Pura vida” is a popular greeting among Costa Rican residents. It means “full of life” or “life is good” — and perfectly captures the essence of this colourful country. Teeming with orchids, tropical rainforests and wildlife, Costa Rica treasures its reputation as the world’s greenest country. Almost 30 per cent of this country, including much of the coastline, is protected. This commitment to everything green makes it a popular choice for couples who want to support the planet while they celebrate. But going green doesn’t mean roughing it. Although best-known as an eco-destination, Costa Rica is fast becoming a celebrity magnet thanks to an ever-expanding roster of upscale resort hideaways for A-listers and their entourages. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen led the trend with her purchase of a multimillion-dollar beachfront property on Nicoya Peninsula, and other celebs soon followed. Many are drawn to Costa Rica for special occasions such as weddings, honeymoons and vow renewals. Others, such as Steven Tyler, who headed here after the 10th season of American Idol, simply love the country’s seclusion. For a growing number of couples, the magical combination of stunning beauty and privacy makes Costa Rica their choice for a destination wedding that’s in harmony with nature.
Rock star beach resorts
The beautiful crystal waters and sandy shores of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast have welcomed many VIPs. Singer-songwriter Pink and motocross racer Carey Hart chose to hold their beachside wedding at the Four Seasons Papagayo near Guanacaste. This five-star hotel spans two beaches and its private villas, with sweeping ocean views, are perfect for A-listers who travel with an entourage of nannies, stylists, assistants and private security staff. The villas are also tops among couples planning large or multi-generational weddings. Large as it is, the Four Seasons also offers discrete privacy for those avoiding paparazzi, such as pop star Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz (lead singer of Fall Out Boy). Couples looking for red-carpet privacy will appreciate the breezy Canopy Plunge Pool Suite, a secluded unit perched on stilts, overlooking the bay.
Photo Abouve: The Four Seasons Papagayo is a celebrity favourite
Photo Credit: Four Season resorts
Award-winning Canadian songsters Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida (lead vocalist for Our Lady Peace) renewed their wedding vows on the beach at the RIU Guanacaste Hotel and Resort. The RIU offers four wedding package options, including the Free Package (minimum of five rooms booked and three nights stay), where couples pay only the minister and documentation fees. When it comes to creating together-time wedding memories, do as the celebs do and book a zipline adventure at the nearby Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour, where 24 launching platforms, three suspension bridges and three climbing trees offer thrilling views.
Even celebrities need to get away from the spotlight and reconnect with nature. Is there anything more primordial than a bubbling volcano? The Springs Resort and Spa was chosen as the setting of a Season 15 episode of ABC’s reality TV show The Bachelor — with good reason. This five-star boutique hotel, near La Fortuna, offers a romantic backdrop of hot mineral springs, cascading waterfalls and freeform pools overlooking Arenas Volcano. On clear nights you can even watch red lava spill from the volcano’s cone. The Springs Resort can host weddings of up to 150 people and offers elopement and destination wedding packages. Book the Honeymoon Vista Room and you’ll enjoy a hot mineral spring experience in the privacy of your own lushly landscaped garden terrace.
High in the hills above the capital city of San Jose lies Finca Rosa Blanca, a luxurious plantation inn that is said to have wowed celebrity guests Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon. The country’s first certified sustainable hotel, it holds five-leaf status, the highest accreditation granted by the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) Commission. Hold your wedding ceremony under a giant ficus tree surrounded by spectacular cloud forest and hike to nearby Poás Volcano for a memorable photo-op.
Gaia Resort and Reserve, an adults-only treetop retreat near Manuel Antonio National Park, is a favourite among the NYC Broadway theatre and fashion crowd. Set within its own rainforest reserve and a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, its green commitment is demonstrated by solar energy, recycling and water conservation practices. The Terra Spa at Gaia offers a full menu of relaxing pre-wedding services.
If a secluded bungalow with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities appeals to your sense of adventure, then Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Wildlife Reserve is for you. Set on 400 hectares (988 acres) of protected rainforest in the pristine Osa Peninsula, this wilderness retreat is a model of environmental and social sustainability, holding five-leaf certification. Its celebrity guest list includes heads of state and others who want to escape the spotlight. Couples can enjoy a secluded dinner by a waterfall accompanied by a live soundtrack of red-eyed frogs, howler monkeys and scarlet macaws. Or you can plant a tree in the lodge’s private rainforest reserve and leave a lasting memorial to your unforgettable wedding. Whether it’s zipping through the rainforest canopy or walking hand in hand on a secluded beach, Costa Rica offers a nature-inspired setting for your wedding or honeymoon. Pura vida!
If you go
Costa Rica is a year-round destination, although the low season (mid-May to November) is known as the green season due to daily rainfall. Guanacaste is the driest province. Wedding Documentation Requirements: Allow a minimum of two months for completion of paperwork, which includes:
• an original birth certificate for both of you;
• a Single or Civil Status Certificate of both persons (statement in lieu of certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad) authenticated by Foreign Affairs Canada; call 613 994-4000 or visit www.international.gc.ca;
• if previously married, a certified copy of the divorce or death certificates;
• documents must be certified (before arrival) by the Consulate of Costa Rica, no more than six months prior to the ceremony; fees apply; and
• two witnesses (non-relatives preferred) with passports valid for at least six months or a Costa Rican identity card (if Costa Rica citizens). Documentation requirements are subject to change (visit www.costaricaembassy.com).
Four Seasons Resort Papagayo
Finca Rosa Blanca
Riu Guanacaste Resort
Costa Rican Tourism Board
Several major airlines fly direct to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and to Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia. Due to road conditions, land transportation can be slow in Costa Rica, so consider Nature Air, a carbon-neutral airline, for in-country flights to resorts (www.natureair.com). Another option is a private tourist shuttle, from hotel to hotel, offered by Interbus (www.interbusonline.com).
By Michele Peterson
Photos provided by: Four Seasons Resorts