When I got in my car at San Jose International Airport, the driver, Ron, warned me of two things: Costa Rican “roller coasters” and boa constrictors – the first, a winding mountain pass which some passengers find troubling, the second, well, definitely troubling. The two hour drive proved to be perfectly enjoyable, with Ron enthusiastically pointing out the local plants, trees and birds along the way. The ride was a great taste of the famous “Pura Vida” Costa Rican hospitality to come.
While stopping at the Nayara Tented Camp in Fortuna, I spotted the breathtaking Arenal Volcano in the distance. It’s often obscured by thick cloud cover – the resort is deep in the Costa Rican rainforest, after all – so I was lucky enough to have such perfectly clear panoramic views. I found that the best time to get a chance to see the volcano was during the fall rainy season when I visited. This wonderful welcome was just the start of what turned out to be an unforgettable getaway.
Part of the Relais & Chateau portfolio, Nayara Tented Camp, which opened in late 2019 and recently launched its latest expansion, is split into three separate but connected experiences: Tented Camp, Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs (the adult-only section of the complex). ) Guests are transported on golf carts so they can easily enjoy all that the 62-acre property has to offer, from the wonderful Mi Cafecito espresso bar for an early morning pick-me-up to lunch and dinner at the restaurants on seating and evening drinks in the cozy bars. For wellness needs, there are spa facilities, a fitness center, and an outdoor yoga pavilion.
The Nayara Tented Camp team ensures that the entire operation is run in an environmentally friendly manner that respects both the resort’s natural environment and the rich Costa Rican culture. Inspired by luxury safaris offered in other parts of the world, the property reopened this summer with a host of new additions which includes a stunning party tent; a lobby bar, Henry’s; Ayla, the Mediterranean-influenced restaurant run by Israeli chef Yanir Elnasi; and a relaxing pool surrounded by cabanas and a fire pit.
The Tented Camp is the epitome of luxury ecotourism, with rooms and suites all featuring a private plunge pool filled with natural thermal water, private terraces (a great place to enjoy in-room breakfast) , indoor/outdoor showers and, of course, those magnificent unobstructed views of the volcano.
The two new private residences, Casa Paloma and Casa Diane, can comfortably accommodate eight adults and four small children and are equipped with a fully equipped kitchen, living room, large television, oversized swimming pool, a fire pit and an outdoor dining area with lounge chairs and umbrellas. A personal concierge is also on hand to help plan activities, make reservations, and organize special experiences.
There is no shortage of things to do at Nayara Tented Camp. The property offers daily yoga and meditation sessions, and the tent camp’s selection of seven thermal pools nestled in the rainforest are the perfect setting for the bartender to whip up locally-inspired cocktails.
Guests who want to get out and about can choose from a coffee and chocolate tour, a mixology experience, a lava field walk, bird watching, horseback riding or even a nighttime wildlife watching tour. frogs. During a nature walk at nearby mystical suspension bridges, I traveled two miles over six suspension bridges stretched above the vibrant canopy of rainforest trees.
No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without at least a few wildlife sightings, and I’ve had plenty. I saw howler monkeys frolicking in the trees as well as a blue jean frog, more birds than I could count and, to my chagrin, a fuzzy tarantula hiding in a hollow tree trunk. For a less wild way to experience Nayara Tented Camp’s natural habitat, there’s an on-site armadillo sanctuary. And nature expert and “Sloth Concierge” Juan Carlos briefs guests on the whereabouts of the property’s 15 resident sloths that live in its 1,000 Cecropia trees.
“We’re all about luxury and sustainability, and the overall experience, which I haven’t found anywhere else on the Latin American continent,” said owner Leo Ghitis. United States. “As a child I used to camp with my dad but it was really hard. I have traveled a lot through Africa and Asia and I love safaris and tented camps and I found it interesting that there is nothing like it in Latin America.”
To remedy the problem, Ghitis decided to bring his vision to life despite encountering big obstacles along the way.
“We came up with this concept based on these African and Asian experiences,” he says. “But these tents are typically built for dry climates, so we needed a product that would work in a rain forest with lots of rain and wind. We needed a consistent premium product.
Another hurdle was the land itself, which Ghitis said was purchased eight years ago for future use. “This whole mountain had been decimated by cattle herders and there was nothing but mud,” he recalls. “I wanted to cry – no butterflies, no birds, no sloths or monkeys, not even grass.”
But Ghitis had this “crazy dream” of bringing the region’s rainforest back to life. “At first we failed miserably. Then I found an Australian landscaper who is one of the world’s leading experts in reforestation. We needed green trees growing in the rainforest and ended up having to buy another piece of land just to grow them.
Since the project began, nearly 40,000 new trees and plants have been added to land near Arenal Volcano National Park. “We were able to bring him back,” says Ghitis. “It’s not a mature rainforest, but it’s full of incredibly rewarding and important wildlife.”
However, this focus on eco-friendliness doesn’t mean foregoing the creature comforts of a five-star resort. Nayara Tented Camp goes above and beyond in service, thanks to the friendly staff, many of whom come from the immediate area.
“We hire a large majority, 99% of the employees, from the local community,” explains Ghitis. “Many have worked on farms or cattle ranches and come to Nayara with limited experience in the service sector. Many have never met anyone outside of the local community or outsiders. We therefore provide training, as well as growth opportunities for these employees and take care of the communities where we operate. »
The hotel is still at full capacity thanks to these same employees, boasts Ghitis. “We have the best team in the world and we are very aware of that. We treat everyone like family and in return the hotel does very well.
In addition to Costa Rica, Nayara also has properties in Panama, Easter Island and Chile with more locations, including Nayara Residences, to come. As Nayara Tented Camp puts the finishing touches on this phase of the expansion, it’s clear that Ghitis and his dedicated team are on to something – uniting environmental stewardship and tourism at its best. “Nayara is a sustainability project,” says Ghitis. “If we humans make an effort, we can reverse the damage done for many years now.”