Hacienda Altagracia, an Auberge Resort, is a little slice of heaven in the mountains of Costa Rica's Perez Zeledon. This high end resort offers the perfect mix of luxury and adventure for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Your experience at the resort is catered to whatever you're looking to get out of it. If relaxation is what you want, then the world class spa and stunning pool overlooking the valley have you covered. If you're looking for something a little more adventurous, then you're free to partake in any of the countless activities that take place on the resort grounds and nearby. Of course, there's no reason you can't do both. For someone like me, Hacienda Altagracia really was the best of both worlds. I normally get stir-crazy at resorts because there's not enough to do, but the sheer amount and quality of activities kept me busy and entertained the whole time. And that made the moments of relaxation that much sweeter. When people think about Costa Rica, all they think about is surfing and beaches, but this resort is about so much more.
From the moment you arrive, you feel completely at home as you are greeted with a welcome drink and a warm smile. The hospitality at Hacienda Altagracia is unbeatable. The staff is always one step ahead of you, anticipating your wants and needs before you even realize them yourself. Everyone you interact with is amazingly personable and greets you by your first name. It's abundantly clear that all members of the staff love their jobs and in such a beautiful setting, how can you blame them?
The grounds of Hacienda Altagracia are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. This expansive property covers over 865 acres and the space is utilized incredibly well. The 50 standalone luxury estates, or casitas, are beautifully appointed and contain everything you need for a luxurious getaway in the mountains. The casitas are extremely spacious with oversized beds, comfortable living rooms, and extremely large bathrooms with rain shower heads. The highlight though is the terrace with lounge chairs and a table inviting you to spend as much time as possible soaking in the beautiful view of the valley below. It doesn't take long for your casita to feel like home and if you're like me, you definitely won't want to leave.
The variety of activities available at Hacienda Altagracia is staggering. And the best part is that all activities are completely private. From horseback riding to waterfall hunting and tropical fruit tasting, there's definitely something for all ages and abilities. Our horseback ride gave us a chance to explore a side of the property that we hadn't yet seen. Our ride took us to a secluded spot along the river where we enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican lunch of casados which is made up of chicken, rice, black beans, tortilla, and plantains. The next day we were able to explore the stunning triple tiered Namu Falls located nearby the resort. Our knowledgeable guide made the experience extremely educational and enjoyable. The hike back up to our starting point was challenging in the 90% humidity but the promise of fresh starfruit juice and lunch cooked on a woodfire stove was just the motivation we needed.
The crown jewel though has to be the Ultralight flight. These small aircraft have no windows and no doors -- effectively allowing you to literally touch the clouds. The flight is incredibly smooth and gives you a bird's eye view of the beautiful landscapes below. Rolling green hills give way to pineapple farms and coffee plantations in a stunning juxtaposition of the natural landscape and the industries that it supports. Next thing you know, you break through the clouds and are able to look down on the bed of pillowy clouds below. This flight is something that will stick with me forever.
After a full day of activities, there's no better way to decompress than a visit to Hacienda Altagracia's world class spa. The spa is the largest in Central America and the facilities are gorgeous. The spa offers a full lineup of services with a variety of massage types to choose from which are tailored to your preferences. Before our massage, we had the opportunity to participate in a scrub making class where we learned about the different ingredients and exfoliants that can be used to make a homemade scrub that will revitalize your skin. The best part of the spa facilities is the huge indoor pool area. Equipped with two hot tubs and plenty of lounge chairs, the spa pool is the perfect place to relax after your massage and swim a couple laps.
As if the property couldn't get any better, literally every meal I had there was perfect in every way. Whether you want to dine in one of the resort's amazing restaurants or have a private meal on the terrace of your casita, your meals can be as lively or as intimate as you choose. The majority of ingredients used by the resort are locally sourced and you can taste the quality. At the resort, you'll enjoy farm to table gourmet meals and on your excursions you'll have the opportunity to sample local Costa Rican fare cooked with traditional ingredients by local chefs such as the casado mentioned earlier. With a collection of traditional Costa Rican dishes and delicious takes on international cuisine, you can definitely a dish that will suit your tastes.
What sets Hacienda Altagracia apart is the genuineness of everything you experience. The staff makes every moment a delight and the activities give you an amazing taste of Costa Rican culture that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the country and its people. I was blown away when I was told that during my time I had only explored two to three percent of everything that the resort has to offer. The level of comfort you're able to feel at the resort quickly makes it a home away from home. My time at Hacienda Altagracia went by in the blink of an eye and I'm already looking forward to returning in the future.