From world-class surfing and sportfishing to hardy mountain hikes and scuba diving with hammerhead sharks, Costa Rica’s remote south is a setting for awe-inspiring adventures. It’s here that pre-Columbian relics lie smothered in jungles that offer some of the finest wildlife viewing in the nation. The regions biggest draw has nature lovers from Tokyo to Toronto planning pilgrimages to Corcovado National Park, recognized as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth.
If keen to explore Costa Rica’s remote corners your best bet is to plan a solo road trip. We rented a fancy Hyundai 4×4 which came in handy when ploughing through puddles and zooming up steep gravel backroads. I booked our rental car on Skyscanner, a travel search engine that makes it easy for travelers to search and compare flight, hotel and rental car options to find the best deals.
Picking up our car at the San Jose Airport was a breeze. Moments after grabbing our keys we hit the road, waving goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the capital. We soon found ourselves weaving through verdant valleys, whisking our way past rainbow kissed waterfalls and cruising along rural beach towns.
It took us just over four hours to drive to the cute oceanside town of Uvita. We parked our car at the base of a mountain and hopped in a taxi which spent 20 minutes chugging up a steep gravel road. After zig-zagging all the way to the top we were greeted by a glamorous boutique hotel that sits perched on a cliff overlooking Marino Ballena National Park.
Kura Design Villas is a small eco-friendly, boutique hotel featuring just six luxury hillside villas. After a 20 minute bumpy ride up a magical mountain one can’t help but wonder how the construction materials ever managed to make their way up here in one piece.
Kura is a little slice of heaven on earth, brought to you by owners Alejandra Umana (a biologist) and Martin Wells (an architect), two Costa Ricans who sought to share their love for their country’s biodiversity and beauty with a hospitality experience that enhanced the surrounding wilderness.
Set on an impressive mountain ridge overlooking the Pacific, Alejandra and Martin’s Kura Design Villas were created around a minimalist design which allows the lush mountain top rainforest to blend in with the elegance of its accommodations.
Kura’s sweet suites are a honeymooners dream featuring sky high bamboo ceilings, expansive terraces, romantic hammock, comfy king sized bed, sliding glass doors, double rainfall-style showers, private minibar, wine cellar, espresso coffeemaker and plush bathrobes.
If you’re interested in indulging in sublime self care book yourself a restful and relaxing morning at Kura’s petite Spa Sha. The open-air sanctuary offers beauty and wellness treatments thoughtfully designed to purify, nourish and rejuvenate. Enjoy an exotic body scrub and wrap, full body massage or deep tub soak. You can also arrange a private yoga class on your own pretty perch overlooking the Pacific to round out a truly holistic and restorative experience.
Each morning wake up to the world with a 180-degree view of the Pacific horizon. Breakfast is best served on a luxurious lounge chair overlooking Kura’s salt-water infinity pool which features a state-of-the art underwater sound system. Birds tweet as you sip through a steaming mug of Costa Rica’s finest coffee and a warm breeze whispers through your hair as you slowly fork through coconut syrup slathered pancakes.
Once the mid-day sun has you all hot and bothered you’ll want to hop up on a stool at Diablitos Bar for a thirst quenching sip. Kura’s friendly bartenders shake up slippery tipples inspired by the regions tropical bounty. I was delighted to slurp my way through a cocktail trilogy featuring Malibu rum spiked Coco Passion Mojito, blackberry and coconut cream muddled Guaria Morada and lime forward Golden Margarita.
After watching the sunset splash across the horizon guests at Kura gather at the hotel’s petite dining room for a fine feast under the twinkle of the night sky. Chef Rodrigo Villalta oversees the Kura kitchen and creates simple, sophisticated dishes influenced by local, organic tropical ingredients. From the hotel’s own greenhouse, Chef Rodrigo’s team grow microgreens, kale, peppers, basil and spearmint which appear throughout the menu. Highlights include must-have catch of the day perched over creamy coconut rice, passionfruit muddled ceviche and pancetta and bean muddled Costa Rican classic Chifrijo.
If you’re looking to enjoy an off-the-beaten-path adventure be sure to visit the Uvita Waterfall located at the bottom of Kura’s mountain road. Wear comfortable hiking shoes as you’ll find yourself boulder jumping across a roaring river and tip toeing under dangling jungle vines. Once you reach the waterfall you’ll see a pretty little pool where on a hot day you’ll likely want to take a plunge.
Kura guests who have a penchant for lazy days spent on the beach are seriously spoilt for choices. Seven beaches are but a 15-20 minute drive away, each offering a unique experience depending on what you fancy. If you love exotic wildlife head to Playa Ballena, if you’re keen to wet your toes at the tip of the Whale’s Tail sandbar visit Playa Uvita, beginner swimmers head to Playa Hermosa for its soft sand and gentle tide while serious surfers park themselves at Playa Dominical known for its year round rip tides.
Always the adventurer, I opted to spend my beach day at Playa Ventanas, a gorgeous swimmer’s beach renowned for its fine sand, deep sea caves, and caverns carved into cliffs. Each day at low tide (around 11am) a series of caves become accessible to beach bum adventure seekers. Tip toe across wet sand as water droplets parachute off the stone ceiling and you’ll soon find a tunnel of light. On the other end your ankles will be greeted by a wet kiss as wild Pacific waves lap themselves lovingly onto the shore.