Long before a certain slice of Central American beach was discovered by Columbus and dubbed Costa Rica, that same verdant expanse served as a haven for birds, monkeys, and orchids. Today the country is a de facto wildlife sanctuary, providing a home for nearly 4 percent of Earth’s known species. Soon, humans also will be seeking refuge in greater numbers in the country’s serene wilderness, thanks to two wellness resorts scheduled to open in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province. Canyon Ranch Living and Miraval will translate the comforts of their Tucson, Ariz.–based flagships from arid desert to coastal rain forest.
Canyon Ranch Living will debut first, in 2010, on a 678-acre property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In keeping with Costa Rica’s goal to be carbon-neutral before 2030, only 3 percent of the resort’s acreage will be utilized in construction. The design (by the firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo) will be green, modern, and relatively small in scale, and will facilitate indoor-outdoor living. Guests can expect eco-friendly structures wrapped in local stone and embellished with handmade arts and crafts from a nearby marketplace. “We’re making sure the buildings don’t infringe on the flora or fauna,” says Kevin Kelly, president of Canyon Ranch. “Most of the mature trees have been identified as not to be touched, and any trees that are touched have to be replaced.”
The resort will include a 78-room boutique hotel, a Gary Player rain-forest golf course, a beach club, nine miles of hiking trails, an activity center, and a 61,000-square-foot spa complex that guests will reach via a bridge that leads into the reception area and surrounding gardens. Spa-goers will have access to any of 25 treatment rooms, a reflecting-pool pavilion, and an assortment of exercise studios.
Like the Canyon Ranch resort in Tucson, the Costa Rican property will emphasize a holistic approach to health and wellness, combining treatments with regionally inspired programs such as day trips to volcanoes. Guests will be able to meet with various health professionals, participate in medical programs, and take classes from experts who teach core fitness, Reiki, and other practices.
In 2011, not far from Canyon Ranch, Miraval will open inside the Cacique Costa Rica development—the first venture of AOL cofounder Steve Case’s Revolution Places. Cacique will feature 650 acres of small communities and amenities, including a One&Only resort, 30 homes for Exclusive Resorts members, a Tom Doak golf course, and the first Agassi-Graf Tennis and Fitness Center. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated facility at Cacique is Miraval, a 50-acre, family-friendly resort that will meld the Tucson company’s live-better/feel-better ethos with programs unique to the tropical setting.
“We believe that when you’re in Costa Rica, you should feel like you’re in Costa Rica,” says Miraval CEO John Vanderslice, “so we’ll design with local elements throughout the resort.” To that end, Miraval will feature a low-profile, eco-sensitive design; local stone and wood structures; and a “living wall” comprising vines, morning glories, and fragrant monkey comb. Ultimately, the property will include 90 guest rooms, 30 villas, an equestrian center, private beach clubs, and a garden that will produce the ingredients for the resort’s Latin-influenced menu.
At Miraval’s core, a 15,000-square-foot, 13-?pool compound will provide guests with an oasis for relaxation. “In addition to having 41 treatment rooms and four couples’ rooms,” says Vanderslice, “the complex will contain seven tree houses elevated on stilts within a garden setting, and four 630-square-foot spa suites.”