Our family couldn’t flee frostbitten New York for balmy Costa Rica fast enough this winter. We touched down in Liberia (hello again, humidity) after a four-hour flight, and we still had a two-hour drive in fading daylight ahead of us to Nosara, a sleepy seaside village on the playa-populated Nicoya Peninsula.
Not to worry, pure excitement would make the car trip tick by in a blink, because we were headed to my happy place: the Harmony Hotel. I’d first discovered this rustic-luxe surfer’s hideout during a photography assignment a few years ago, and I’d been drawn back every year since.
It was dark by the time we pulled in, but the smiling (and handsome) staff members were right there to welcome us. They swapped out the bags in our hands for cool glasses of ginger-infused lemonade, and, not missing a beat, the woman at check-in rang up the restaurant to have a table ready for us once we’d freshened up. We didn't even have to ask.
Shown to our spacious, private bungalow, we peeled off the lingering layers that had no place in this tropical climate. Luxurious linens hugged the king-size bed, the shower looked large enough for our entire family and an oversized tub peered straight out into the jungle. French doors swung open to a peaceful patio garden with a gorgeous outdoor shower and a hammock (the ideal reading and siesta spot).
I’m a big fan of products, and Harmony does not disappoint. Everything smells fantastic here thanks in part to the exclusive Red Flower potions, a New York-based line that specializes in natural, botanical ingredients.
That organic lotion (and soap… and shampoo) that you’ll want to line your luggage with for the return trip, is just one of the many discretely eco-conscious considerations here. The drinking water is filtered through their grey-water system, the property composts and uses solar-powered water heaters.
The staff also works with a local non-profit to protect the nearby sea turtle habitats. And, the artfully layered plants and trees framing the pathways through the property and down to the beach, are all native.
It’s easy to understand why anyone who spends even a few days here would want to preserve this unspoiled pop of paradise. There are mornings at home when I’d rather dive back under the covers, however, early morning is the most magical time of day here. I’d grab a coffee and a freshly baked treat from the juice bar and my son and I would wander the grounds to witness the jungle as it shook off the night. We’d watch lizards dart underfoot, laugh at howler monkeys bouncing in the trees and listen to the birds squawk.
One morning, on a recommendation from the hotel, I attempted to catch waves with instructors from the Nosara Tico surf school. The hotel is just steps from Playa Guiones, a pristine Pacific Ocean break that draws in a mix of experienced and beginner surfers to its consistent waves.
The fine sand beach with bath-warm water makes for ideal learning conditions – and there’s not a wetsuit in sight. The instructors were so positive and you can’t beat the high of popping up on the board to catch a glistening-green wave (even a small one).
Surfing took most of my energy, but I also attempted a couple of aerial yoga lessons at the hotel spa. An experienced teacher took me through a series of inversions where I was suspended from a hammock-like net hanging from the ceiling. She attended to every pose to make sure I was getting the most from my experience. But the location alone – a jungle-facing open-air rancho – was energizing enough.
It’s easy to get into a mellow routine of sorts here – early mornings, beach time and plenty of trips to the juice bar. This traditional thatched-roof hut in the heart of the property is just the spot to refuel with a fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie, and their fresh, healthy salads are perfect for lunch, too.
Food is no afterthought at Harmony. There is an organic farm on-site and the chef sources an amazing variety of local ingredients for his sophisticated dishes. I loved starting my day with the poached eggs with dill and sun-ripened tomatoes served with local fruits, and my kids would gobble down banana pancakes or cinnamon oatmeal. They also couldn’t get enough of the sushi – especially the rolls made with melt-in-your-mouth-fresh tuna – and Mr Smith and I indulged in catch-of-the-day for every dinner.
It’s not easy to leave the Harmony bubble, but the hotel connected us with a reliable babysitter one evening so Mr Smith and I could sneak away for dinner at locals’ favorite La Luna. We stolled along the beach and dove in for a quick swim (dinner attire: ocean-chic). Seated outside on the breezy veranda, we lingered over drinks and a delicious dinner as we watched the sun dip into the water. Just perfect – as every day seems to be here.
Yep, I’m ready to book my next trip to the Harmony Hotel…