If you're looking for an unexpected-yet-romantic honeymoon hideaway, look no further than Nayara Springs in Costa Rica. The award-winning, five-star hotel has landed a spot on our annual Brides Honeymoon Awards for years, and it's no surprise why. This luxe resort is located in Arenal Volcano National Park, which is home to one of the world's highest concentrations of tropical plants and wildlife. In fact, the property alone (along with its sister property Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens) has 15 acres of lush gardens, overlooks Arenal Volcano (the third most active in the world), and features relaxing underground mineral thermal springs. Basically, it's your dream rainforest escape IRL, and that's not to even mention your digs, the spa, and tons of other activities!
Keep reading for an insider's guide to what to do, eat, and enjoy while you're at Nayara Springs. Trust us: this is the ultimate honeymoon spot for a couple who wants adventure and relaxation (and let's be honest, who doesn't?).
After a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the country's main airports (in San Jose Alajuela and Liberia), you'll know once you've arrived. A golf cart (your personal taxi for the trip) will quickly whisk you away to the secluded Nayara Springs lobby, where you'll be greeted by the friendly staff and a flight of welcome cocktails-mini tastings!-in colors as bright as the flora around. Welcome to the Pura Vida life!
Get Comfortable (In Your Own Private Oasis)
Make one of the property's 16 private villas home for the week. Each has a his & hers bathroom complete with an indoor shower, an outdoor shower in a tropical garden, and closets big enough for that honeymoon wardrobe you've been obsessing over. But even better than that dreamy outdoor shower situation is the bedroom. This oasis (seriously, there's no other word for it) features the dreamiest canopy bed you've ever seen. Post up here for an afternoon nap or even take a night-in after a day of adventure. The staff will happily deliver room service, along with a collection of DVDs if you want to Netflix and chill the old-school way.
Take in the Villa's View
The best part of each villa is obvi the personal plunge pool, which is fed by mineral hot springs nearby. And lucky for you, this infinity pool-and-deck combo is so picturesque you may never want to leave. We suggest an afternoon nap on the comfy lounge chair, your morning coffee at the bistro table, and volcano sightseeing from the pool's edge-champagne in hand, at sunset (as proven by the photo above, an Instagram here is a must).
Relax by the Pool(s)
But just because the villa's pool is amazing doesn't mean you shouldn't leave. Definitely check out the two (even bigger) infinity pools on the property. The newest (shown above) has a poolside bar, underwater tables, and more volcano views. We suggest an afternoon in the comfy lounge chairs, complete with margaritas and some of the best pizza around.
Chill With Sloths
If you're up for the challenge of spotting sloths in movement, you've come to the right place. The resort's grounds are filled with hundreds of Cecropia trees (their favorite food!), which means there are a rumored dozen sloths on property. Popular spots for sightseeing are behind the pool deck and around the hot springs, which are nestled amongst the lush landscaping. If you're lucky, you may see a sloth take a swing or two!
Taste Local (And Not-So-Local) Foods
It's safe to say you won't be hungry or parched during your stay. Between the two sister properties, there are five full-service restaurants, a coffee bistro, and a wine bar. A favorite is surprisingly the sushi (yep, in Costa Rica!) at Asia Luna. Cozy up in a corner, make yourself comfortable, and order the fried chicken wontons, beef yakitori, and signature Nayara roll (chicken, avocado, and plantain). Even if sushi isn't your thing, Mis Amores will be. This open-air restaurant has some of the best views on property and features everything from wood-fired pizzas to yellowfin tuna and beef tenderloin. And trust us: you may be tempted to do breakfast, lunch, and dinner here-we aren't judging.
Make Your Own Coffee
Visit the recently-opened Mi Cafecito for your morning espresso or an afternoon frappuccino. Costa Rica is famous for its coffee-seriously, even the in-room stuff is awesome-and after a taste of this menu, you'll understand why. Talk to the barista about the coffee beans in your drink (they're roasted on-site) and you may get a mini-lesson in the art of roasting. Several days a week, the baristas even offer formal lessons that go more in-depth into the traditional making of coffee in Costa Rica.
Treat Yourself at the Spa
Fair warning: after a visit to this open-air paradise, you'll never want a facial or massage inside a room again. Seriously, book the couple's Signature Nayara (100 min; $160 per person) for a memorable treatment, just the two of you. This service includes a traditional, stress-releasing massage with volcanic mud-that's said to hydrate and regenerate skin-and mud facial. And even better: all of this takes place in the comfort of a private, open-air pavilion that's literally suspended in the rainforest (who knew the sound of birds chirping could be so peaceful?).
Walk on Hanging Bridges
You should also plan some activities away from the resort (we know, we know, you'll be back!). The Arenal region has plenty to offer in terms of mild-to-moderate adventure, from nature hikes and zip-lining to an all-out canyoning experience that's made for the true thrill-seeker. A favorite activity is a half-day excursion that's organized by Nayara Springs. This getaway starts after breakfast (you can eat continental at Altamira Restaurant, which is next to the main lobby) when your driver-slash-naturalist guide escorts you in a private black car to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, which is about a 20-minute ride. Once there, strap on your walking shoes and Lululemon backpack because you're about to be one with nature. It's best to have your guide walk ahead of you as you explore the carved pathways, 10 regular bridges, and six suspended hanging bridges as he or she can point out the plethora of wildlife and plants along the way. Expect to see plenty of critters-like howler and spider monkeys, tarantulas, blue jean poison dart frogs, and sloths-but don't worry: your guide is trained to know his/her surroundings (seriously, it's insane what they can spot!) so that you won't be surprised or scared in the least bit. That said, this "hike" is perfect for serious hikers and amateurs alike. In fact, we'd think of it as more of a natural stroll-and more importantly, the perfect opportunity for panoramic photo ops.
Visit a Waterfall
After an hour-and-a-half of exploring the highs and lows of the park, hop back into your car (and sip on a local beer en route!) for a drive to the nearby La Fortuna Waterfall (note: wear a bathing suit and waterproof shoes, like Salamons, with your hiking attire). The entrance fee is just $15, and you'll find that it's well worth the ticket. In fact, the views are even worth the 600 steps down (and back up!) it takes to reach the waterfall. Once you're down the many, many stairs, the main attraction (on your right) is a 200-foot waterfall that plummets down into an emerald-colored pool. Hop in for a quick dip, giving yourself just enough time for your guide to capture your photo. The waters are a bit rough so if you're looking for more of a swim, walk over to the nearby stream, which is much calmer but still as chilly.
Head to Your Next Stop-or Start Planning Your Return Trip!
After a few days here, you're not going to want to leave, but know that another benefit of honeymooning in Costa Rica is that you can explore two environments in one country. Many honeymooners do a combo trip that involves a visit to the popular beach destination, Peninsula Papagayo, too. But even if that's not an option this time around, that's okay. All the more reason for an anniversary trip, right?!