Parador Resort and Spa, Costa Rica is a level of luxury you simply won’t want to leave.
Having spent four nights in a tent on the floor while covering Envision Festival and our days walking around half naked covered in blue mud, working in a Hare Krishna kitchen for free meals and dancing to electronic music, we were in need of some serious recuperation! After a brief but mush had needed rest in nearby Dominical, we found ourselves handing over $1100 USD for a 26-year-old Nissan! It was old, rusty, had pieces missing and daylight could be seen through places other than the windows, but it was ours. He even has a name, ‘Miguelito!’ Right then and there, we decided that our Costa Rican journey should be dedicated to the one who would make it all possible, transporting us to far-away places, over mountains, through rivers, from the Pacific to the Caribbean – Miguelito! We even gave him his own hashtag, #Miguelito
Since we were looking for some luxury recuperation, our first destination didn’t involve anything too challenging for us or Miguelito; we only had a short drive northwards, from Dominical to the Manuel Antonio National Park. We chose Manuel Antonio for one very simple reason; it’s home to the best luxury hotel in Southern Costa Rica – Parador Resort and Spa, Costa Rica. The name ‘Parador,’ is an homage to the great paradors of Spain; medieval castles and monasteries throughout the country that would take in traveling Knights, housing and feeding them on their journeys. Often having little or no money to pay with, they often left swords, armor and other personal items as payment, which were then displayed around the building. Most of these are now historical luxury hotels, filled with precious glimpses of history. In 1993, Parador Spa Hotel opened its doors as a unique dedication to the ancient Parador tradition, with the emphasis set very highly on quality, luxury, service, and experience. It sounded like the perfect holiday destination for our little Miguelito!
Arriving in style!
When we arrived at the hotel, the staff seemed mildly perplexed to see a vehicle of such heritage and historical lineage approaching their gates; it was clearly a very special occasion for everyone involved! As we rolled up to the entrance we could tell we had arrived somewhere special, a bit different from the rest and not just regarding luxury or the facilities on offer, there was something else. To try to explain exactly what that ‘something else’ was, we’ve put together our best ten reasons to choose Parador Resort and Spa, Costa Rica.
1. The Grand Arrival
Arriving at the Parador is not like arriving at any regular luxury hotel, we were warmly welcomed from before we even passed the front gates by attentive and genuinely personable staff, which seemed free and happy to express their personalities in their work and enjoy themselves, rather than the robotic, Hollywood smile approach that often leaves you feeling a little uncomfortable. The classic, drive-by front entrance avoided any need to carry bags across the intensely hot car park. Instead, they were unloaded from the car and carried inside for us. Ice-cold lemonade and moist, cool towels cleansed us of the heat and humidity outside and everyone on reception were fantastic, introducing themselves and having a casual conversation while we waited for someone to pick us up in a golf buggy to go to our room. All in all, probably the most relaxing and pleasant of check in experiences we’ve ever had, and we’ve been lucky enough to stay in some very nice places.
Welcome drinks in reception
2. The location
Situated amongst dense forest, close to the National Park
Parque National Manuel Antonio, in Western Costa Rica, is a 682-hectare piece of luscious, jungle paradise, packed with one of the most bio diverse natural habitats in the world; rain forest, a huge diversity of wildlife and spectacular coral reefs. The small town of Manuel Antonio is situated right outside the national park itself, with several stunning beaches between the park gates and the nearby town of Quepos, where you’ll find a marina packed with sport fishing boats and even a luxury super yacht or two.
Only a 3-hour shuttle away, or one hour flight, from San Jose and in easy reach of the less-travelled southern regions, Manuel Antonio is perfectly situated as the base for exploring the south of Costa Rica, like the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park.
3. The Rooms
With double rooms starting at around $250 and suites from $450, Parador Resort and Spa places itself quite highly in the luxury market, so we were expecting great things – We were not disappointed. The room we were shown to was one of their Vista Suites, with sea views to the right of the balcony, perfectly visible from the corner jet spa! Back inside, the spacious bedroom lounge area is dominated by a sumptuous double bed, covered with cushions and a thick, white, luxury duvet of the sort that only seem to exist to the best of hotel beds – if you tried to take it home it would probably vanish! Tucked away behind the bed is yet another full-size jet spa bath, just in case you tire of the sea view and prefer to bathe indoors for a change, and a walk in the shower more than large enough for two. Of course, there’s super-powered air conditioning, a widescreen TV on the wall and a coffee maker complete with a good supply of fresh coffee. Could it possibly get any better? Well actually, yes it can!
Penthouse Suite – King size bed
If all of the jet baths, luxury beds, and sea views aren’t enough for you, contact Parador directly and ask them about their ‘top floor suite.’ This ‘room’ is not listed on any booking sites and is usually reserved for extra special guests; sports heroes, movie stars and other VIP’s. The living room is vast, with a massive leather sofa in front of the widescreen TV and full height glazing drawing you out onto the balcony, which spans the whole width of the floor and is populated by chairs, sun loungers and yep, another jet spa bath! The bedroom is similar to the Vista Suite, although significantly larger, with a king size bed and loads more natural light. Most importantly, though, this penthouse suite has the best sunset view of the whole hotel!
Penthouse Suite – Balcony Jacuzzi
Penthouse Suite – Gigantic balcony overlooking the ocean
4. The Food
Anyone who knows the slightest thing about us knows that the way into our hearts, heads, hands and anything else really, is through our stomachs – We love food almost as much as we love our lives and each other, possibly more! The best hotel in the world can lose every shred of my respect over poor food and likewise a mid-range hotel or budget hostel can build their reputation on a great menu. One of the best highlights of any luxury hotel stay is always the buffet breakfast; Parador has an ocean of international foods in all directions which looks like an encyclopedia of how every nation starts their day. Fresh fruit, juices, cereals, bread, cold meats, hot meats, a range of cheeses, pancakes, waffles…the choices seemed endless and in four days we still didn’t manage to try everything.
Panoramic sea view from La Fragata Restaurant
We had all of our lunches in the hotel’s second restaurant, La Fragata, which has a panoramic sea view from which to enjoy your food. The menu is spectacular, with everything from fresh fish, to seafood soup, grill steaks, crispy spring rolls and loads more. Every dish is clearly prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients, including the hotel’s very own organically cultivated micro greens, which add texture, flavor and color to every plate.Incredible steak burger and fresh juices
In the evenings we chose to enjoy the nightly buffet; Italian one night; Japanese the next and a grill for our final evening meal. The authenticity of each dish was very impressive with fresh pesto and a selection of pasta cooked fresh to order. The sushi was simple and fresh, with strong yet well-balanced key flavors – we loved every meal and always went back to our suite feeling full and satisfied!
Japanese Sushi Buffet
5. The pools – All 3 of them!
It’s a hard life when your most difficult decision of the day is which pool to relax in with a glass of wine or a cocktail after a big lunch! The largest pool is to one side of the main restaurant, curving and wrapping around the poolside bar, terrace restaurant and sunbathing areas – A great space to hang out and perfect for kids too, with perfect views of the Pacific Ocean. The crocodile is a nice extra touch!
The two other pools are smaller and more relaxed as they are for adults only. The infinity pool next to La Fragata Restaurant has probably the best views of the three, appearing to plunge out of the pool and into the ocean.
6. The Sunsets
Sunsets in Costa Rica are nothing short of spectacular – a pleasure and a true privilege to watch. As the giant orange Sun falls slowly through the sky towards the sea, the sky is splashed with shades of purple, reds, pinks and oranges reflecting off of the clouds and painting the remaining day with impossible patterns. As the Sun melts into the sea, it seems to accelerate, plunging into the water and darkening the sky. Perched on the side of the cliff, facing the ocean, almost every part of the hotel has amazing sunset views, but the best of them all is from the fifth-floor penthouse suite.
7. The Nature
The Parque Nacional de Manuel Antonio is a beautiful place, just a short bus or taxi ride from Parador and is the star attraction of the entire area, with its protected boundaries home to one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in the country and numerous species that cannot be found anywhere else.
We took a guided nature tour through the park with Danny Vasquez, one of Parador’s best guides from their own tour company, Quepos Verde Aventura. The tour was incredible, we saw four kinds of mammals, including monkeys, raccoons, sloths and two types of bats, not to mention all of the bird, reptile and insect life we saw as well. Having a guide means you get to see all the animals right up close through a high-powered telescope, through which they can take amazing photos using just your smartphone!
The tour ended on the twin beaches of Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espidilla, where you can swim, have lunch, sunbathe and relax or take a walk to the Cliffside viewpoints around the peninsula. We highly recommend taking this tour with an experienced guide like Danny as you learn loads of facts from an expert and see things that the untrained eyes might miss out on. Danny shared more of his great photography in – 20 Awesome Wildlife Photos in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
8. The Spa
The spa is the absolute embodiment of classically styled Spanish luxury. The colonial style arched entranceway, marble reception desk and rose-petal-filled fountain are elegantly Roman. The private pool and hot tub downstairs look out onto luscious jungle trees and vegetation that’s home to wild birds and monkeys. Both being trained massage therapists ourselves, we decided to try a couples’ massage, which was a full body therapy with oil / lotion. The treatment was extremely good, breaking down any tension that was built up in our muscles. After the massage, we had the whole spa, pool, hot tub and steam room to ourselves to relax and unwind. They also have a wide range of other treatments and packages for men, women and couples.
9. The Staff
Staff in luxury hotels are always friendly, they know when to smile, when to help and always say the right thing at the right time. The difference that we noticed in Parador, compared to many other hotels, is that all of the staff seemed to genuinely enjoy being there and speaking to guests. It’s not something that’s easy to describe, but as humans we have a built in ‘genuineness detector’ that we don’t even know is there and only sounds an alarm when something is wrong! Throughout our stay, there were no alarms of any kind and we consistently had what felt to us like genuine, casual conversations with all of the staff we met, about their lives, their jobs and sometimes their aspirations. We always say that our travels are made by the people we meet and our stay in Parador was made by the amazing staff who work there. They bring the place to life, without them the whole experience would have been full of luxury, yet completely empty.
10. The Social Conscience
A few months ago we met a guy in Chile, who told me something that has stuck in my mind ever since, ‘If I want to succeed then I need to attract the best people, I must create the best working conditions and I have to give them the best opportunities.’ This person is very successful, very hardworking and treats everyone how he would like to be treated himself, or even better.
Head Chef Alejandro with his famous Microgreens
Parador take certain measures to contribute to and increase the sustainability of the local community; they have a local employment and training policy and always promote internal promotion where possible, over bringing in talent from outside the area. Approximately 90% of their staff are from the local area.
In 2012, they won the prestigious ADRIAN AWARD 2012 “LEADER IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM” on the first year they were nominated!
They also take part in and fund multiple social and conservation projects like; ‘We Share’ – Environmental Protection, ‘Copanza’ – Violence prevention and Youth Opportunities; ‘Titi (Monkey) Conservation Alliance’; ‘Pack for a Purpose’ – Encouraging guests to bring school supplies for local children; and ‘Turismo Sostenible’ – Sustainable Tourism.
They even turn all of their own organic kitchen waste into perfect compost and soil, which is then used to the super greens used in the kitchen! This project is so successful that they often over-produce, with the excess always given to the local community.
People are at the heart of every business, every organisation and every experience and it’s the extra level of thoughtfulness and care for the local community, economy and environment that sets independently owned and operated businesses, like Parador apart from the large chain groups who simply copy and paste themselves all over the world.
If you’re searching for the very best luxury experience that Costa Rica has to offer, whilst feeling secure that you’re not harming the local environment and are actually contributing positively to the local community, then Parador Resort and Spa is exactly what you’re looking for!
Note: We were invited guests by the hotel and all opinions and text are all mine!