Sometimes the most activity a vacation warrants is walking from your room’s patio to the pool, and
then maneuvering your umbrella-topped drink to the general vicinity of your mouth. For such an occasion, look no further than Costa Rica’s JW Marriott Guanacaste, where each of the resort’s 300-plus rooms has a balcony—the oceanfront views are visible from the bed, oversized bathtub and toilet—and a quick route to the water, though it also checks plenty of other boxes for a well-balanced, restful yet adventurous getaway.
One of the last things you want to expend energy on is jostling for a poolside lounge chair; luckily there’s never a shortage here, with rows and rows dotting the edge of the 25,000-square-foot infinity pool and spilling onto the private beach. If you don’t score a spot by the edge, you can still swim the length of the region’s biggest pool to reach the drink stand, where someone will kindly slice open a fresh coconut for you to sip from. Or, for a little flavor, try the Mansita, a refreshing mix of blackberries, honey and orange juice.
Should you be up for a bit of activity, there are plenty of options. Reserve a spot in the on-site fitness center’s complimentary yoga classes or grab a partner for a Latin dance lesson. When it comes to the great outdoors, guests can join an organized game of soccer or badminton on the beach or rent bikes to cruise along the property’s trails. And on the adjoining Hacienda Pinilla, you can tee off on the par-72 course or go horseback riding on 30-, 60- or 90-minute jaunts that cover savanna, hilly forest and Langosta beach, plus a visit to Overlook Point for a 360-degree view of the sprawling estate. During the horseback safari, riders will catch glimpses of flora and fauna like butterflies, iguanas, howling monkeys and—if you’re extremely lucky—the birth of a wild calf.
One animal you won’t see is a several-hundred-pound pig named Lolita, who after roaming Playa Avellanas for several years unfortunately died. You can, however, eat in her honor at her former stomping grounds, beach bar Lola’s, a short walk from the resort along the shore—just take note it’s not open on Mondays and time your return trip so you’re not stuck in the rising tide. Kick back under palm fronds as you nosh on fruit smoothies, homemade salsa, fish tacos and veggie burgers and take in prime views of surfers battling the waves.
Want in on the action yourself? Hop the resort’s shuttle to tiny surf town Tamarindo, crowded with barefoot bicyclists and signs shouting reminders like “Turtle Watching at 5:45 pm.” Here, choosing an instructor is kind of like deciding which Italian eatery to pop into in the North End, but one suggestion would be Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, headed by expat Joe Walsh, who convinced his friends to drive from San Diego to the beach town 15 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. For his first trek to surfer meccas Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, he watched Endless Summer II to learn to navigate by landmarks; now he’s a pro, hosting lessons, day trips and retreats. Not to mention, according to Men’s Journal, Walsh has the second best job in the world, surpassed only by Tom Brady.
More of a solid ground vacationer? Take in the view next door from under straw umbrellas at El Vaquero, where no shirt and no shoes is really no problem. Go for local brew Imperial, but also sample a pint from the on-site microbrewery, Volcano Brewing Company.
Back at the ranch, wind down while logging some time at the spa, which offers everything from green tea and ginger scrubs to avocado wraps and al fresco treatments—your massage therapist might even ask to climb on top of you (trust her). Make time to saunter in and out of the steam rooms, saunas and the sun-filled courtyard’s mini pool where you can relax post-treatment. (Remember: Tip your esthetician before exiting the spa, as the employees at the desk cannot take it on their behalf.)
By now you’ll have worked up an appetite, which can be satisified at one of the resort’s five restaurants. Open throughout the day, Mansita is a particularly good stop for breakfast, its buffet teeming with fruit both familiar and exotic, fresh-squeezed juices, jellies to schmear on baked goods and Costa Rican specialties like coffee (the coffee!) and traditional dishes like gallo pinto, a mix of rice and beans with sour cream, cheese, eggs and plantains. For dinner, you can dine under lanterns with your toes in the sand at Tico Beach BBQ, where the ceviche station is a must and the soundtrack mixes crashing waves and a live band. But the star is steak house Sabanero, which serves up a spread of local and imported cuts on colorfully embroidered tablecloths.
Once you’ve gorged yourself, the good news is you don’t have to roll too far to make it to the courtyard’s macramé hammocks—but if you can muster the energy, crane your gaze westward to the Pacific to catch the sunset.
-Last year, JetBlue added a five-hour direct flight from Boston to Liberia, the capital of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province and a little more than an hour’s drive from the resort.
-Pack plenty of sunscreen or you’ll end up spending a pretty penny that could have gone toward cocktails.
JW Marriott Guanacaste marriott.com/jwhotels