Against the backdrop of the PicoBlancoMountains in the western San José suburb of San Antonio de Escazú, the newly opened Costagenics Medical Spa at White House Costa Rica hotel boasts one of the only “age management” centers in Central America. The spa offers complete medical tourism packages and a unique fusion of medical and beauty services for those seeking to evade the effects of time.
Medical Tourism Packages
From liposuction and breast implants to dental work and LASIK eye surgery, most medical services in Costa Rica can run as low as a third of the cost of the same procedures in North America. A growing number of North Americans are visiting the country for this reason. According to Brian Frazee, general manager of White House Costa Rica, Costagenics spa has hosted clients from across North America, as well as Western Europe and Costa Rica.
“Medical tourism is a rapidly expanding market among baby boomers who have discretionary time and finances,” says White House hotel guest James Mullen, 57.Mullen, who lives in Naples, Florida, under the constant care of an age-management specialist, says Costa Rica is an ideal place for medical tourism. According to Mullen, the benefits of the location include “world-class cosmetic surgery, a desirable location, English-speaking professionals, proximity to the United States and relatively inexpensive cost.”
Jussara Loureiro, the Brazilian-born coowner of White House Costa Rica, developed the concept for Costagenics.
“It’s a complete spa with medical tourism and checkups,” Loureiro says. “We want to pamper you beyond your imagination.”
Costagenics’ medical tourism package begins with an initial consultation with experienced age-management professionals. From there, the spa can arrange international plane tickets, airport pickup in a Hummer or Ford Excursion, transportation to the hotel and surgery appointments at San José hospitals. Once a patient has arrived in Costa Rica, Costagenics offers on-site pre-operation exams and transportation to and from surgery. Post-surgery care includes recovery at the hotel’s luxurious accommodations and access to hotel amenities.
Patients recuperate in one of 15 unique suites, each named after a U.S. President. Guests can stay in the Bill Clinton penthouse offering a 360-degree view of the Central Valley and mountains, or they can opt for the Camp David poolside bungalow. A physician and nurse are on call 24 hours a day to answer questions and provide medical support. Regretfully, not all rooms are wheelchair accessible; however, the hotel can provide a golf cart for easy transportation around the grounds, including the helicopter landing pad, outdoor 14-person Jacuzzi and heated pool.
During recovery, patients can dine on meals created by Jeff Holley, the U.S. chef at the Capital Grill restaurant, whose menu includes USDA-certified Black Angus beef, fresh Pacific tuna, Chilean salmon and jumbo lobster from the Mosquito Coast. If a patient’s post-surgery craving is for home cooking, his or her requests can be accommodated.
“If you want comfort food, our chef will cook you anything you could want,” Loureiro says. “He likes a challenge.”
Holley, 43, who is also a client of Costagenics, says, “Your body is a natural pharmacy – all you have to do is tap into that resource.”
Medical tourists can enjoy on-site entertainment at the Jazz West Wing Casino, including Ladies’ Night every Friday, poker tournaments, rum, blackjack, craps and roulette.
If a guest is up for trips around the country, White House Costa Rica organizes travel by helicopter, Harley-Davidson or Hummer.
“We’ve got the largest selection of Harleys in Central and South America,” boasts coowner Regis Moreau.
The hotel’s Harley department offers Harley tours to attractions including La PazWaterfallGardens in Varablanca and nearby Poás Volcano, northwest of San José, Arenal Volcano in north-central Costa Rica, and Playa Jacó on the central Pacific coast. If tourists prefer traveling by air rather than land, they can be whisked away in the White House Bell 206. The helicopter seats four passengers plus the pilot, and can have guests at a beach in half an hour, as opposed to the two or three hours by land.
“We are in a historic time when baby boomers are getting old, and they don’t want to look old,” says Melissa Barrantes, Costagenics’ registered nurse.
The Costagenics age-management program aims to reduce what Dr. Ericka Salazar, Costagenics physician and manager, calls the “unpleasant effects of aging.” Wrinkles, loss of energy, mood changes, depression, sleep problems, low libido, decreased muscle mass and increased body fat are among the problems her patients seek to solve.
Costagenics spa has coordinated 13 plastic surgeries since opening in February. The bilingual staff forms a cohesive team of medical and beauty professionals, including two physical therapists, Elizabeth López and Elena Monestel.
“We have a complete support and referral system in place,” Salazar says. “We try to give an integral service, a system of wholeness.”
The Costagenics age-management program begins with a medical evaluation, a physical exam, lab tests, lifestyle recommendations, guidance and possible medication or hormone therapy, if necessary. Hormone therapy can start as early as age 30, but only if lab tests show an alteration in hormones.
After an initial evaluation, all patients are tested for hormone-related deficiency. If the deficiency is verified, they are offered replacement therapy. The team guides the patient through the entire process, continuing with age-management consulting and follow-up. According to Salazar, commercial age-management programs began 15 years ago in the United States, where several agemanagement facilities have sprung up. The term “age management” was coined when people realized “anti-aging” was an optimistic misnomer.
Dr. Daniel Stickler, a Charleston, West Virginia-based physician who recently presented an age-management seminar at Costagenics, says, “Deterioration of hormone levels is a natural part of aging; replacement of hormones is a way to treat the process.”
The Costagenics team abides by an agemanagement pyramid made up of nutrition, exercise and hormone replacement, bolstered by follow-up with medical staff and closely monitored lab work.
“The program includes weight, nutrition, social and personal aspects for total health and well-being,” Salazar says.
Down a short path and stairs from the hotel’s main building is the Costagenics spa. The soothing warm tones of the spa interior are accented by bright red tulips, roses and candles.
The spa offers glycolic acid peels, Botox treatments and sculpturing,which can be performed only by professionals. Plans for laser hair removal services are on the way. It also offers facials, waxing, manicures, pedicures, body wraps and hot stone massages with an exotic twist. Guests can opt for a Cleopatra milk bath in a large, petal-strewn private Jacuzzi, try a chocolate facial or a smoothie manicure, or enjoy a pearl body scrub for extravagant exfoliation. Guests are also entitled to free range of the elegant yet comfortable sauna, Turkish steam room and lounge.
Costagenics spa is the newest addition to a place with an interesting political history. The property was originally developed by the Shah of Iran as his private mansion. From 1978 to 1990 it remained private property.
In 1990 it was purchased by North Carolina native Richard Shambley, who converted it into Hotel Tara, inspired by the plantation setting from “Gone with the Wind.” In 2004 Regis Moreau purchased the hotel and converted the premises into White House Costa Rica.
With the addition of Costagenics spa, White House Costa Rica now offers one-stop shopping for high-end medical tourists.With everything taken care of, they can sit back and enjoy the Botox and a dazzling view of the Central Valley at 4,600 feet above sea level.
Getting There, Rates, Info
White House Costa Rica Hotel, Restaurant, Casino and Spa is located 600 meters south of the San Antonio de Escazú Cemetery. From San José, take the pista to Escazú and take the first exit toward Escazú Centro. Going through San Rafael de Escazú, pass the McDonald’s on the left and a Shell gas station on your right. Stay in the left lane and go straight through the Scotiabank intersection. From here, signs will direct you to White House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa.
Room rates are $200-400 a night, including continental breakfast. For reservations, call 288-6365, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.whitehousecostarica.com.
Costagenics Spa Services
Spa services, age-management consultations or medical tourism information can be arranged by appointment by calling 558-0110 or, from the United States, (954) 636-2550/5381. White Pearl Body Polish: $50 (45 minutes) Cleopatra Warm Bath: $20 (20 minutes) Chocolate Facial: $65 (50 minutes)
Transportation and Tourism
Hummer rental (including driver): $50 per hour Ford Excursion rental (including driver): $30 per hour Bell 206 helicopter rental (including pilot): call for info Harley rental: $150 per day