San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Two Luxury Resorts Planned on Pacific Coast

Come 2008, Costa Rica will be home to two new luxury resorts, hundreds of additional hotel rooms, and thousands of new jobs, if projects announced this month by two international hotel chains go as planned.

The development landscape of Guanacaste changed significantly last week when Hyatt Hotels and Resorts announced plans to build a 557-acre resort – complete with a 214-room, 100-condominium hotel, an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman and more than 1,000 residential units – in the northwestern province. The first phase of construction, expected to last two years and require an investment of $100 million, will begin in July; the entire project is expected to be completed in five to seven years.

Meanwhile, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Costa Rican development firm Grupo Genesis announced plans this week to build a new hotel, St. Regis Resort, on the Central Pacific coast. The resort will feature 133 rooms, a dramatic cliff-top presidential suite, a spa and residences, according to a statement from Starwood Hotels.

News of the two developments came just days after President Oscar Arias and Tourism Minister Carlos Benavides called for renewed nationwide efforts to strengthen Costa Rica’s tourism industry and make the country an attractive option for foreign investment (TT, May 19). When Arias arrived at the Hotel Real Intercontinental May 11 for the swanky Hyatt launch event, he said the international company’s impending arrival makes it still more important for the government to improve infrastructure in Guanacaste and throughout the country.

“This fills us with happiness on the one hand and concerns on the other,” Arias said as he arrived at the Intercontinental. He added that the Hyatt’s Azulera will heighten the need for significant attention to the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste’s capital.


Large-Scale Intimate Lodging


Project leaders say construction of the Hyatt Regency Azulera Resort & Spa – between Playas Tamarindo and Flamingo, 200 miles northwest of San José and 40 miles southwest of the international airport in Liberia – will be conducted with the environment, as well as nearby town of Brasilito, in mind.

“We’re developing with great sensitivity,” said Ronald Zürcher, head of Zürcher Arquitectos de Costa Rica, which will execute the designs created by U.S.-based Michael Graves & Associates. According to Patrick Burke ofMichael Graves, the design concept is based on allowing guests to experience nature.

“We didn’t try to over style the architecture,” he said, adding that the designs focus on local materials. “It’s a real, authentic paradise.”

The resort will offer guests and residents a full-service spa, a gym, beach access, a saltwater pool next to the ocean, and a variety of freshwater pools, as well as a banquet hall, conference rooms and gardens. One of the many bars and dining areas throughout the resort will be located at the highest point of the property, looking out over the ocean and Isla Loros, just offshore, over a series of infinity pools.

Despite the size and scope of the project, Burke said the architects have worked to create “intimate spaces” that “blend the notion of indoors and outdoors.

“The intent is to allow you to feel like you’re living outdoors… that’s exciting for someone coming from Minnesota,” he said.

With this in mind, approximately 20% of the property will be developed; the rooms will be scattered throughout, each with its own private terrace, and each group of rooms with its own patio, gardens and pool.

Buildings will be low-rise, with the goal that the greenery will dominate and only the roofs will be visible, Burke said.

Several of the resort’s services, including the beach, spa and restaurants, will be open to the public, along with a facility designed “to work for both the town (of Brasilito) and the resort,” according to Burke: a “Village Market” of retail and office space. This space, on the side of the resort closest to Brasilito, will house a grocery store, pharmacy and laundromat, along with office space and a medical center – something Brasilito lacks, Burke said.

“This isn’t a project that will be behind walls,” added Zürcher, who estimated the resort will create 2,000-2,500 jobs during construction. “It will be integrated into the community.”

Norman, the 20-time U.S. PGA winner, will design the ocean-view, par-32 golf course, complete with driving range, putting green, club and bar. More than 200 golf-course villas will flank the course.

The Chicago-based Global Hyatt Corporation, which encompasses the Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Park Hyatt brands, has 215 hotels and resorts with more than 90,000 rooms in 44 countries, according to

New Jersey-based Global Financial Group is financing the project.


News on the Central Pacific


Zürcher Arquitectos is also charged with the design of the new St. Regis Resort and Residences at Playa Coyol, near the Marriott Los Sueños resort on the Central Pacific. Representatives from the international Starwood chain, as well as Miami, Florida-based hotelier Lionstone Development, promise the resort will bring a new level of luxury to Costa Rica.

“We are excited to work with the prestigious St. Regis brand, as well as one of the top developers in Costa Rica, to create one of the most exclusive real estate and resort  offerings in Latin America,” Diego Lowenstein, CEO of Lionstone, said in the statement.

The site spans 250 acres and is expected to generate 2,000 jobs during construction and another 2,000 once the hotel is open, according to wire service ACAN-EFE. Guestrooms, designed by Cheryl Rowley Associates of Beverly Hills, California, will have terraces with showers, netted daybeds and “relaxation coves.”

Construction plans include 49 condominiums, 42 deluxe villas and nine estate homes. Like the Hyatt resort, the St. Regis is scheduled to open in 2008 and will be built using materials indigenous to the area, the statement said.

The Starwood chain operates hotels in 95 countries, with brands including Sheraton,Westin and Le Meridien; St. Regis is the company’s luxury brand, with sites in Anguilla, New York, Bali, Mexico City and Singapore, among other locations. St. Regis Resort and Residences Costa Rica is the group’s first investment in Costa Rica.

Grupo Genesis is known for its Forum Office Park in Santa Ana, southwest of San José.


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