We spent last week visiting the top luxury travel agents in the US, telling them all about our Cayuga Collection hotels and lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. The feedback we received from them about their clients’ stays with us was overwhelmingly positive, but what continues to surprise us is how many agents still take the easy route, selling their clients whatever is most convenient and accessible rather than advising them to consider the extraordinary destinations and experiences that might require a little bit of extra – but well worthwhile – planning.
In Costa Rica, the “easy” option is to book a flight to Liberia, get picked up by a big SUV with tinted windows and imported Fiji water, and drive over to a branded or all-inclusive beach resort for the week. Hardly the most authentic way to experience the culture of a country, but it works for some.
Not for us. As far as we’re concerned, magical places are seldom within a 30-minute drive of an international airport. There aren’t any direct flights to the little-known destinations that really leave an impression, nor to the far-flung tropical utopias that make their mark on the soul. It takes a bit of hardship and some extra effort to get to the really special places. But once you make it, there’s never a shred of doubt that the journey was totally worth it.
Take Isla Palenque as a great example. It’s a 400-acre private island in Panama’s sparkling Gulf of Chiriquí, rainforested right up to the shores of its seven sandy beaches. If you were to come from, let’s say, Washington DC, you’d first take an international flight to Panama City, then a domestic one to David where we’d pick you up and drive you for an hour to the little village of Boca Chica for the final 20-minute boat transfer to the island. To put it in the words of National Geographic’s CEO who visited us earlier this year, it’s “quite the schlepp, but totally worth it. What a place!”
Kurà in Uvita, Costa Rica, is another fine example. It’s set high in the hills overlooking the Marino Ballena National Park and its iconic Whale’s Tail sandbar, with miles and miles of unobstructed ocean and coastline views. To get there, you’d need to first fly to San Jose’s international airport, then take a 20-minute domestic flight followed by a 1-hour drive that takes you up a steep dirt road. Before you see the views, it all sounds complicated. But one look over the infinity pool across the spectacular horizon, and it’ll all make sense. Anywhere else that isn’t “off the beaten path” will never be quite the same.
It’s a similar case on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. To reach Puerto Viejo – home to Hotel Aguas Claras, our newest Cayuga Collection member – it’s also a bit of a trip. Your options are a 5-hour car transfer from San Jose or a 35-minute domestic flight followed by a 1-hour car ride. Not the most convenient trip arrangement, but if you go for it, you’ll be one of the few visitors to Costa Rica that actually get to explore the Afro-Costa Rican culture, the area’s raw natural beauty, and the tasty cuisine of the country’s “forgotten” coast.
More than before, there is some openness to inconvenience when it comes to travel. Santa Teresa in Costa Rica – famously challenging to reach – was described as the “new Tulum” by the New York Times a few years ago. Getting there from San Jose involves driving for 4 hours and taking a ferry ride, or taking a domestic flight from the capital combined with a 1-hour bumpy drive. And to reach Latitude 10° Resort, our Cayuga Collection hotel on the other side of town, you can add another 20 minutes to that. For those who embark on the journey, the reward is sweet: a secluded beach right in front of your room, no tourists, just warm waters and epic sunsets all to yourself.
But, for all those inspired to seek out these magical destinations, we do have some good news. There’s a way to ease the pain. Private charter flights and helicopter transfers are a great way to cut travel time. We can help you book them and of course, help you offset the carbon emissions that result.
So, the question remains. Where do you want to be? At an easy-to-reach resort, or a private island in Panama or Nicaragua? At an all-inclusive hotel or a low-key hideaway on the beach or in the hills? Now let’s make it happen.