Working off a tip from a colleague, Luxury Retreats’ senior manager Yamine Gluchow recently traveled to two private villas in Costa Rica: the stunning Casa Patron and Casa Oceano. What’s more, no one in his adventurous, well-traveled group of seven had been to Costa Rica before, so they were all seeing the marvels of the South American country with fresh eyes. From luxurious poolside relaxation sessions to an epic ATV road trip through the jungle, Gluchow recalls an unforgettable trip with an up-for-anything group of friends—and offers up some stories, tips, and excursion adventures for anyone planning their own Costa Rican experience.
LUXURY RETREATS: Why did you plan a getaway to Costa Rica?
YAMINE GLUCHOW: Costa Rica is a beautiful, safe destination in South America. Its amazing scenery and unique style of homes are what drove me to choose it as a destination for my villa stay. I mean, come on, you aren’t going to find homes like Casa Patron or Casa Oceano just anywhere in South America.
My colleague, Diana Soler, had told me about how beautiful the country was, how there were great experiences to be had, and that the food was good. She also mentioned that the quality of service in our Costa Rican homes was exceptional. I know that’s the case at all Luxury Retreats’ properties—but she particularly highlighted Costa Rica.
LR: Your first move in Costa Rica was to check in at Casa Patron in Los Suenos. What was your reaction?
GLUCHOW: Patron means “boss,” and it is a boss house! It’s an expansive, gated, private villa with a slot machine, full bar, custom poker chips, and a pool table. The best lounge spot was by the pool, which is where [my friends and I] spent a lot of our time, often enjoying adult beverages. The home is surrounded by amazing scenery that looks like a perfectly-trimmed tropical hedge. And we could walk around the massive Los Suenos Resort as we saw fit. At night, we would head out to the nearby town of Jaco, just a 15-minute drive away, with transportation arranged by our security guard at the gate.
Casa Patron seems almost custom-made for male-bonding, and we were seven guys. It was the perfect place to begin the trip.
LR: For the second half of your trip, your group relocated to Casa Oceano in Tango Mar. What was that like?
GLUCHOW: Casa Oceano is an architectural marvel directly facing the ocean. The best spot was on the veranda overlooking the ocean, equipped with an infinity pool where we could lounge at night, talk for hours, and bond. The proximity to the ocean means that you fall asleep and wake up to the calming sounds of waves. My private bedroom had its own balconies in the front and back of the house where I could stare out at the ocean after my morning shower. To this day, I find myself confusing the sound of my air conditioner for waves.
Since you’re directly on the ocean, the beach is your patio. When you open the floor-to-ceiling windows, it feels like a completely different place. And the staff is top-notch. Being taken care of so well is not an experience you’ll easily forget.
LR: What advice do you have for first-time travelers to Costa Rica?
GLUCHOW: The Costa Rican people are very fun, so I would encourage making an effort to meet and speak to locals. One of their catchphrases is pura vida—so everyone uses it as a greeting, kind of like the word aloha in Hawaii.
For excursions, I recommend Howling Monkey Adventures, which offers a guided ATV jungle trek. It was a really cool adventure where our guide took us to the top of this massive hill to a restaurant called Bar El Tajo. They have incredible fried plantains and the spiciest hot sauce, and the entire place is constructed of wood from local forests made by local artisans. You just won’t find this kind of place in North America. And be sure to try Imperial, the local beer, too.
I would definitely recommend knowing (or trying out) some Spanish, as well. It’s appreciated, and will only help you get better service.
LR: How did your group get into Costa Rica’s famous pura vida lifestyle?
GLUCHOW: By enjoying the moment and letting ourselves have fun. Whether that’s taking a shot of chili guaro (a local liqueur shot with hot sauce) or going ATVing in a forest.
LR: Your memorable meal at Bar El Tajo was followed by a series of outdoor adventures in an ATV. Tell us what you did, and what happened along the way.
GLUCHOW: On our way back down the mountain from Bar El Tajo, we had to pass through the jungle. On one particular route, there’s barely any space, just barely enough room for one ATV. But always up for an adventure, we all insisted on taking this route. Little did we know, a tree had fallen and blocked the road. So we got out of the ATV, and now we’re eight people [a party of seven plus a tour guide] trying to move a tree. And it wasn’t moving. The problem was, our ATV wouldn’t fit past it without driving really close to the edge of the mountain, so we were trying to be careful, considering the consequences. Finally, we decided to give it a go, but as soon as we hit the gas, boom! The tree actually pierced the back of our ATV. But our guide assured us it would be okay, and we did manage to carefully edge past it.
Then we did a tour to see secluded beaches made up of massive holes of sand, and then our guide took us up to the top of a hill to a beautiful city lookout, which you could access by passing through a sandpit. And we got stuck. We spent two hours building a ramp to get out, with our guide enthusiastically leading the charge. When we finally did get the vehicle out, we celebrated as though we had just discovered fire, drinking beers on the mountaintop and enjoying the view. It was a crazy happy ending that brought us all closer together.
I thought the whole adventure—from our group’s unbridled enthusiasm to our guide’s confident, cheerful leadership, all the way to our sky-high celebration—really embodied what Costa Rica’s pura vida lifestyle is all about.
LR: What made this trip a true Luxury Retreats experience?
GLUCHOW: We had originally planned to do many excursions, but we found we had such a good time at the properties just hanging out that we decided instead to simply enjoy each other’s company and take it easy.
The service at the villas, from the chef, maid, laundry service, the welcome, and just all the care and service we received, plus the quality of the home and the presentation made it an incredible luxury experience.
LR: What does the concept of “luxury” mean to you?
Luxury means having all the guesswork taken out of the necessary parts of a vacation, so that you’re free to enjoy the moment.
LR: Where in the world are you off to next, or where would you like to go?
GLUCHOW: I like South America, so I definitely want to explore it further. And I’ll probably go to Mexico soon.