AltaGracia redefines luxury in San Isidro de El General

February 12, 2015

Even among high-end accommodations, there is a rare breed of hotel that overshadows the others with mind-blowing luxury: AltaGracia has stables full of purebred horses, an infinity pool overlooking a vast valley, and its own airstrip – allowing planes and helicopters to land directly on the 340-hectare property.

That alone would make AltaGracia an unusual addition to the culture of San Isidro de El General, the working-class town at the foot of the Talamanca mountains. San Isidro is generally known as a stop on the Pan-American Highway, where fast-food restaurants and sugar cane fields dominate the landscape. To put it mildly, opulent hilltop hotels are not the norm.

But when the brand-new AltaGracia opens in June, it will boast other extreme distinctions as well: The “equestrian experience” will take place on the largest riding ring in Central America, and the health and wellness center promises to be the largest spa and indoor pool facility on the isthmus. The hotel offers multiple restaurants, showcasing the work of acclaimed Vietnamese chef Chau Doan.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Until recently, AltaGracia was a functional hacienda, a massive estate draped over the hills above San Isidro de El General. About four years ago, the Esquivel family began a massive construction project, converting 32 of their hectares into patios, gardens, restaurants, and lodging. The casitas can house roughly 150 guests, and most accommodations are about the size of a functional house, complete with wide-screen TVs, garden-shrouded patios, and a sophisticated aesthetic that blends the modernist drawing room with a Victorian hunting lodge.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Even as Costa Rica increasingly caters to upscale vacationers – think of those all-inclusive resorts in Manuel Antonio and Papagayo – AltaGracia will appeal only to serious jet-setters: Lodging at AltaGracia will cost between $695 and $1,300 per night, and amenities include voluminous bathrooms, décor commissioned exclusively by Costa Rican artists, an iPad in every room, and a chef who can give you private cooking lessons in your casita’s kitchen.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Still, AltaGracia’s owners have a social mission as well: San Isidro is legendary for its labor exodus. Over the years, thousands of local workers have migrated to the United States in pursuit of better-paying jobs. If you spend time in San Isidro, it won’t take long to meet an English-speaking resident with an impeccable New Jersey or Carolinian accent. The Esquivel family hopes that the hotel will enhance big-money tourism in the region, and to help combat the workforce drain, AltaGracia hired most of its staff from the San Isidro area.

And how do they like working here?

“I love it,” said one bartender. “I was working at another hotel nearby. I liked it there. It was a good job. But it’s much better here. Look at this view! It’s paradise.”’

For more information about AltaGracia, visit the hotel’s official website.

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