Papagayo positions itself as Central America’s main “ultra-luxury” destination

Costa Rica’s Gulf of Papagayo is one of Central America’s most popular destinations. Its turquoise ocean waters, white-sand beaches and spectacular wildlife have been drawing an ever growing number of national and international tourists for decades now, making it one of the main hotspots for investment and development. 

When exploring the rich Pacific mountain range that overlooks the stunning sights of the Gulf, it’s not uncommon to stumble upon one of the area’s elegant secluded villas and grand luxury resorts. After all, the balance between world-class real estate developments and the area’s inherent natural beauty are without a doubt one of its main attractions internationally. 

Recently, the news of a big investment has put into perspective just how coveted the area has become on a global scale. The Investments Corporations of Dubai (ICD) and the Costa Rican government confirmed the development of the region’s first 7-star hotel, a 167-room resort called One & Only Papagayo, aimed at the ultra-luxury tourist segment. For reference, the One & Only brand currently has resorts in some trendy high-end destinations like Los Cabos, Mexico, Desaru Coast, Malaysia and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

Since the tourism industry rose to become the motor of Costa Rica’s economy, luxurious resorts and exclusive areas have been part of the country’s ecosystem, but name brand has always been the nation itself. The peaceful and calm aura, the hospitality, the abundant nature all around… Some towns have become hotspots, but the sheer diversity of amazing options for different tastes has made it impossible to really centralize a touristic focus. After all, the country does have a myriad of experiences to offer. 

Nevertheless, a growing roster of international flights that directly land in Liberia’s Guanacaste Airport has meant that the northern province is the closest thing Central America has to experiencing the consolidation of a prestige tourist town, and Papagayo seems to be taking the lead. 

The term with which One & Only brands its new development is “ultra-luxury”, a new trend in the hotel industry that means “beyond luxury”. But what exactly does it mean? That “beyond” is indeed quite subjective, but the most common answer about its significance seems to be linked to the idea of “reconfiguring” luxury. “Ultra-luxury” is then a more holistic understanding of comfort that goes beyond lushness and grandeur. It means integral wellness. It means battling ennui and the superfluous. It means authenticity and emotion. 

With that definition, it’s no wonder that Costa Rica, and Papagayo in particular, has jumped out to international investors seeking to jump on the ultra-luxury trend. The country’s environmental and sustainability efforts have been well documented internationally, which makes Papagayo’s pairing of exuberance and genuineness fit the “ultra-luxury” imagery like a glove. 


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