Honeymooning at Hacienda AltaGracia
After becoming Mrs. Tennant it was vital that Tommy and I had an unforgettable honeymoon because we were doing long distance at the time. We focused our search on resorts that targeted our need for relaxation, adventure and, of course, incredible food. We eventually honed in on Central America and after a lot of research we chose the 5-star resort of Hacienda AltaGracia in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica. It is one of a handful of boutique accomodations in the Auberge Resorts Collection, an exclusive brand that excels in service, décor, experiences and food & beverage. Set among lush rainforest and rolling mountains it’s no wonder that they have been consistently rated as one of the best resorts in Central America since 2016.
Costa Rica is known for its unwavering environmental policies and Hacienda AltaGracia excels in incorporating cultural, eco-friendly and sustainable practices across the entire resort. Specifically, you can expect to find ingredients from their sustainable 20-acre farm being utilised in all of their restaurants, an on-site aquifer to produce clean drinking water, a variety of activities to explore nature and the Costa Rican (also known as Tico) culture, and especially the use of electric golf carts to drive guests around their vast property. Even our accommodation was next level as we stayed in a one bedroom casita (little house). This 1,500 square foot space was our home for a week and came complete with a fireplace, living room, massive bathroom and a panoramic terrace overlooking the mountains. Their exterior mimicked the traditional rural homes in the area, yet the interior décor beautifully combined natural textures and modern touches – think floor to ceiling glass windows, leather seating, handwoven rugs, dark wood furniture and granite tiling. It was common to see natural materials like stone, leather, wood and thatch being incorporated across the resort’s spa, restaurants, library and pools as well. My husband was particularly fond of the palapas, a traditional high-ceiling thatch structure with lounge furniture and hammocks where he could take his afternoon nap.
These are just some of the reasons why we chose this resort, but read on as I breakdown the transportation, activities and foodie experiences you can expect to have there.
There is no simple or inexpensive way to get to Hacienda Altagracia, but they say nothing worth having comes easy. Guests can only reach the resort via plane or car and this can range from driving yourself, flying to a nearby airfield or taking a private plane directly to the resort. Being that it was our honeymoon we obviously splurged on our transportation. Though we would have taken a private plane to and from San José Airport, we were unable because this service only runs from dawn til dusk. We therefore had to go by car on our arrival to Costa Rica and this journey entailed driving through winding mountain roads…late at night…for three hours! There was no way that we were capable of driving ourselves, so we organised a private chauffeur with Hacienda AltaGracia to ensure that we arrived promptly and safely. Luckily, we were able to fly on their private plane on our return journey home. Not only is this much quicker than driving (30 minutes to be exact), but we got some lasting impressions of Costa Rica from above, including spectacular views of neighbouring towns, the Pacific coast and lush mountains.
What To Do
Some of your vacation will include lounging by the pool, napping in hammocks, walking along the trails, or playing chess in the library, but there are so many other things for you to do too! Hacienda AltaGracia offers a selection of on-site and off-site activities and they are easy to schedule through the resort’s concierge ahead of time or while you are there. We both wanted to take advantage of the on-site activities, and surprisingly many of them are complimentary. Some of their complimentary activities included horse feeding at the equestrian centre, a hike to their farm La Huerta with the chef, mid-day meditation, morning yoga, tropical fruit tasting and more. Being that Tommy and I are a chef-epicurean duo, you can only imagine how excited we were to tour the farm with the chef as he picked produce for that night’s dinner special.
The resort sits on 850 acres of land and you can expect to find flora, fauna and streams all around you. Guests are provided a map of the trails to peruse at their own leisure, but we wanted to learn more about our surroundings so we paid for a private guide. Though we were advised that an ocelot could be hiding in the trees we never ran into one sadly (or luckily!). If walking through the rainforest for sixty plus minutes isn’t your schtick, then I’d implore you to use the resort’s mountain bikes or horses to explore instead.
A trip to Hacienda AltaGracia would not be complete without a trip to their luxurious spa. With an array of treatments from coffee body wraps to cleansing facials and couple’s massages, you are sure to feel pampered. The pool at the spa is definitely instagram-worthy and gave an unobstructed rainforest view as we soaked in the hot tub, swam in the pool or enjoyed a light lunch. Note that all guests can access the spa’s pool even if you aren’t having a treatment, so make sure to visit even for a quick photo op.
Most of our experiences may have been on-site, but we made sure to do a few activities off of the premises.
Even though it was a 45 minute drive each way, ziplining was the ‘must-do adventure activity’ of our vacation. I may have found the seven ziplines to be shorter than I’m used to, but I still loved whizzing through a cloud forest at high speeds. The guides were a lot of fun and they even roped us in (pun intended) to doing a bonus activity at the end of the tour. Turns out we said ‘yes’ to walking across a wobbly suspended bridge to a 100 foot platform. From there the guides helped us repel to the ground. It felt like a literal free fall and was a thrilling way to end our tour, but is definitely not recommended for the faint of heart.
We made sure to throw in an epicurean adventure as well by booking the guided tour around the San Isidro Farmer’s Market. Our guide drove us 20 minutes into San Isidro and toured us around the entire market, with a few introductions to some of her family and friends who had stalls. The locals graciously allowed us to try new exotic fruits like banana passionfruit, fresh local cheese, honey, sugarcane juice, and even hot sauce and kombucha. This was by far our favourite experience because we got a glimpse into the Tico culture, whilst also tasting, shopping and learning more about the region’s produce.
Where To Eat
You may decide to venture off the property to a restaurant in town, but we were very happy with staying on-site for all of our meals. Hacienda AltaGracia has three main restaurants that are run by Chef Ramces Castillo. His style of cuisine focuses on combining his classical training with bold Latin American flavours and ingredients. Each restaurant has its own unique theme and serves specific meals each day i.e. breakfast, lunch or dinner. Assuming that your stay is more than a few days you should be able to experience all three of these incredible restaurants.
Ambar is the signature restaurant of the resort and this venue serves breakfast daily and dinner most evenings. During breakfast you could choose to sit inside or dine out on the terrace. Their morning menu served continental breakfast items including eggs benedict, pancakes and huevos rancheros, but they also served a few regional dishes. Every morning Tommy ordered the ‘Tico Breakfast’, which came with gallo pinto (a traditional combination of pinto beans and rice), eggs, a homemade tortilla, sour cream, sweet fried plantains and local cheese. Whenever dinner was served in Ambar the restaurant completely transformed into a fine dining establishment with crisp white tablecloths, detailed service and elevated Latin American cuisine. I’d recommend trying one of their farm-to-table inspired cocktails from their coolly designed sunken bar before you sit down at your table.
Lunch across the property was covered by El Bistro, a quaint restaurant in the centre of the resort. You could dine there or access their menu at different locations including the spa pool area and the adults-only pool, Vista Verde. Their menu offerings ranged from light bites of ceviche, salads, and chips with salsa, to more filling sandwiches, flatbreads, burgers and more. Each day varied, but we always made sure to order regional dishes like fresh heart of palm ceviche, casado, and arroz con pollo (chicken and rice).
To ensure guests don’t get bored of eating at Ambar every night, the resort changes things up and serves dinner twice a week at The Grill. This restaurant and bar is dimly lit and features a casual, rustic décor. The uniqueness of this space is that it is inside of a riding arena at the equestrian centre. The Grill’s theme is based on a Latin American paradilla menu - think grilled meats, sides and sauces. The atmosphere here was more relaxed, included live music and also served delectable comfort food.
If you want a romantic evening for two then be aware that Hacienda AltaGracia can make that happen. On our final night we decided to do a private dinner at a secluded venue on the property. Chef Ramces and his team created a phenomenal five course menu utilising seasonal ingredients and quality products. For our dinner location we requested to dine under a palapa because it felt like the perfect way to end our honeymoon. Chef Ramces and his team executed the meal beautifully and we enjoyed his innovative take on the foie gras, rack of lamb, sea bass and even the salad course. We weren’t looking forward to leaving the next day, but in those last hours we chose to dance to our wedding song one last time.
We honestly had the most extraordinary honeymoon at Hacienda AltaGracia in so many ways. From the beginning their concierge team was so responsive in helping us book all of our meals and activities. Once we got there we were given exceptional service, witnessed their dedication to the environment, devoured all of their farm-to-table meals, and had a blast partaking in memorable activities. All of these things made sure that our honeymoon was filled with adventure, fun, laughter and love. Hacienda AltaGracia will always hold a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to explore the other 19+ resorts in the Auberge Resorts Collection. ¡Pura vida!