Insubuy online* was significantly less than booking directly. As an example, I paid $215 for my family of five to visit Costa Rica for six weeks, but the quote I received to book directly with Trawick was upwards of $800! As of August 1, 2021, however, visitors under 18 years of age and those who are fully vaccinated can bypass the travel policy requirement and will only be re required to fill out the online form.
The obligatory digital HEALTH PASS form is available at https://salud.go.cr and must be completed within 72 hours of arriving in Costa Rica for each person traveling, regardless of age. You should be prepared to input details about their trip, including your dates of travel and flight information. You will be asked to upload a copy of your insurance policy (or vaccination record if visiting after August 1st). Upon completion, you will receive a QR code that you must present upon arrival to Costa Rica. Head to https://www.visitcostarica.comfor the most up-to-date information on visiting Costa Rica.
After getting through customs, there are multiple ways to see and enjoy this beautiful country. Many choose to rent a car since traveling around Costa Rica is safe and relatively straightforward. Roads are well marked and using the Waze app, which is similar to Google Maps in the U.S., affords guests the ease of renting a car and exploring different parts of the country. Car rentals can be costly, though, as there are mandatory insurances, namely third-party liability and collateral damage insurance, that must be purchased along with the price of renting. However, if you have collateral damage coverage with their credit card company, showing a print-out of this coverage at the time of rental can save them hundreds of dollars! Our Chase Sapphire Reserve card did the trick for us. I simply called and asked for them to email me a copy of my CDW (collateral damage waiver), printed it out, and presented it at the time of pick up of the vehicle.
We chose to rent our car through Vamos Rent-A-Car, an independently-owned national car rental company that has been serving visitors to Costa Rica since 2004. Their English-speaking staff provided personalized customer service from the moment they welcomed us at the airport with a smile. Their rates are fair and transparent with no hidden fees, and they offer a long list of complimentary perks that really come in handy. If you need car seats for their trip, a cooler to keep drinks cold during long drives, roof racks to hold surf boards or extra luggage, or even a local cell phone, no problem. They are all included at no additional charge. Vamos Rent-A-Car really helps make life on the road in a foreign country as easy as possible.
One-stop Beach, Adventure, & Relaxation
Road tripping and exploring off-the-beaten-path is not for everyone, though, and that’s ok. Those that prefer a single destination where they can get the best of everything Costa Rica has to offer from the comfort of an ideal home base point should head to the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. This luxury hillside resort can be found in the stunning resort area of Peninsula Papagayo, overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Built seamlessly into the hillside so as to blend with its natural surroundings, the Four Seasons Resort offers a large variety of accommodations- from sizeable guest rooms and suites that provide convenient access to the resort’s dining outlets and amenities to stunning residences that are ideal for families, large groups, and longer stays. My family and I had the pleasure of recently staying in two of their interconnected guest rooms, which are also a great option for families with younger children. These comfortable guest rooms offer plush bedding, luxurious deep soaking tubs, smart lighting and Bose Bluetooth speakers. Each room has a private terrace with tropical forest and/or partial-ocean views from which guests can enjoy stunning sunsets and the local flora and fauna in their own private setting.
A Natural Playground
However indulgent the rooms may be, though, the true heart of this resort lies outdoors. The Peninsula Papagayo is a magical 1,400-acre playground, where nature meets adventure, and the possibilities for exploration are endless. With a dedicated in-house adventure outfitter, Papagayo Explorers, your clients would be hard-pressed to find a resort with more to offer than the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica. In the areas immediately surrounding the resort, guests can enjoy hikes, e-bike tours, zip-lining, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and private boat charters. Their onsite surf school, SurfX, is ideal for surf instruction of all ages and ability levels. Within an hour or two from the resort, a visit to a volcano, waterfalls, hot springs, and more. However, one doesn’t have to go too far to stay active here, as the resort itself publishes an ever-changing schedule of activities, offering everything from latin dance and cooking classes to fitness classes, chocolate tastings and guided kayak tours. There really is something available for everyone!
Guests can work on their golf swing while taking in panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean on the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course or take a lesson to practice their back hand on one of five pro-level tennis courts. For those seeking relaxation, the resort offers two separate beaches and four outdoor pools, as well as a full-service spa with a variety of indulgent experiences and treatments. My favorite is the water therapy, where one can alternate between hot and cold plunge pools to invigorate the senses and revitalize the body.
One of the most impressive offerings at the resort is the kids’ programs, which is extremely well organized and runs similar to a summer camp. Children ages 4-12 are welcomed at the kid’s club daily with a scheduled list of activities that include yoga, Spanish classes, learning about nature in Costa Rica, snorkeling and more. The facility itself is darling, with a large variety of educational toys and musical instruments, a large wading pool, and an outdoor playground. The staff that runs the program is just as enchanting, and our children were instantly smitten with them, so much so that they asked to go back to the kid’s club daily. Older children are also catered to at the teen’s club and game room, and nightly activities like laser tag, dance parties, and movie nights are available regularly.
Dining with a Tropical Flair
The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is by far one of the most well-rounded resorts I have ever experienced. With so much to do and see, it’s truly one of those places that you can return to again and again, but have a unique experience with each and every visit. The same is true for their dining options. Nemare, their latin-inspired steak house, derives it’s name from the Chorotega word for smoke, a theme that runs throughout their menu. I highly recommend trying one of their delicious choice-cut steaks, which is served with a selection of sauces and toppings for guests to sample. Also, if you’re a fan of smoky cocktails, this is the place to try one! The bartender will happily customize anything or simply create one of the smoky masterpieces listed on the menu.
Pesce serves classic Italian cuisine with an extensive wine list in a stunning, ocean-view setting. The pan-seared scallops and the burrata appetizers are to die for, and the lobster risotto is beyond delicious.
Bahia restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in an indoor/outdoor setting with a beach chic vibe. In the mornings, guests can enjoy the traditional café choriado with their delicious breakfast buffet and juice bar. Later in the day, guests can try their signature whole grilled fish with chimichurri marinade and variety of different ceviches, served with homemade plantain chips.
Last, but certainly not least is Añejo, the lively tapas bar in the heart of the resort. Guests can head to Añejo for quick bites and juices or cocktail throughout the day.