Costa Rica’s northwestern Pacific Ocean region has emerged as one of the most desirable destinations for families and wedding parties. This corner of Central America boasts a perfect amalgam of dry and sunny weather conditions, birding and wildlife encounters, safety and properties offering activities for different ages and interests. While top-tier resorts such as the Four Seasons have thrived, Villa Manzu, which means “friend” in the Chorotegan language, elevates a stay in this magnificent locale by offering up the entire eight-suite, 30,000-square-foot property for a private, all-inclusive vacation for groups of 14 up to 22 people.
A stay starts around $16,500 per night, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Kardashians, Zac Efron, Beyoncé and other A-listers make up its impressive client roster. The surroundings are as glamorous as you would expect, with architect Abraham Valenzuela and Houston-based designer Lynn Yellen collaborating to create gracious public areas with tastefully implemented global flourishes and private suites with distinctive personalities evoking different places and moods. The Los Monos Suite, devised for children, evokes Thailand while the Naciente Suite is a hip enclave that will suit teens or bridesmaids with its large closets and a wading pool just outside the patio door. Other rooms, such as the cool turquoise Pacifico Suite and Moroccan-inspired Madera Suite are almost free-standing retreats within the expansive complex.
The way public and private areas connect are also intelligently designed, so the transition between family “together” time and individual activities is practically seamless. Executive chef Mariano Fernandez and baker/breakfast chef Sabrina Dufort, veterans of 5-star properties in the area, note they prefer their current arrangement as private chefs for the guests because of regular personal interaction with guests, opportunities to offer guests nutrition and cooking advice, and a large, open-concept kitchen which allows them to perform. Just like the interior design, the food’s foundations are Costa Rican but international in scope — even with dietary requirements and allergies taken into account prior to the stay.
On the property, personal guest itineraries can incorporate custom spa treatments and a multitude of activities, including (but not limited to) cooking classes, dancing lessons, yoga, Spanish lessons and art experiences, as well as lazy afternoons enjoying the views from the villa’s infinity pool. Off-property adventures that can be worked into the itinerary run the gamut from nature hikes and photography classes to Camp Jaguar programs for teens organized with the Papagayo Explorers Club, beach barbecue picnics, jet ski rentals, nighttime bioluminescence tours by canoe, helicopter tours, mountain biking, surf lessons, rigorous beach hikes, sport fishing expeditions and wildlife treks.
Guests interested in going off property also have exclusive use of the Prieta Beach Club, only open to local homeowners. It has its own full-service restaurant with a menu of superb snacks (many native to Costa Rica), a fully supervised kids’ club for adventurers 4 and older and physical fitness facilities with trainers. Additionally, Villa Manzu offers daytrips on the recently acquired Hydrosport speedboat Nimbu, whisking guests to a variety of gorgeous beaches and diving spots.
What ultimately makes Villa Manzu a heavenly experience are the people behind the scenes, from the chefs and beverage manager/all-around expert Luis Morera to the house staff to managers Chris and Jennifer Cowels. The couple totally gets the importance of creating a special stay tailored to every individual family as parents, outdoor athletes and 20-year Costa Rica residents. As the hotel operates only 26 weeks out of the year, the couple explained the schedule enables them to provide all guests the most unforgettable stay possible.
Other included elements that make guests feel right at home include a full staff of chefs, butlers, waiters, adventure specialists, along with laundry service, stocked beverage refrigerators in each suite, babysitting, abundant sunscreens and bug sprays on hand, and a prolific assortment of sports equipment including stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and surfboards. Cars (Range Rover, a Ford Explorer, a Jeep Wrangler and several golf carts) and drivers are also part of the package, ready to take guests around the area when needed.
With all of that figured in, what goes into the per-night rate can add up to great value within the ultra luxury/trip-of-a-lifetime category that has the added benefit of being just a few hours’ flight from the U.S. mainland.
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