Somewhere on a plantation in a Costa Rican rainforest is a coffee tree sapling with my name – or rather, my husband’s nickname for me – on it. I know because I planted it. Arbie may not be producing beans for three years but once it starts, it will produce for 40 years, long after I’m no longer enjoying the beverage. North Fields tour guide Leonel Gamboa Aguilar holds the umbrella as I pack my young plant into a hole in the rich volcanic soil on the small family-run plantation in La Fortuna de San Carlos. Even though we’re in the dry season (November to April), it’s raining cats and dogs – just not as hard, I’m told, as it would during the rainy season. Leonel takes our picture for posterity and offers up “Pura vida” – direct translation is pure life, clean life, but in Costa Rica, it’s a greeting, an acknowledgement, a way of life.
My home base for my few days in Costa Rica is equidistant from Liberia in the northwest and the country’s capital of San José to the southeast, both hosting international airports. Nayara Springs in the Arenal Volcano National Park has been named the No. 1 resort in Central and South America (Condé Nast Traveler) and the No. 1 luxury hotel in the world (Trip Advisor 2016). Arriving in the dark after a three-hour trip from the airport, I’m grateful for the golf cart driver who takes me through a bewildering maze of pathways and over a rainforest ravine to the 35 adult-only villas built above the 35 bungalows of the family-friendly Nayara Resort. The golf carts, I would learn, are more common here than yellow cabs in New York City and willing to take you anywhere on the resort you want to go.
After settling into my 1,500-square foot villa, I grab one of the ubiquitous orange umbrellas from the stand by the front door and run through the rain to the cart that’s taking me to dinner at Asia Luna with its Peruvian-Asian fusion menu, one of six restaurants on site, knowing I would never find my way until I explored the grounds in daylight.
After dinner, I can’t wait to return to my room and jump into my private plunge pool fed by mineral hot springs and surrounded by lush primeval vegetation. It all makes up for the lengthy trek to get here. The cacophony of frogs singing late into the night doesn’t disturb my slumber in the mosquito-netted four-poster.