By { Beth Weitzman

There’s a reason why Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index. Residents believe in pura vida, Spanish for “pure life”—which means they’re filled with optimism and gratitude, and never allow themselves to get bogged down by small-stuff stresses. 

In keeping with the Central American country’s characteristic spirit of joy, the W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal has recently joined a growing list of W Escape resort destinations around the world. Located mere minutes from renowned surfing spot Tamarindo, this is the first W Hotel in Costa Rica. The magical experience begins upon arrival, as guests are ushered along an avenue of 2,000 bursera simaruba trees. Suddenly, the signature W logo, cut out of a bright red wall that curves around the valet area, comes into view. This dramatic entrance is reminiscent of the bullrings in which the national pastime is played out. (In keeping with the practice of pura vida, el toro’s life is always spared here.) 

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sugar-white sand beaches, the eco-friendly resort is nestled between mangroves within a 2,300-acre nature reserve in Guanacaste. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity, so don’t be surprised if you see a monkey, raccoon and assorted other wildlife roaming the property. The serene, tropical paradise exudes luxury and customization at every turn, with gorgeous design details throughout. Designed by Mister Important Design, along with W Hotels’ in-house design team and Ronald Zurcher Architects, W Costa Rica takes architectural and design cues from the naturally beautiful landscape and local culture. 

The indoor-outdoor Living Room—W Hotels’ spin on a traditional hotel lobby—is an architectural wonder. With floor-to-ceiling stone and wood panels, a connecting hallway mimics the lines of a marimba, the traditional Costa Rican percussion instrument. Towering wooden structures resemble the province’s namesake guanacaste trees. A large wooden pillar is carved with the textures and patterns of the Costa Rican pineapple—a global symbol of hospitality and one of the nation’s most important commodities. Looking out to the Wet Deck, an outdoor extension of the Living Room, you can’t help but marvel at the view.

Guest Rooms and Suites

Each of the hotel’s 150 guest rooms and suites are thoughtfully designed with bold colors, clean lines and spa-style bathrooms. Inspired by the woven basket nests of the indigenous oropendola birds, curvaceous wooden headboards cradle each bed, while pillow-top mattresses, fluffy goose-down duvets and 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets encourage a good night’s sleep. Guest room walls feature natural wood and abstract floral murals. A miniature surfboard, made by local manufacturer Cheboards, hangs on the wall above a cocktail prep station—convenient for mixing drinks to enjoy on the open-air balcony. The well-appointed marble bathroom features double vanity and showcases hand-painted patterns inspired by Chorotega pottery.

For added relaxation, all of the suites at W Costa Rica boast plunge pools, plus multiple additional opportunities to embrace the outdoors. For example, the Sunset Treehouse Suites, nestled deep within the mangroves, can accommodate groups of six to 16 by connecting several adjacent rooms and suites. This private hotel-within-a-hotel category features an in-suite foosball table, a portable Bose speaker, 55-inch smart TV and ample living space with plush lounge seating. Spacious counters are perfect for personalized culinary creations and libations prepared by the resort’s talented chefs and expert mixologists. There are private plunge pools and balconies overlooking the ocean as well. And then there’s the Extreme WOW Suite, which features a large faceted wood wall, an expansive living room and bar, a state-of-the-art entertainment system, fully stocked bar, master bedroom with private entrance, private pool and a cloud-shaped oversized bed that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The best part, though, is the suite’s glass doors, which completely open to the wraparound deck, creating the ultimate indoor-outdoor space.


Of course, R&R is the order of the day. The hotel’s signature AWAY Spa offers massages, body wraps, facials, mani/pedis and makeup services. In a nod to Costa Rica’s more than 1,500 species of butterflies, six beauty pods built like cocoons provide the perfect spot for mani/pedis. The AWAY Spa Bar offers a full detox/re-tox experience. It’s a social spa space in which guests can mix and mingle, with or without a glass of Champagne or a craft cocktail. This is my kind of spa! Six treatment rooms, women’s and men’s locker rooms, a steam room, an outdoor pool and a relaxation area round out the allure. 

Another relaxing place to spend the afternoon is at either or both of the W pools and the beach. The WET Deck, located right off the Living Room area, is itself a design wonder. The multilevel deck is peppered with smartly designed chaise lounges and individual cabanas, all overlooking the lush forest, with the Pacific Ocean peeking through the trees. Local design inspiration is apparent from the edgeless hot tub (located within the sparkling pool) and the interiors of the sunken WET Bar, which features mosaic interpretations of the mandala-like wheels of colorful Carreta Tipica oxcarts. Swim up for a cocktail, and enjoy snacks and lunch served anywhere on the WET Deck. The menu features health-conscious comfort food (avocado toast with crispy garlic and seabass ceviche with leche de tigre and lime), as well as indulgences (lobster tacos), complemented by specialty tropical cocktails like the Watermule (Ketel One, watermelon juice and ginger beer), plus Champagne and wine, of course.

A 10-minute walk or quick golf cart ride from the WET Deck is the Zona Azul Beach Club, which welcomes both guests and nonguests. It’s named for the blue zone—five regions of the world known for the longevity of their residents. This destination-within-a-destination features an Olympic-size pool, elevated bar, a lounge and leisure deck lined with cabanas and chaise lounges. A specialty cocktail list includes a Bloody Gazpacho (Ketel One, local tomato and chipotle blend, Salsa Lizano) and Rose of Althea (Ron Flor de Caña Coco, watermelon juice, hibiscus syrup). At the Zona Azul Beach Club restaurant, dishes from the five blue zones (Italy, Japan, Greece, California and Costa Rica) comprise the menu of beach snacks (guacamole and plantain chips, mussels a la Chalaca, and crispy seafood with prawns, squid and octopus); wings, smoked barbecue pork ribs, ceviches, salads, and family-style entrees, such as the flash-fried whole catch of the day, a whole chicken, and a 12-ounce Angus beef burger with bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and crispy onion. For dessert, the Super Cookie is a chocolate macadamia cookie topped with vanilla, chocolate, pistachio and hazelnut ice cream. 

The beach club also offers high-energy entertainment, late-night cocktails and direct access to Playa Conchal (including complimentary paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkeling). A jet-skiing tour right off the beach is a must. Soon, guests will be able to zip line directly from the hilltop of the WET Deck to the beach club—a perfect spot to watch the sunset. 

When it comes time for working off the calories, the fully equipped FIT gym is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and boasts panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the vast nature reserve. Guests may also take advantage of Reserva Conchal’s 18-hole, Robert Trent Jones II golf course, with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and lush forests on the other. This 71-par championship course, with perfectly placed lakes and ravines, provides players of all skill levels with a one-of-a-kind eco-golf experience. Golf rentals and lessons are also available.

Near the resort, Playa Flamingo offers activities, such as zip line and aerial adventure parks, horseback riding, ATV excursions, catamaran rides, fishing, snorkeling and jungle exploration. In the dry season (December through April), majestic humpback whales migrate through the area, while leatherback turtles nest along the nearby beaches.


In addition to the Zona Azul Beach Club restaurant, there are several other options for delicious cuisine and handcrafted cocktails made with fresh, seasonal ingredients at W Costa Rica. International tapas and libations come with killer views, bold beats and a social vibe at The Living Room. Be sure to go at night, when the tree-like structure becomes an illuminated art installation. Inspired by the tails of Costa Rica’s fabulous hummingbirds, it is decorated with 9,000 recycled white, blue, green and brown glass beer bottles. All lit up after dark, it is especially dazzling. 

Right off the Living Room, Cocina de Mercado offers Latin-American and Mediterranean fare, plus grab-and-go options. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this open-market concept boasts a large show kitchen, pizza counter and griddle station with an air-conditioned dining room and outdoor terrace. Breakfast includes an extensive juice bar, matcha bowl, avocado toast, corn pancakes, banana bread toast and eggs with local spicy sausage. Lunchtime features starters such as a local cheese and charcuterie board, salads, tuna poke and a vegan power bowl with quinoa, chickpeas, beetroot, avocado and sweet potato with mustard dressing. A user-friendly menu identifies dishes that are vegan, contain dairy, soy, nuts and the like. For dinner, grilled meats, potato and veggies sides are the stars, alongside flatbreads and pizzas. Dessert is another highlight, with specialties such as tres leche, dulce de leche and molten chocolate cake. 

Meanwhile, Latitud 10° Norte, named for the shared latitude of Thailand and Costa Rica, serves up Thai-inspired cuisine in a more formal environment. This is where you’ll want to wear a slightly dressier outfit. Open only for dinner, the experience begins at a social bar table for interactive drinks where a mixologist whips up speciality cocktails right in front of you. This truly special restaurant uses locally sourced, rare ingredients to create a remix of traditional Tico fare and offers an expertly curated wine list, exclusive cocktails, after-dinner drinks and table-side finishing plates. The atmosphere is chic and inviting. Signature starters include shrimp chorreada with mangostán, uchuva, passion fruit, sweet bell pepper, red curry vinaigrette and avocado; chicken and truffle galantine with bone marrow, chicharrón, peanut sauce and squid ink potato; and Wagyu carpaccio with spicy bread crumbs and toasted cashew. Main courses includie red snapper chifrijo with chicharrón; braised short rib with cashew, praline and pumpkin purée; lobster rondon with soba pasta, oyster mushrooms, asparagus and seafood broth. For dessert, arroz con leche (coconut Thai rice, mango, lemongrass sauce) and Piña (pineapple carpaccio, peppermint chimichurri, coconut, black sesame ice cream) are absolute musts. I am still dreaming about this meal—it’s worth the entire trip.

Personalized Packages and Experiences

The I’m All In Package includes gourmet meals and snacks from the property’s five restaurants; alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, including a wide selection of sommelier-curated wines, premium spirits and signature cocktails; in-room MixBar snacks and nonalcoholic beverages; and exclusive access to W events. (Package starts at $300 for two guests per night as a supplement to the room rate.)

Once-in-a-lifetime luxury bespoke offerings, curated by the W Insider, further elevate the experience at W Costa Rica. Anything guests can imagine is on offer—the sky’s the limit. We had the time of our lives on our adventure, which began with a thrilling TomCar off-roading experience with Viva La Costa Off Road Adventures. It doesn’t get better (or safer) than these super-high-end off-roading vehicles originally designed for the Israeli military. Two- and four-seater vehicles are available, and all are equipped with a Yeti cooler filled with fresh water, a Pelican dry box, a wash-down tank, motocross goggles, and a helmet and dust mask to keep your face clear of dust and dirt. Beach towels are also provided. Our trail took us to Conchal beach for a luxury private beach party like no other, presented by the amazing W Costa Rica F & B team in coordination with W Insider. We enjoyed a full bar, a grilling station for super-fresh seafood and meats, and a table full of salads and sides while looking out to the beach and blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and listening to awesome tunes by a live DJ. For anyone looking for a spot to celebrate any occasion with a group of friends, this is the absolute ultimate choice. 

While it was hard to beat our TomCar/beach party experience, on another day we ventured to Hacienda El Viejo, where we enjoyed an authentic Costa Rican lunch and a rum distillation and mangrove boat tour. That evening, sunset cocktails and dinner on the sand were in order at Pangas beachfront restaurant in Tamarindo. This popular spot serves up epic sunset views and a rib-eye and lobster surf and turf cooked on your own 500-degree lava stone. Because anything done by the W Insider is of the highest level, bar-hopping in town (talk about getting VIP service) came next.

Other W Insider excursions include a visit to Cheboards, where you can create a personalized surfboard (with advance planning, you can also order a board before your arrival, use it during your stay, then ship it back home); surfing lessons; luxury boat excursions; and more. No matter what you choose, the W Insider will personalize the experience to make it truly yours. While the trip had to come to an end, the memories will last until I return to create new ones. Rates at W Costa Rica start at $389 per night. Reserva Conchal, Guanacaste Province, 506.2654.3600,