Costa RicaCosta Rica

Waterfalls and Spa Treatments

Destination: Zarcero

To call this morning's breakfast hearty would be an understatement -- it began with home-baked bread, muffins, turnovers, juicy fruit, and yogurt followed by fresh-squeezed orange juice, pineapple juice, and coffee. Fabian ordered a vegetarian omelet while I breakfasted on a traditional dish made of toasted corn tortillas, eggs, pureed black beans, fresh cheese, guacamole, and salsa.

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My mother would call such filling fare a meal that "sticks to your bones" -- and that's exactly what we needed. We were energized for this morning's adventure: hiking the lodge's Mystery and Mystic Trails. As we climbed up a gravel path, which wound through the hotel's main grounds, we passed an organic garden and greenhouse, a small pond, and an eco-sanctuary.

Though we didn't discover the meanings behind the trail names, Fabian and I decided that the Mystery Trail must be named for its misty (and therefore mysterious) qualities. The picturesque path meandered through dense cloud forest, where low-hanging clouds created an ethereal ambiance. The rustic trail was so well maintained that even I -- the master of missteps -- felt secure enough to take my eyes off the route and focus on the greenery around us.

Birdsong echoed through the forest canopy and a rushing river serenaded us with its tranquil gurgling. There were no other sounds to be heard, and I felt like I was living inside the best nature/meditation soundtrack ever created. Though my heart pounded with exertion, I was overcome by a sense of calm. I remarked to Fabian that I could not imagine a better place to begin our life together (and recover from wedding planning!).

The hike was about to improve. As we rounded a bend, I saw a wooden sign indicating that we had reached the first of three waterfalls. We walked onto a small suspension bridge, and La Melodia Waterfall greeted us -- it was larger than I had imagined, careening over a rocky cliff and onto the boulders below.

Another 10 minutes delivered us to El Silencio, a cascade that eschewed its name -- its roar was so deafening that I could barely hear Fabian's exclamations of wonder. From our wooden perch, we could feel the water's spray, and I looked down to where the powerful current beat upon the river rocks. I took my husband's hand -- this was a special and very romantic moment, one in which I felt almost one with my surroundings.

The last waterfall, La Promesa, proved to be even more spectacular than the first two. Since we were climbing up a winding set of stairs, we didn't see the cascade until it was almost in front of us. There, in the clearing, was a large, natural swimming hole fed by a tumbling chute of water. Unlike the first two, this waterfall was almost quiet, keeping the din to a gentle murmur. Both Fabian and I stood in awe for a few moments before leaping into action to shoot photos from every angle. Though I was not in the mood for a swim, I dipped my fingers into the clear, mountain pool.

We decided to walk back along the Mystic Trail, which zigzagged down the river's opposite bank. Time had flown during our three-falls reverie, and we had to hurry back for lunch before the afternoon's luxurious spa treatment. Though we got lost briefly, we kept the river on our left and finally emerged at the lodge's restaurant. The four-mile journey had taken almost four hours, including time spent wondering at the beauty of nature.

After exercise, I'm rarely hungry, but today was different. I managed to devour a bowl of tortilla soup and a filling dish of rice, black beans, salad, fried plantains, and grilled tilapia. Fabian had another salad -- he was becoming a lettuce fiend -- and chicken kebobs. Stuffed, we walked back to our suite for an hour of downtime.

As my muscles cooled, I felt a deep ache set in -- the good kind that comes from a great hike. I was looking forward to working out the kinks with the spa's luscious Meditation Spa Duet. At 2:45, we crossed the river and followed the forest signs to the spa -- it was set back from the hotel, offering total seclusion. When we arrived, meditation tunes played in the background and aromatic oils wafted through the air, enlivening my senses.

Fabian and I were ushered into separate bathrooms, where our spa therapists -- Giselle and Jennifer -- gave us cushy bathrobes and slippers. We answered a questionnaire about our health history and problem areas, then walked back to our private room, which was comfortably heated.

For our full-body exfoliation and aromatherapy massages, I had chosen essence of ylang ylang while Fabian opted for soothing vanilla. We began with the exfoliation face down; Jennifer poured warm coconut oil on my back, mixing it with cane sugar for a gentle but invigorating scrub. She anointed her hands with ylang ylang oil, and wafted the scent under my nose to impart its anti-stress qualities.

At first, my skin prickled with sensitivity, but I soon found Jennifer's rhythmic hand movements meditative -- true to the treatment's name. She made sure to focus on my skin's driest areas, working the warm oil into each exfoliated section. Half an hour later, she asked me to flip over, and I languidly turned onto my back. My muscles felt like jelly and I was completely relaxed.

When the exfoliation was complete, Jennifer and Giselle whispered softly in our ears to use the outdoor shower and wash off. The heated water was flowing from a giant rainfall showerhead. It created a cascading cone large enough for two, and luxurious L'Occitane organic products were provided to wash the sugar and oil off our bodies.

When we were clean and dry, Fabian and I returned to the warm room for our massages. Again, Jennifer waved her hands under my head, and I breathed in the relaxing scent of ylang ylang. She began massaging my back, commenting quietly that I was tense in my shoulders. She applied more strength to her touch until I indicated the pressure was just right.

After kneading away my back pain, she transitioned to my thighs, calves, and feet -- all three were sore from the morning's exertions. I was enjoying every moment, but curious about Fabian's experience -- this was his first massage -- so I peeked over at his table. He was relaxed, with eyes closed, as if in another world. I realized I had turned my husband into a spa addict.

After the hour-long massage, we showered and marveled at the softness of our skin -- silky like a newborn's. We went back to the room, where two flutes of champagne and fruit kebobs awaited. We clinked our glasses and enjoyed the fruit in silence, still too relaxed to form coherent sentences.

Waterfalls and Spa Treatments in Pictures

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