Walkable Wonder

Las Catalinas, on Costa Rica’s Guanacaste coast, is a study in serenity, health and luxury

I find myself breathing a sigh of relief each time I traverse the cobblestone streets of Las Catalinas. Instead of firing up a car to get from point A to point B, everything in this resort village on Costa Rica’s lush coast is within walking distance. That’s by design: The community, created by Atlanta-based developer Charles Brewer, is an exemplar of the New Urbanist movement that prioritizes densely packed residential neighborhoods with amenities such as restaurants, recreation and shopping. The structure means visitors and more than 150 homeowners interact organically, both with each other and with nature.

Guests might choose the 45-room Santarena Hotel, with its whitewashed exterior and bright teal accents, airy rooms with soaring ceilings and marble-clad bathrooms, and a rooftop pool with sweeping coastal views. Groups of friends or family will find an ideal home away from home in one of the rental villas, each unique in design, layout, room configuration and decor. For my tropical getaway, I spent a few days in the master suite at Casa Los Monos, a four-bedroom property with an infinity pool overlooking the windswept beach below. Each vacation home comes with a dedicated “House Mom,” or hostess, who whips up gourmet breakfasts and all-day snacks.

Since not a minute of my time was spent on roads clogged with rush hour traffic, I had plenty of time to explore. I broke a sweat at CORE by Chakfitness, the outdoor gym that looks like something out of The Flintstones; hiked on a network of trails that spans more than 30 miles; and lounged on the Playa Danta beach while crashing waves and tropical birds created a tranquil soundtrack. I barely scratched the surface: Fans of mountain biking, surfing, scuba diving and sailing will find plenty to keep them busy.

If the variety of activities is dizzying, prepare to be equally dazzled by the culinary offerings. Pots & Bowls is the go-to spot for healthy, fresh fare served all day (think smoothie bowls, coconut pancakes and tuna poke), while Pascual is just right for tropical tapas. Have a creative cocktail by an award-winning mixologist at Ponciana or a frosty beer at the newly opened Papagayo Brewing Co. For me, the highlight was having Armando Hernandez Chavarria, the chef at Copper & Stone—the on-property bodega, gourmet grocery and curated wine cellar—cook a five-course dinner at our villa. Each course was more impressive than the last, creating the perfect send-off.

The development’s Beach Town neighborhood was completed in late 2022, and the next one, El Prado, is underway. Even when the master plan is fully executed, approximately 1,000 of the 1,200 acres will remain a preserve to support the regeneration of the native tropical dry forest and keep nature front and center. For both visitors and guests, that may be the greatest luxury of all. lascatalinascr.com