An unimpressive stand of bamboo on a rugged road is the only landmark for Los Elementos, perhaps one of the most luxurious estates in Dominical, a small town on the west coast of Costa Rica. Set on a 10-acre hillside overlooking the ocean, the ultra-private vacation home of a prominent American family, Los Elementos offers the amenities of a grand estate, but in that zen, laid-back way consistent with Costa Rica's reputation for fun and relaxation.
Given access through a nondescript entry, you are welcomed into the main and magical Villa de Agua where the likes of a British, Grammy-winning popstar and American tastemaker Martha Stewart have vacationed (not together).
You're probably parched after your two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Jose airport, (or still have a lump in your throat from the 20-minute flight by puddle-jumper). Fret not: The charming, thoroughly professional staff greets you with drinks served in freshly cracked coconuts. Guillermo, the dashing concierge/house manager and a team of housekeepers are at your service.
This 12,000-square-foot, three-story temple of tranquility — lavish without being glitzy — is done up in organic materials and artful Balinese imports. It sleeps eight in grace and comfort in four large master suites on different floors that feature every imaginable creature comfort down to woven beach bags.
But truth be told, you won't be spending much time in your rooms, as lovely as they are. It's the open-air main floor that beckons, with its hypnotic fountain and a sky-reflecting, vanishing-edge swimming pool and hot tub (it seats eight) that seem to sit atop the Pacific. The pool is deep enough to do laps but shallow enough to just stand around in with drink in hand (margaritas, mojitos and micheladas are delivered poolside).
If you like to cook, you'll love to do it here. There's the huge, well-equipped kitchen, along with several sitting and dining areas. There are nearby markets and the staff will be happy to make a run, with or without you. (You must try the fish caught daily – it is beyond). Don't buy eggs — there's always a huge bowl of them on the counter, courtesy of on-site hens. But if you can, splurge on one of the many talented area chefs who will happily deliver, cook, and serve a feast for you, family, and friends. (The biggest dining table can easily accommodate 14 and extends).
There are also some good restaurants nearby, including La Parcela, where the rugged coastline view is just gobsmacking, and playful Capuchin monkeys (remember Marcel from Friends?) sometimes turn up on the sidelines to entertain.
It's hard to leave the house but before you do, walk the grounds. Garden lovers, prepare to swoon. The homeowner is an avid horticulturist and there are hundreds of varieties of trees and flowers — orchids, bromeliads, water lilies, and ylang ylang, along with bananas, cocoa, and coconuts, and one of the largest collections of heliconia in Costa Rica. (Edo, the head gardener, will be delighted to tour you and also to bring fresh flowers and arrange them each day). Along the way, you'll spot brilliantly colored macaws in the trees along with iguanas and leggy jicanas, birds also known as lily trotters, that appear to be walking on water across the lily ponds.
For those who want to go beyond dipping, drinking, and curling up with a book in the cushy shaded loggia, there's plenty to do. Guillermo will set up any activity you can dream of — zip lining, ATV tours, surfing, horseback riding, waterfall hunting, hiking, kayaking, catamaran tours, even birding — most of it nearby. The ocean beach is just minutes away and virtually deserted. You can walk for miles, bring a picnic, or just capture the sunset in real time. One day we did a sunset walk with a small group and called the house to ask to have martinis waiting. They were. Spoiled rotten. Ask to book a yoga instructor and take a take a class under the soaring, arched roof on the top floor. Options abound.
One guest actually had a tattoo artist come to the house, and if you're feeling spiritual there are even shamans who will visit.
For smaller groups, or as an add-on, there's the luxe separate Villa del Lago, a traditional Balinese guest house that comfortably sleeps four, with its own vanishing edge pool and an architecturally stunning pagoda set on a breathtaking lily pond with a small waterfall where you can sit and absorb the moment or relax with cocktails.
A must: Before or after a hard day (everything is relative), book the house massage therapist Cynthia for her specialty "fusion" massage that combines aromatherapy and superb technique done on a private veranda on the edge of the jungle. It is a dreamy experience and so sensual that it's transportive.
The doting staff will prepare a typical Costa Rican breakfast for you on the sad day you leave consisting of rice, eggs, sausage, plantains, and homemade tortillas. As the locals say, "pura vida," which means pure life…or in the case of Los Elementos, life at its best.
For more information and rental prices go to loselementoscr.com.
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