There is a certain lifestyle that comes with city living, the days are somehow sped up, always short on time and heavy on the hustle. Stepping into my Punta Islita suite I saw the tropical view and felt the ocean wind on my cheeks. But my mind was still running a mile a minute. Looking out through the bathroom picture window my eyes locked eyes with a small deer, two of us staring at each other divided only by a single pane of glass. The warm air settled on my skin and the time slowed, it was a kind of calm I haven’t experienced in ages.
Located on the Pacific Coast of Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, a distance away from the bustling tourism-heavy towns, Punta Islita is a natural heaven deeply rooted in the traditional ‘Tico’ lifestyle. Designated as one of the world’s five Blue Zones – regions where people live longer – the Pura Vida mindset is woven into the hotel experience, inviting guests to taste, smell, and live the pure life firsthand.
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The trip was hosted by the property, which did not review or approve the story.
The hotel property stretches down the hill towards the ocean where guests can relax in the shade of palm trees. But Punta Islita is not just a resort. There is a noticeable synergy between the hotel and the nearby town of the same name. It is a loving, co-dependant relationship fostered by the community that Islita has become. The majority of the hotel staff live nearby and have been a part of the Punta Islita development for generations. This calm character of the location is also beginning to bring in a new generation who flock from the big city in search of something more pure.
Pura Vida: quite literally the two words mean “pure life” but it stands for a lot more. “It’s our way of saying hello, making you feel welcome or saying goodbye in a happy way”govisitcostarica.com
One early morning I met a hotel tour guide, Jorge, for an off-road exploration of the region. We drove weaving through hills and dusty jungle roads stopping to soak in the ocean view or let a family of pissotes pass by. A scheduled stop at Rosalita Beach allowed me to see one of nature’s most intimate moments: arribada. On this day hundreds of Kemp Ridley turtles emerge from the sea to lay eggs. Completely unaware of their surroundings the females fall into a trance. I stood there, watching them from a distance, feeling like I was invading their private moments. But as time has shown human presence is important during this ritual to help these vulnerable mothers keep vultures at bay.
The neighbouring communities are built in a pattern: a school, a church, a football build, a bar. The town of Islita is very much the same but rejuvenated by the hotel over the years. In some ways, Islita is an extension of the property itself. There are a handful of local restaurants, a museum, and an open-air art gallery sharing the space with the school. These community properties were rebuilt by the hotel which now sustains them.
Note: Make sure to collect your Marriot Bonvoy* points during this stay.
In no time this place began to feel like home, filled with new friends and kind acquaintances. I found myself waking up at an ungodly hour with the sun. Unlike at home my days would now start with scenic yoga on the deck followed by blissful breakfasts by the pool. Macaws rifling in the trees above. A neatly arranged fruit plate followed by a “healthy coconut ice cream” – cold, crunchy, delectable, exploding with flavour one spoon at a time. Each ingredient is carefully sourced from the community or grown right here on the property.
The gastronomic concept at the hotel is described as agro-marine, following a simple kilometro-zero ingredient rule. During my visit, I got to spend time with the hotel Chef, Federico Lizano, who prides himself on their 100% sustainable menu built only on what the region has to offer. “You have to know where the ingredients come from,” he stressed pointing at a fresh bowl of tuna ceviche. “That’s why we don’t serve salmon, it’s not local to us”.
Chef Federico moved to Islita not too long ago, leaving the hustle of a big city behind and moving closer to the “sources of good produce and a place that can provide a platform for his creativity”. His cuisine is a reflection of local tradition elevated by modern twists and techniques, expertly executed one plate at a time.
The culinary experience is just one of the many things that bring the Blue Zone concept to life. Paired with slow living, ancestral healing, and community embrace the Pacific Coast of Nicoya Peninsula is one of its kind. It is calm and serene, rich with lush wilderness and a wealth of wildlife lurking in the shady distance. And here at the tip of it in Punta Islita, time can slow to a whisper, if you allow it.
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR and Fuji XF 23mm f/2 R WR lenses. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xocostarica22.