Punta Islita, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotels, is the perfect luxury hideaway. Perched within the tropical forest on the hillside in Islita, Guanacaste, on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, this indulgent boutique-style hotel boasts everything a large resort offers…without the crowds. Punta Islita has spectacular ocean views, well-appointed suites, delicious dining, swim-up bars, private beach access, eco-adventures, and cultural experiences everyone will enjoy.
I stayed at Punta Islita during a three-week road trip I took with my friend, Connie. We drove throughout Costa Rica, and after a very rustic stay in Montezuma, Punta Islita was a welcome stop. The ocean views from our suite, Alma restaurant, and the adult-only pool on the hillside were nothing short of spectacular, and the light coastal breezes kept the warm Central American temperatures at bay.
Service with a Smile
One of the best things about a smaller luxury hotel is the service. The staff quickly learned our names and personal preferences. We felt very well attended to, and it was pleasant to chat with different servers and staff members about life in the area. Things just seemed to go at a slower, more relaxed pace in this magnificent place. My favorite thing to do was to relax in the adult pool with a cocktail and gaze out over the horizon. Connie prefers the beach, so we spent quite a bit of time in one of the comfortable cabanas on the beach watching kids surf, play in the sand or splash about in the family pool on the beach section of the hotel.
Dine on Deliciousness
The hotel has two restaurants: the Alma serves breakfast, dinner, and small plates, and the Aura is open for lunch and snacks on the beach. The Alma menu is seafood forward, although there are always other options. My favorite dishes included the grilled octopus with potato and chipotle aioli, and the tuna with baba ganoush, tempura shrimp drizzled with soy sauce, honey, oyster sauce, and cilantro. The chef does a fantastic job creating beautiful plates and combining the different textures and flavors.
When you rent a cabana on the beach at Punta Islita, it comes with special treats. Guests receive coconut water in the coconut for ultimate hydration; and while lounging about, they bring snacks from Aura. We loved the vegetable ceviche and chicken wings with pineapple and the strawberry mojitos were both tasty and refreshing.
The hotel offers a variety of activities. Connie and I joined the mixology class and learned how to make two different cocktails with Guapo, a local spirit similar to rum. One drink had a sour profile and contained the Guapo, lemon juice, muddled orange/lime, and simple syrup with a splash of sprite. The second cocktail was made with Guapo, lime juice, and a molasses syrup infused with cloves and cinnamon. I preferred the sweeter drink.
Join in the Action
Additional activities are available outside of the hotel. Marvin Seas, the customer service manager at the hotel, went above and beyond to make our stay unforgettable! We planned several events over the three days, and Marvin rearranged things several times so that we would enjoy them to the fullest. Sometimes the tides don’t cooperate or the heat may be too extreme. Marvin switched things to different times or days for us to have the most pleasurable time. Again, the service at Punta Islita was over the top.
Kayak in the Brackish Waters
We met our guides and rode in the van out to the Oso River about 30 minutes away. The brackish river was brown and looked like the perfect hideout for lurking alligators. Before leaving the Alma, one of our servers told us that the gators only like women. I detected his sense of humor, so I didn’t worry.
Ronald, our guide, led us downriver to where it met with the ocean. It was an exciting paddle, and we spotted a couple of howler monkeys and several colorful birds in the distance. Ronald pointed out the black and red mangroves along the way. The howler monkeys made a racket on our return trip; it felt like we had traveled through Jurassic Park. I was waiting for the jungle to begin swaying and expected a T-Rex to come out of the tropical forest.
Ride Horses on the Beach
We met with four other people to go riding later in the afternoon. Ronald was our guide again. We drove out to the barn, and we all mounted up. Shortly after I went through the gate on my trusted steed, Pinto, we had to stop as one of the young ladies who had never ridden before decided not to go. Ronald was compassionate. Since I was the most experienced rider, he left me in charge and took the young lady and her significant other back to the barn. He quickly returned, and we ventured on.
Connie and I had fun chatting with Ronald and the two additional guests. The male guest was comical. Before the ride, he let everyone know he was an experienced rider, and yet he struggled to get on the relatively short horse and kept yelling “Whoa” and “No” throughout the ride. It was a beautiful ride through the mountain property, into the mango groves, and out onto the beach and back.
Pamper Yourself at the Spa
When on vacation, it is essential to indulge oneself occasionally. I booked a spa treatment with Liseth. I donned a robe and slippers, and she described the local algae treatment that included a massage and a vitamin C & D bath. The massage room was clean and smelled fresh, and the room temperature was cool compared to the heat outside.
Liseth left and I got under the sheet. She returned and filled the blue-tiled bath with the vitamin solution and bubbles. She put a bola under my feet, applied the warm algae, and massaged away my tension with long, firm strokes. Her pressure was exceptional. She found the knots and used a little acupressure to release them. After she finished, she left the room and laid my robe over me while instructing me to get into the bath for 20-30 minutes. I climbed into the soothing bath and discovered a glass of rosé bubbles on the side of the tub. How delightful. Liseth seemed to know precisely what I needed. The treatment at Punta Islita made it into my all-time, top-five treatments. It was wonderful.
Sleep in Luxurious Comfort
At the end of an exciting yet exhausting day, there is nothing better than soaking in your private plunge pool and then snuggling into a comfortable canopied king-size bed. Our suite boasted two rooms, two bathrooms, and a spacious living area. A sliding glass door led to the patio featuring a hammock, plunge pool, chairs, a table, and a breathtaking view of the sea. When traveling with a friend, it is nice to have your own space once in a while. Connie and I loved relaxing each evening, reading in our rooms, spending days dining on tasty food, indulging in fun activities, and receiving the attentive, personalized care that the staff at Punta Islita gives to all of their guests.