There used to be a time in Costa Rica when vacation rentals were just a way to save money by families or friends traveling together, and packing in as many people as possible into a house. But not any more! In the last 8 years, there has been an explosion of high end, luxury villas in Costa Rica that not only equal what the big luxury resorts offer, but also add one additional amenity that they cannot provide – privacy.
Whether having a family vacation, a wedding ceremony on the beach with a few close family members and friends, or just three or four couples traveling together, a private villa rental just makes more sense. For instance, the dining area is just for your use, the swimming pool is just for you, the living room, and all outside patio areas are private to you and your guests.
One of the best examples of a luxury villa in Costa Rica is the Casa Oceano Beachfront Villa within the 125 acre Tango Mar Beach Resort and Private Nature Reserve. This truly “on the beach” villa has 6 bedrooms, 5 of them oceanfront with cantilevered balconies, one garden bedroom, 3 whirlpool tubs, and an oceanfront infinity pool that is just 11 steps down the stairs to the warm, tropical, sandy beach. Casa Oceano (and other deluxe villas of this type) has a staff of 4 that includes daily maid service, pool and grounds maintenance, a concierge available 24 hours a day and, if a meal plan is preferred, a full time chef. Amenities include a professionally appointed kitchen with a commercial gas range / oven, LCD televisions in the living room and bedrooms with premium satellite channels, iPod docking stations, high speed wifi, A/C, quality linens, pool toys for the kids, and even boogie boards for the more adventurous beach lovers. Nothing is overlooked. Just imagine yourself walking into your own private residence that you have prepared for your enjoyment and a staff to cater to your needs!
Of course, when you are out of the “house” category and into the world of “villas”, prices are reflected accordingly, and in some cases, you will pay as much or more than staying at a comparable resort hotel. As an example, the Casa Fantastica Villa in Manuel Antonio overlooks the famed Maneul Antoino Park area and Pacific Ocean. This newly constructed, 10,000 square foot villa has 8 luxurious bedrooms, 3 whirlpool tubs, a hotel size infinity pool, a game room, a gym, and a cinema with seating for 30 guests. Villas of this type, and Casa Oceano, can range from $10,000 in the low season to $13,500 in the high season, to $30,000 or more for the premium Christmas and New Year weeks. But the demand is there, not only for the luxury, but for the exclusive privacy.
Even the once sleepy fishing villages of Playas Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, in a remote area of the Nicoya Peninsula, have been discovered by celebrities who come to stay in the newly constructed luxury villas to get away from it all. The surfers who once camped out on those beaches fifteen or twenty years ago, have now returned as doctors, lawyers and business owners to rent the private, luxury bungalows on one of the best surfing beaches in Costa Rica. Lot owners seeing this phenomenon about 7 years ago decided to build deluxe villas to cater to larger groups. The Hollywood celebrity market immediately picked up on the opportunity to vacation in a remote and secluded area where their privacy would not be so easily invaded. Celebrities who have stayed here include model Gisele Bundchen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson, who is now just completing a mountaintop estate overlooking the beaches, complete with a helicopter landing pad. Murray Barnett, the owner of the first, and most popular website in that area, confides, “I have often been asked to sign a privacy agreement to insure that I would not reveal the names of visiting celebrities. In addition, one of the advantages of this more remote and undeveloped area is that most villas are situated on 1 to 3 acre beachfront parcels, which provide even more exclusivity to dignitaries and stars.”
Yes, for a single couple traveling alone, a luxurious suite or private deluxe bungalow is still probably the best option. But, for families and groups vacationing together, the luxury villa market is the one area of the Costa Rican tourism business that has remained steady, even in this economy, as luxury villa guests continue to value not only the outstanding accommodations, but also privacy.
Forrest Geiger is the Owner of 1 Costa Rica Link.