With direct flights from some major US cities, Costa Rica’s nature-centric gated 400,000-acre luxury enclave, Papagayo Peninsula, is increasingly within easy reach for North Americans. Deep within the protected forested sanctuary on the sea is yet another peninsula. There, at the tip of the verdant outcropping, perched over the Pacific, is the very secluded Villa Manzu.
The exclusive villa is an ultra-luxe hideout for high net worth privacy-seekers. With its unbroken views of the sea and surrounded by five acres of lush vegetation—full of wildlife and crisscrossed by walking trails—the elegant property in its entirety is available for rental. Villa Manzu welcomes guests to a paparazzi-free escape and a panoply of outdoor adventures and indoor pastimes, seaside relaxation and gourmet meals provided by the villa’s private chef.
The 8-bedroom, 12-bath, 30,000 square foot luxury vacation home was designed by Costa Rican architect, Abraham Valenzuela. Valenzuela is renowned for his nearly four decades of experience building luxury properties in Costa Rica. He is also legendary for his expertise in Pacific Rim tropical architecture, an architectural philosophy that includes the creation of an intimate relationship between buildings and their natural environment by integrating outdoor areas such as gardens and green spaces, into internal areas.
With Villa Manzu Abraham Valenzuela has achieved just that. The villa was built to be harmonious with nature and to incorporate natural and indigenous materials in order to create an open-air style in which the transition from indoor to outdoors would be seamless. He has created a clean-lined, airy and serene refuge that respects, even honors, its natural surroundings and the indigenous culture of the area. Valenzuela says, “I think the psychology of the space is very important. I wanted to give people that brief moment of greatness, that sense of infinity”.
The graceful home’s dynamic interior, a creation of Houston-based designer Lynn Yellen, is a blend of Costa Rican aesthetic with Balinese accents and executed with the same careful artisanship and authenticity as was used in the building’s construction. Yellen’s touch is evident in details such as exquisitely carved wooden doorways framed with woven copper tubing, decorative ceiling tiles and references to symbols of indigenous communities including Mayan and, Chorotegan (Costa Rica’s indigenous people). The sun-drenched interior is simply a jewel box bursting with color and vibrant touches such as beaded chandeliers, shell-inlaid lamps, textured wall coverings and decorative pieces from around the world. The overall effect is magical and mysterious.
Even the most glamorous home away from home would fall short without five-star services. This private estate with its 180-degree views of mountains and ocean hits the bull’s eye every time. Guests receive service so incomparable that at some points it seems as if the villa has hired an accomplished team of mind readers to anticipate guests’ every wish and whim even before the guests themselves have spoken. The team of discreet but vigilant attendants includes a private chef, bartender, butler, housekeeper and drivers for excursions. There is even a sommelier to introduce visiting wine lovers to the pleasures of the villa’s exclusive wine cellar.
Some villa guests might be content staying close to “home” to explore that wine cellar, read and relax at one of the two saltwater pools, lie in one of the hammocks or lounge chairs (with magnificent views) on the villa property or spend hours in the villa’s waterfall spa. Some may want to stroll down to Villa Manzu’s private beach and drift away on one of the paddleboards or kayaks or completely space out at a sunrise yoga class with the villa’s own yoga teacher. Still others may choose a low-stress look at some of Costa Rica’s wildlife on the property’s easy walking trails where visitors are likely to be accompanied by several kinds of monkeys, parakeets, and some busy iguanas lolling in the shadows or making their way across the trail into the jungle.
Guests who may be restless for adventure or for more exciting sports activities can enlist the villa’s onsite cars and drivers and head out on daring excursions such as helicopter tours, mountain biking, hiking and zip lining. For ocean lovers, there are dive excursions, snorkeling, boat trips to see dolphins, parrotfish, angelfish, sharks and even on occasion, whales and giant manta rays.
There are many reasons to head out with the villa team and explore the area around the exclusive property. But at the end of the day, there is nothing like the warmth and beauty of returning to this Costa Rican vacation home whether retire to one of the beautifully appointed suites, take a midnight swim under the stars or gather in the home theater for a film. Whatever experiences guests have, it is certain that Villa Manzu lives up to its name. In the local Chorotegan language, “manzu” means “friend” and there on the edge of the Pacific at Villa Manzu, guests —whether paparazzi magnets or just well-heeled families with children—are all made to feel that, indeed, they among the best of friends.