WITH all the rushing around and seeing sights, visitors to Guanacaste may want a good reason to take a break from taking a break. If the sunshine and beaches aren’t enough, plenty of opportunities exist to let the stress slip away with mud baths, hot springs, seaweed wraps and healing stone massages.
In truth, Guanacaste’s natural surroundings not only provide the perfect backdrop for the relaxing techniques of holistic healing, but also some of the materials.
Depending on the type and spa, massage prices are between $60 and $80 for one hour. Wraps and scrubs are between $45 and $60 for 50 minutes. Packages are also offered at most spas, including a combination of manicure, pedicure, facial, massage or wrap, for between $100 and $200. Couples massages are also offered at most spas.
Casa Spa Punta Islita (661-4044, www.hotelpuntaislita.com) offers services such as Volcanic Mud Wrap, Guanacaste Citrus Scrub and Tropical Fruit Facial.
“We try to find the curative powers of the water and nature,” said Dorela Muica, manager of the spa at Punta Islita Resort near Corozalito on the NicoyaPeninsula.
Fusion Day Spa (670-0914) in Almendros de Ocotal, near Playas del Coco, also taps into local resources, offering a sea-salt body polish and a corn-andhoney exfoliation. And Serenity Spa (654-4501) at Paradisus Playa Conchal uses coffee to soften and exfoliate the skin.
WHILE to some these services may sound like just pampering, spa owners maintain the treatments – particularly massage – offer curative elements.
In addition to relaxing muscles and increasing circulation, research shows massage reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure and increases endorphins, according to Holisticonline.com.
The online resource also says massage improves alertness and performance in office workers, alleviates pain in migraine sufferers and helps premature infants gain weight faster.
“Some people are just looking for touch, which many don’t get enough of,” said Michael Gulla, part owner of La Vida Spa (682-8090) at The Sanctuary Resort in Playa Azul near Nosara. “Others have injuries, where deep-tissue massage helps, or chronic back problems. And for others it is just stress release. Most North American tourists come in here because they can’t unwind.”
La Vida Spa currently offers the traditional services of massage, facials, body wraps, nail care and energy therapy, such as reiki. Gulla is also in the process of expanding the spa to create a unique healing garden.
Seven rock pools, seating four people at a time, will feature various treatments based on themes and surrounded by appropriate gardens, Gulla said. For example, the Polynesian pool will be filled with green tea and ginger and the Costa Rican pool will be filled with warm mud.
Costa Rica’s volcanic mud is legendary for its therapeutic powers, according to spa owners. It not only draws toxins out of the body, but also imparts vitamins, minerals that nourish the skin.
AS if nature itself started the spa trend in Guanacaste, the area’s geology and volcanic activity provide more than just the ingredients for relaxation techniques.
Natural spas and mud baths can be found in or around Rincón de la Vieja and Tenorio national parks.
Approximately 25 kilometers northeast of Liberia, Rincón de la Vieja National Park offers the opportunity to bathe in hot springs and at least see the source of the mud that spas find so useful, although the extremely hot temperatures make bathing in it dangerous.
The park has two entrances – Las Pailas and Santa María – and charges a $6 entrance fee. An additional $3 is charged to use an access road necessary to arrive at the Las Pailas entrance.
The hot springs, which are completely natural, are about 3 km from the Santa María entrance. They can reach up to 42°C (115°F), according to Gerardo Vadilla, owner of Rinconcito Lodge (666-2764). Because no public transportation goes to Rincón de la Vieja, visiting requires a car, a tour or a stay at one of the area’s lodges, such as Rinconcito. These include Rincón de la Vieja Mountain Lodge (www.rincondelaviejalodge.com) , Buenavista Lodge (www.buenavistacr.com) and Hotel Borinquen (690-1900, www.borinquenresort.com).
The latter two facilities have private hot springs and offer some spa services.
“It is a way to enjoy what nature offers us, while being surrounded by that nature,” said Chester López of Hotel Boriquen.
NATURAL hot springs can also be found near the Río Celeste in Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio, about an hour and a half east of Liberia. Taxis are available to the park from the town of Bijagua.
Lodging is available at Heliconia Ecotourist Lodge (466-8483).
“People don’t come to Costa Rica just to hike and explore nature,” Punta Islita’s Muica said. “They also want to relax, and the natural surroundings of Guanacaste provide a wonderful place for this.”