Ensconced amid the thick mangroves of a 2,300-acre nature preserve along the coast of Guanacaste, W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal draws you in with its lush, firefly-dotted landscape; bold, locally inspired design; and a cool, laidback vibe.
But one of the secret perks of the new hotel, which opened in November 2018, is its exclusive experiences.
The W brand created a cadre of wish granters called W Insiders, who are in-the-know locals who help you access what’s new and hot in the area. And in case you think that sounds similar to a concierge, Gina Conejo, the Costa Rica hotel’s W Insider, is quick to set you straight.
“I will be with you as part of the experience,” Conejo says. “I will party with you. I will be your personal connection to the hotel. There’s only so much you can personalize from afar.”
She showed us this firsthand with an all-terrain vehicle excursion to explore the countryside. Dressed in comfortable, ready-to-get-filthy clothing and sneakers, we went to Viva La Costa Offroad Adventures, a company from off-road enthusiasts Edward Merten and Jennifer Herot, a West Palm Beach couple whose frequent travels to Costa Rica persuaded them to relocate to the Central American country. They outfitted us with goggles and a new tube scarf (we were gifted with the latter) to shield our mouth and nose from the inevitable dust clouds that the ATVs would spurt out.
Viva La Costa upgrades the experience by using a fleet of Tomcars. Originally built for the Israeli military, the Tomcar provides a much more stable and smoother ride than other ATVs. Drivers will find it’s a snap to maneuver and handles well, while passengers expecting to tag along for a bumpy trek will be pleasantly surprised.
Be sure to bring your phone — the vehicles come equipped with Bluetooth, so you can lay down your own soundtrack while tearing through the empty dirt paths that snake through groves of trees and greenery.
Our guides led us to a clearing, where waiters in neon-pink shirts and board shorts greeted us with bulbous glasses of refreshing, fruity gin and tonics, while the intoxicating Afro-house beats of “Buya” from Black Coffee and Toshi filled the air, courtesy of a DJ in a “Detox, Retox, Repeat” shirt. Conejo had arranged for an all-out private beach party.
Along a swath of secluded sand, a sign announced, “Welcome to Pura Vida,” or “pure life.” A greeting, an exclamation and a way of life, pura vida succinctly expresses the Costa Rican belief that you should simply enjoy life.
It’s hard not to do so in this setting. Against the backdrop of rolling waves, a smiling mixologist stood behind a kitted-out, wood-slatted bar on the sand, ready to make a tropical tipple. We recommend the bright, juicy La Carreta made with Cacique Guaro (Costa Rica’s national drink, the sugarcane liquor tastes like a slightly sweet vodka), passion fruit and grapefruit juice.
Mouthwatering aromas beckoned from the grill, which was fashioned to look like a salmon-hued pig. The chef was busy prepping an impressive lunch buffet of burgers, chicken, tuna steaks, plump shrimp and seafood-filled paella — and that’s only the entrées. An array of sides and sauces, a salad bar and desserts also were among the offerings.
Lest you forgot who’s throwing the party, a gigantic “W” festooned with a vibrant mandala print (a nod to the same pattern in the hotel rooms that’s made by a local artist using images of surrounding flora and fauna) reminds you.
Under the shade of leafy trees, orange oversized pillows and blankets facing the water may call to you after the indulgent meal, but you can’t miss dunking yourself in the warm, clear water.
The beats, bites, libations, beach and plentiful seating (the trendy hotel brought in everything from log benches to Tanqueray-branded picnic chairs) will make you want to stay for dinner and then linger into the wee hours. But we had to wrap up the rest of our ATV tour.
We strapped ourselves into our Tomcar and zoomed off to a lookout point to get a glimpse of other parts of the coast. We headed to the forest, where our guide pointed out the vegetation. He also plucked green leaves from a teak tree and rubbed it in water to demonstrate how to create a natural red dye.
Then it was back behind the wheel for some more joyriding. Finally, we made our way to Viva La Costa. But our guides sped past the building, so we followed suit. They brought us to the clubhouse of Lomas Del Mar, a 600-acre private residential community (Viva La Costa is just beyond the gates). Perched on the mountaintop, the clubhouse is usually reserved for residents. But Conejo got us access to the space, where we hung out by the outdoor infinity pool and soaked up incredible vistas of the Pacific and Papagayo Bay.
To cap off the day, there was fresh tropical fruit, like guava, mamón chino (rambutan), pineapple and mangosteen, along with flutes of crisp Concha y Toro, a dry Chilean sparkling wine. Wearing several layers of dirt, we felt unpresentable for rounds of bubbly in such picturesque surroundings. But at least Conejo was equally grimy right alongside us.