It’s difficult to think of a type of travel planning that is more challenging than the planning of your honeymoon. Of course, it needs to be perfect – but is done during a whirlwind time of wedding preparation, anticipation and life changes.
I work in the hospitality industry – and Chloè, my wife, teaches yoga in New York. Having observed Hans Pfister’s innovation in hospitality at the Cayuga Collection from afar, experiencing it first-hand was something I had wanted to do for a long time. This, combined with Chloe’s work in holistic wellness – and the need to have a complete break from urban living, made some time in Costa Rica a very attractive proposition.
We ended up spending 10 days visiting a number of Cayuga’s locations around Costa Rica, and wanted to share our eco honeymoon experience as it may help you as you plan your own honeymoon.
TIP: Cayuga has an Eco Honeymoon Mini-Guide for download. If you’re planning your itinerary now and an eco honeymoon is up your alley, definitely get the mini-guide to see how their collection of hotels can fit into your plans.
Stop #1: Finca Rosa Blanca
Stepping off the plane in San Jose’s Juan Santamaría airport, we picked up our rental car and began our Costa Rica adventure. Our first impressions on arrival at Finca Rosa Blanca were incredible. The reception staff provided a warm welcome and made everything effortless, arranging for our luggage to be brought to our room and the car parked for us. After 9 hours of traveling, you’re just tired and hungry…and maybe a little grouchy 🙂
A brief tour of the hotel property led straight to the restaurant so we could settle into our stay. Gazing out over the city of San Jose in the valley while we sipped a welcome drink and learned about the history of the property and coffee farm was the perfect opening to our eco honeymoon experience.
There’s something about looking out over a city that is profoundly relaxing for me. It’s the perfect way for me to put distance between the hectic months leading up to that moment – to stop, take a deep breath, and tell myself, “I’m on my honeymoon now.”
Sherman & Alejandro provided above and beyond service at the restaurant, with the perfect mix of professionalism and friendliness. Everyone remembered our name and preferences so well. The front desk stuff was very helpful during our stay, with the receptionists making numerous calls to check on local activities for us. I sensed that the staff actually love working there – which is all-too-rare in hotels.
The Finca coffee tour in the morning was a highlight. For me, that’s real luxury – experiencing local treasures with a very knowledgeable guide.
Sustainability is something you hear about frequently from the Cayuga team, and I was looking forward to experiencing their interpretation of it myself. The company takes a very comprehensive approach to sustainability, which you can read about in detail in the guest welcome book found in the rooms. It’s clear extensive planning goes into this, and community engagement is a core objective for their operation. Cayuga is investing into each area of the local ecosystem – something that’s required to foster an truly flourishing community.
In general, I feel that the Finca Rosa Blanca experience is an ideal honeymoon getaway. Not hours from the airport (which would be exhausting after the 9 hour flight), yet seemed a world away.
The abundant freshness everywhere we went was the perfect New York detox and much needed after all the stress of a wedding. Everything seemed alive around us.
But there was more to come…
Stop #2: Arenas Del Mar
The second hotel on our stay was the eco-resort Arenas Del Mar. Substantially larger and different from Finca Rosa Blanca, this property has a privileged position along the Pacific coast. Upon arrival, proactively warm and helpful service again made us feel special and cared for from the start. The concierge team went out of their way to help us find things to do. We loved the little electric cars to navigate the hilly property!
The suite size and views were among the best we’ve seen around the world. Very spacious. Having a hot tub on the porch with an ocean view was incredible and something we really enjoyed. Room service here is something you’ll probably find yourself ordering more than once – delicious food and private ocean views are hard to beat.
But you’ll want to check out the restaurants as well. One is located on the beach (with chairs & tiki torches in the sand!) and the other on the higher level, overlooking the ocean. The incredible views and service continued:
New activities are shared every day: Movie night, nail painting, bird watching and more. The nature tour provided by the hotel was a can’t miss activity. Hannia, our guide, was knowledgable and made the experience very enjoyable.
The end of day happy hour at this hotel is a fun way to mix and mingle with guests. We enjoyed this each day at this property.
Stop #3: Harmony Hotel
Travel can be exhausting. The moment I finally arrive and step foot on property, I don’t just need a “hotel” – I need hospitality. A true welcome. We’ve been looking forward to your visit. The feeling of being expected and among friends.
Real friends – and great hosts – anticipate needs and state of mind.
This is completely dependent on where I’m traveling and what my expectations are. Am I staying a week on my honeymoon? Welcome me with a drink, whisk my bags to my room, and have the general manager give a tour around the property to make me feel like a VIP.
That’s exactly what happened when we arrived at Harmony Hotel. Andres, the general manager, met us at the entrance and personally oversaw the whole check-in process. Explaining the history of the property, sharing which amenities he personally enjoys the most, and introducing us to staff throughout the property.
By being genuinely excited to see us, and taking time out of his busy day to do this tour, we felt like VIPs. Yes, the room and hotel amenities were incredible, but it’s the personal expression of hospitality that set the tone for the rest of the stay.
Andres understood that.
Our drive here was beautiful, but the final hour on the unpaved road wasn’t meant for the small car we had! Make sure to rent a 4WD truck or arrange transportation if you are driving here.
Andres’ love of yoga and surfing is contagious, which lent authenticity to his work and host-manship on this property which is very oriented around these things.
We loved the fast Wi-Fi, outdoor shower and reusable water bottles and explanation of how everything is created on property. Finding a great bottle of wine & candles coming back into the room one evening was a fun surprise.
We felt this hotel did a really good job promoting other services & businesses in the community. Referrals to adventure activities such as standup paddle boarding (SUP) were great.
I was consistently blown away by how delicious the food and drinks on property were. The Pescado del Dia at dinner was amazing. Opting for smoothies instead of wine some nights seemed so natural.
The massages here are great, and pricing is very reasonable. On-site yoga was a very authentic amenity – and a great way to recharge during the day.
For some local reading material for down at the beach, the book shop on property was something that authentically shared the brand values of Cayuga – very cool.
Cayuga: a restoring Costa Rican eco honeymoon experience – and much more
Luxurious hospitality used to be all about ornate buildings, gilded interiors, and white glove service. Then the tides changed. Distinctive, boutique, original, bespoke, tailor-made, popup – these are the labels of a new generation of hotels. But even these can become the mundane. I work with so many hotels that constantly try to out-do each other with luxurious amenities, celebrity designers and exclusive bars & clubs.
Yet diminishing returns kick in for each of those. It’s harder and harder to out-do the next hospitality group or travel experience provider, and harder and harder to make the same “WOW” impression on someone as the bar gets set higher and higher in luxury or distinctive design.
I believe we’ve entered a new era for distinguished hospitality. One that truly understands how to serve today’s stressed, overworked traveler. The person who not only wants to have more, not only wants to experience more, but wants to be more.
A hospitality experience that sets the stage for a flourishing heart, mind, body and soul for their guests. Fostering relationships, and acting as embassies of beauty and creativity in their neighborhoods. “Humble luxury.” Acting as a catalyst for transformation that not only changes the travel experience, but changes me as a person long after I’ve left the hotel. (Which will not soon be forgotten.)
Cayuga Collection is perhaps the best hospitality group that I’ve seen in this regard, and it’s refreshing to see their approach to sustainability – moving beyond hotels’ typical “we’ll-only-wash-your-towels-on-the-floor-to-save-water” – to working towards creating a flourishing community through guest education and corporate financial support.
Cayuga not only works towards creating a flourishing community and surrounding area, but they also work towards the flourishing of their guests as people:
Their physical wellness.
Their intellectual stimulation.
Their sense of connection.
The sense of awe and wonder at the surroundings.
The sense of belonging.
The sense of home.
The sense of mental clarity.
The sense of having everything taken care of for you.
… And that’s what I remember weeks, months, years after I stay there. It’s not about threadcount to order the drinks at the bar or the food at the restaurant – it’s something different – and something inside of me that I cannot forget because I am the one who has changed.
– Josiah Mackenzie, Cayuga Collection Guest