Looking to Plan a Costa Rica Meeting?
Learn everything you need to know about this spectacular locale at SMU International
, Northstar’s premier event for meetings and incentive pros looking to book biz in the area.
New & Coming Soon to Costa Rica
• The Santarena Hotel, which opened in February, is set in Las Catalinas, a Pacific coast beach town in the Guanacaste province, the area of northwestern Costa Rica that’s popular for both leisure and incentive travel. The 45-room property offers ocean views and multiple dining venues, as well as a rooftop lounge and pool. Indoor and outdoor event space includes the Plaza, an open-air venue with ocean views and space for 600.
• The Nayara Tented Camp, a sister property to the Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens and Nayara Springs, is scheduled to open in December in Arenal Volcano National Park, in the northern zone that lies north of San José. The property will have 18 luxury tents, each of which will have a master suite with en-suite bathroom and outdoor shower. Each tent also will have an outdoor living area and a plunge pool fed by water from nearby hot springs. The camp also will feature a swim-up bar, a family-friendly pool and an open-air yoga pavilion.
• Groups can enjoy a spirited new spa treatment at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, an eco-oriented member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World set on a 900-acre tropical reserve in the Costa Rican rainforest near the Arenal volcano. Among the newest options in the property’s meeting packages is a spa treatment that puts Tabacón’s own craft beer to creative new use. The Kapi Kapi treatment (which means “happy happy” in the language of the indigenous Maleku people) is an 80-minute body wrap made from Double Indian Pale Ale, complemented by an “express facial.” Those who prefer something more traditional can opt for activities like guided relaxation classes tailored for groups, soaking in natural hot springs or relaxing with a massage in a private, open-air spa bungalow. The property has more than 1,200 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, including a multipurpose room, private bungalows, gardens and open-air restaurants.
Hotel & Venue Additions
• Groups looking to enjoy the great outdoors will find lots to love at Isla Chiquita, which offers what’s billed as the only “island glamping” hotel in Costa Rica. Tucked onto the corner of a postcard-perfect island off the Pacific Coast on the top of a hill in the province of Puntarenas, Isla Chiquita has 15 luxurious, teak-floored tents with king-size beds, minibars and bathrooms. The only thing lacking is television and air conditioning — but, of course, the point of staying here is to reconnect with nature, albeit in an upscale and well-tended manner. The expansive Sunset Master Suite is fit for a high-ranking executive, with an open-air seating area complete with hot tub and hammock. The suite’s commanding view of the coastline also makes it a favored choice for sunset cocktail events. The property's on-site restaurant serves freshly caught seafood with a view of the private beach, where guests can relax or enjoy a variety of watersports. Buyouts for up to 32 people are possible, and the property has its own heliport and access to a six-person water plane, so VIP groups can arrive quickly and comfortably from the airports in San José and Liberia, as well as from other popular destinations along the coast.
• Hotel Nantipa, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World Hotel in Santa Teresa de Cobano, has opened on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. The posh 15-room property, which sits between the jungle and the ocean, is designed to allow small groups to enjoy the region’s natural beauty while being pampered in stylish accommodations with modern comforts like air conditioning, WiFi and a minibar. Room choices include beachfront suites as well as bungalows furnished with hammocks. Guests also can relax at the swimming pool and savor new culinary experiences at the hotel’s restaurant, which serves Costa Rican specialties made with locally sourced ingredients, including fresh-caught seafood. Guests can partake in activities that range from surfing lessons and horseback riding on the beach to hikes to the nearby Montezuma waterfall — and hopping a boat to Tortuga Island, part of the Islas Negritos Biological Reserve.
• Small incentive groups might find the perfect fit at Hacienda Barrigona, a 500-acre property in Costa Rica’s Blue Zone on the Nicoya Peninsula. An extensive refurbishment has resulted in the debut of 10 guest rooms spread among three villas, with common areas that include swimming pools, open-air dining, and Bali-style yoga and meditation studios. The property specializes in customized group-wellness retreats, as well as programs designed to awaken creativity, with a menu of diverse activities that can include surfing, writing, art and photography. Planners also can make good use of the property’s scenic setting: Up to 100 people can be hosted for private events in a postcard-worthy open-air space, between a private beach and a verdant jungle.
• Just across the Nicoya Gulf sits the quaint Pacific Coast town of Puntarenas, a gateway to a variety of nature-based activities, including hikes, wildlife viewing and day cruises. Group-friendly hotels with meeting space are few and far between in this sparsely populated side of the gulf, but there is one standout right in town: the Puerto Azul Boutique Resort & Marina. This 62-room property has four meeting rooms that accommodate a total of 300 attendees, while outdoor events around the two swimming pools can host as many as 1,000. Rooms with balconies in the larger tower offer stunning views of the water, and the property’s on-site marina makes it easy to coordinate cruises and tours of the nearby mangroves.
• The Centro de Convenciones de Costa Rica opened in 2018, near Juan Santamaria International Airport and the capital of San José. The US$35 million facility features an environmentally sustainable design that includes internal and external LED lighting and 2.5 acres of solar roof panels.
• Health-and-wellness-oriented experiences are available at Kinkara, which opened in 2018 in Costa Rica’s
Chirripó foothills, southeast of San José. Part of the Cayuga Collection
of upscale sustainable hotels, Kinkara is an all-inclusive property
that focuses on “collective group experiences,” with an array of
customizable mindfulness retreats. Guests sleep in a group of 31 Lotus
Belle canvas tents (26 of which are double occupancy, and five of which
accommodate four people), each furnished with 500-thread-count cotton
linens, bathrobes, USB charging pods and WiFi. The tents sit in an
eye-catching circular pattern around a central garden, which produces
some of the locally sourced ingredients for the property’s farm-to-table
menu. Planners can choose from programs that feature yoga, meditation
and even classes about sustainable agriculture, while guests looking for
more active adventures can join outings for horseback riding, hiking,
surfing and zip lining.
• The latest hotels in the San José metropolitan area include the 126-room AC Hotel San Jose Escazú, which opened in 2018 in upscale Escazú. The property has a European-inspired restaurant, a fitness center and 2,143 square feet of meeting and event space, including five meeting rooms.
• Guanacaste has witnessed the debut of several meeting- and incentive-level hotels in recent months. Among them is the 150-room W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal which is enveloped by a 2,300-acre nature reserve. Groups can make use of nearly 13,000 square feet of event space, including eight meeting and event rooms, and partake in activities like beach games and deejay breaks.
• The 294-room Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica also opened recently here. The all-inclusive property offers group package options that include private check-in, private group dinners and free group activities. Guests also can sign up for treatments at the PH Spa & Beauty Bar and create their own theme music for the visit, using Planet Hollywood’s Your Soundtrack music program.
• The 120-room Margaritaville Beach Resort Playa Flamingo debuted in November 2018 along one of Guanacaste’s picturesque beaches, after an extensive redesign of the former Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa. The property has a water sports center, a spa, tennis courts and a movie theater, and offers 3,264 square feet of indoor event space, as well as outdoor settings for receptions and meals.
• Costa Rica continues to up its appeal for wellness-minded groups with the January debut of Kasiiya Papagayo , a luxury “eco-wilderness retreat” set on 123 acres along the Pacific Coast. Targeted at small groups (no more than 10 people can stay here), Kasiiya takes its eco-friendly goal seriously, with five tented suites set on timber-frame platforms with no concrete or nails. But comfort isn’t forgotten; each tent is outfitted with a king-size bed, closet, bathroom and indoor/outdoor shower, as well as a private terrace with chairs. Three tents overlook the beach, and two are tucked into the hillside. The property offers a three-level fitness program that includes holistic spa therapies as well as movement exercises inspired by Brazilian Capoeira martial arts. Guests also can ponder the region’s natural beauty at Kasiiya’s beach cabana, sunset deck and library. When it’s time to refuel, South American-inspired cuisine created by chef Sebastian Guevara is served at the hilltop chef’s table.
• Smaller groups looking to get close to nature will do well at Tambor Tropical, an adults-only hotel in the tiny town of Tambor, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province. The lushly landscaped property — which is available for buyouts for up to 24 guests — features 12 units set in beautiful wooden buildings, with a swimming pool, a bar and full-service dining just steps away. As with many smaller hotels in ecologically rich Guanacaste, outdoor activities are a big draw at Tambor Tropical. Whale watching, horseback riding, ATV excursions, bird-watching, open-air yoga and nature hikes are just a few of the options, and groups also can volunteer with the Tambor Bay turtle-rescue program, which aims to grow the once-shrinking local population of Olive Ridley sea turtles through a variety of initiatives. Beach patrolling, hatchery monitoring and beach cleaning are among the ways that MICE groups can get involved.
• The 182-room Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo has unveiled a new Playa Blanca Terrace Hospitality Suite, an ocean-view venue designed by Costa Rican architect Ronald Zurcher with indoor and outdoor space for small-group events. The property recently added a food truck that serves Costa Rican fare and burgers; for private events, planners can customize the menu and add their own signage/logos to the truck. Late in 2018, the resort added a series of new features and amenities, including a revamped spa and wellness center with a hammam room; a steakhouse, Nemare; and a private concierge lounge. The property offers a total of 14,400 square feet of meeting and event space.
• Bangkok-based Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, which this year came under the umbrella of the InterContinental Hotels Group, is gearing up for its Central America debut. Six Senses Papagayo is slated to open in mid-2021, bringing a new upscale, eco-friendly choice to the Papagayo peninsula. The 2,300-acre property aims to preserve 70 percent of its terrain for natural flora and fauna, with accommodations set in 41 pool villas and 31 residences. Wellness is a central focus at the hotel, with a spa and fitness center complementing a menu of healthful activities. Cuisine will make use of ingredients from the hotel’s own organic farm. The property is owned and developed by the Larkspur, Calif.-based Canyon Group in partnership with the Costa Rica-based Garnier Group. While details about group facilities have not yet been announced, the Six Senses brand generally offers an array of services, including meeting space and guided activities such as team-building exercises and yoga classes.