Nestled high above Costa Rica’s scenic Pacific coastline, on acres upon acres of teeming-with-wildlife rainforests and adjacent to stunning Manuel Antonio Park, sits Parador Resort and Spa in Punta Quepos. It’s a sustainable jewel of a resort you must visit.
I stayed at Parador for nearly four unforgettable days a few weeks ago. It far surpassed my every expectation with its impeccable service, commitment to sustainability, and raw beauty. The resort was honored as a worldwide leader in sustainable tourism by receiving the Platinum Level “Leader in Sustainable Tourism” Adrian Award from National Geographic traveler, as well as having been recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the “Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Central America” just this year.
It was a first-time trip for me to the beautiful country; sincere thanks to Costa Rica’s tourism board. I had heard so many wonderful things about Costa Rica, and I received more advice than I could take on where I should visit, things I should do, and what I should eat. But there’s nothing better than letting moments overcome you when traveling. Rather than carefully plotting out and orchestrating my every move in Costa Rica, I decided I’d go for the ride and experience the country and its people. I wanted this trip to be as authentic as possible.
My friend Stephanie and I arrived to Parador Resort and Spa after three days in the jungle on the Caribbean side of the country, (I’ll explore this part of my trip in a forthcoming article). Greeted with fresh-pressed juice and smiles, we were taken to a room with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the jungle. I noticed the organic and biodegradable soaps, as well as a light-bulb-shaped card reminding guests to turn off lights, A/C, TV and other electronic devices when not in use. A card resting on my pillow relayed information about Parador’s Green Program, kindly asking guests to only request fresh towels when absolutely necessary, and accepting that Parador will only change linens every three days unless otherwise specified by the guest. This reduces the amount of laundry and minimizes the hotel’s water and detergent usage.
Parador deftly manages the delicate balance between luxury and mindfulness. There we were, in a gorgeous room with tremendous views, and yet Parador was humble enough to request that we take part in their conservation efforts and energy-saving initiatives.
I was slowly falling for Parador, although I think they may have had me at hello.
A knowledgable bilingual guide took us on a tour of Parador’s grounds, and so I was able to see some of Parador’s sustainability initiatives first-hand. They have an on-site compost-processing facility which uses the organic waste from their kitchens and repurposes it for fertilizer and insecticides for the gardens. The guide then showed us their waste-water treatment plant where Parador filters, purifies, and reuses water for irrigating the gardens and green areas. During their long rainy season, a rainwater collection tank filters, purifies and reuses water for laundry purposes, as well as for irrigation of their many gardens. Their large recycling center diligently separates aluminum, paper, glass and plastic, and all bath products and other amenities are recycled for reuse. If it can be recycled, Parador recycles it.
Along the way we viewed sloths, including a baby sloth and white-faced monkeys, who do not shy from the camera for a photo opp, as you can see.
Our stay at Parador was a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Sure, we sunned poolside wearing all-natural sunscreen — they have three stunning ocean-view pools — but we also made the most of the many incredible excursions Parador offers.
We took a five-hour voyage on a beautiful catamaran through the Pacific waters of Manuel Antonio and Quepos. We learned about the history of the many uninhabited islands, snorkeled, went down a slide off the boat, which was great fun, and enjoyed a delicious locally grown meal as we watched the sun set.
The next morning, we paid a little visit to Pacifica Spa at Hotel Parador. We stepped into the tranquil haven and savored every minute of our organic pedicures and leg massages with all-natural products. The experience was pure bliss. As the air whisked through the room, we sipped on just-pressed orange and carrot juice, and enjoyed a fruit and yogurt parfait.
After a spa-filled morning, we decided we’d try our hand at surfing at Manuel Antonio’s beach, which borders the jungle and is about a 10-minute ride from Parador. Our surf instructor, Oscar, couldn’t have been more informative, patient and helpful. In no-time, Oscar had two girls who thought they wouldn’t be able to catch a wave in Costa Rica, riding them onto shore.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the dining experience at Parador. The menus at each of Parador’s four ocean-view restaurants are filled with organic, local and delicious internationally inspired options. Stephanie and I didn’t sit down to a single meal that we didn’t savor.
I couldn’t help but notice the range of guests at the resort. There was a nice mix of couples, families and friends vacationing together, and Parador fosters an atmosphere where guests and staff get to know one another in a comfortable setting. Within just four days, Stephanie and I had made friends with guests from around the world and had built a nice relationship with several of the wonderful staff.
Before it was time to say goodbye to Parador, I sat down with the President of Parador, Mrs. Marja Schans, (who runs the hotel with her husband and Vice President, Diego Gonzalez) and Resident Manager Mr. Jorge Rodriguez. With pride in their eyes, Mrs. Schans and Mr. Rodriguez talked to me about the thrill of Parador’s recent awards, as well as the hotel’s dedication to sustainable tourism, community outreach and desire to preserve Costa Rica’s precious natural resources. We chatted about their support of local non-profit organizations such as Titi Conservation Alliance, COPAZA, Roberta Felix, Omar Dengo, as well as their participation in reforestation efforts and community beach clean-up programs. Mrs. Schans and Mr. Rodriguez regularly send out their staff to plant trees and monitor and clean their community’s beaches and jungles.
If you’d like to experience Costa Rica and sustainable Hotel Parador yourself, the resort is offering an amazing “Green Season Special” to save travelers money from May 2012- June 30, 2012 and September 1-November 30th 2012. To take advantage of this deal and book your trip, visit www.hotelparador.com or call 1-877-506-1414 and mention code GREEN. Tell them Eco Chick sent you!
All Images: Lindsay E. Brown