Healing Hacienda


Though it’s now a mecca for hotel development, the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica has a long and storied history of cattle ranching. Patches of forest dot the landscape, and Brahman cattle still graze on large pastures of coarse grasses. With this ranching lifestyle comes the tradition of haciendas, great open-air estates where cattle ranchers and their friends and families gather to celebrate a successful season and where good food and gracious hospitality are hallmarks of an inviting home. That viewpoint was duplicated at the JW Marriott Guanacaste, which is filled with open spaces, colorful gardens, and charming staff members who work hard to put guests at ease. This welcoming philosophy is also echoed in The Spa at JW Marriott Guanacaste. There, the open-air experience continues in a bi-level spa that features 10 indoor treatment rooms and eight outdoor palapas, where guests can receive services while enjoying cool breezes and listening to the soothing sound of the sea. “In the spa, and in fact the whole resort, guests are meant to feel they are being welcomed into a hacienda, or home,” says spa director Nathalie Tosso.

Costa Rican customs and services that soothe the ails of active clients are at the core of the spa’s treatment menu. Guanacaste has become an outdoor lover’s dream vacation spot, and within miles of the resort, guests can partake in horseback riding, jet skiing, hiking amid volcanoes, river rafting, sailing, scuba diving, surfing, water-skiing, tennis, and more. As such, some of the most popular offerings are found on the massage menu. Several services are performed using massage oils from Aromas para el Alma, a Costa Rican brand. Whether receiving a Swedish Massage ($115, 60 minutes; $155, 90 minutes), a Deep Tissue Massage ($115, 60 minutes; $155, 90 minutes), a Hot Stone Massage ($115, 60 minutes; $155, 90 minutes), or others, guests choose from one of three soothing scents. Love is composed of clove, geranium, and ylang ylang; Vitality is made up of eucalyptus, grapefruit, and mint; and Zen features a blend of lavender, orange, and rosemary. Among the most popular rubdowns on the menu is the Copri Numbi Aromatherapy Ritual ($165, 90 minutes), which involves small drops of eight certified essential organic oils drizzled along the vertebral column. “It feels like drops of rain on the spine,” explains Tosso, which she says reminds clients of the warm rains that occur in the Costa Rican rainforest.

Other popular indigenous offerings include the Guanacaste Ritual ($165, 90 minutes), which features a bubbling hydromassage in an outdoor tub followed by an herbal-infused wrap and a massage, as well as an entire series of treatments that were created exclusively for the spa by a local herbal expert. These services are performed using fresh local ingredients like aloe vera, coconut, coffee, cuculmeca (a medicinal plant), fruits, honey, rice, tamarind seeds, tumeric, and more. Options include the Rice and Tamarind Scrub ($65, 30 minutes), the Rice, Tumeric and Cuculmeca Wrap ($95, 60 minutes), the Tropical Fruit Fusion Treatment ($120, 60 minutes), and the Tropical Coconut Ritual ($165, 90 minutes). “People love to try the treatments that are performed with local, native ingredients,” says Tosso.

For those clients looking for more seaworthy soothing, a variety of marine-focused services, such as the Anti-Cellulite Firming Algae Wrap ($165, 90 minutes), use products from Babor and Germaine de Capuccini. Male-centric options and treatments for expectant mothers round out the service menu.

Adding to the spa’s local flair is a team of Costa Rican therapists who have grown up learning about the benefits of the region’s healing flora and fauna. The 18 massage therapists all have degrees in physiotherapy, which make them popular with guests looking to ease their muscle aches, while the rest of the staff is composed of 10 employees who manage the reception, locker areas, fitness center, and administrative duties, and two employees who man the beauty salon, where a variety of haircare and nailcare services are performed.

The spa is proving to be popular for both hotel guests, as well as those who come from Hacienda Pinilla, a beach resort and residential community that is adjacent to the hotel and includes rental villas, residences, a golf course, tennis facilities, an equestrian center, a private beach club, and more. Clients from other hotels and locals also flock to the spa. Still, Tosso and her team work hard to spread the word through the distribution of a spa menu in all hotel rooms, a treatment-of-the-day that is featured in the daily in-room newspaper, and a variety of packages that combine accommodations and spa services with activities like surfing and golf. The Escape! Golf & Spa Package (starting at $320 per night and valid through Nov. 23), for example, includes a deluxe garden view room, daily buffet breakfast at Mansita Restaurant, a $100 daily spa credit, a daily round of golf, and complimentary transfers to and from the golf course. Guests can also experience a destination spa-type vacation by taking advantage of countless fitness options, like yoga, Pilates, and Latin dance lessons, and healthy dining options at all of the resort’s restaurants and healthy snacks and meals that can be enjoyed at the spa. In fact, the spa—and the resort itself—are so enticing that Tosso says guests often have a hard time leaving a place that quickly becomes their home away from home.



Turistica Real S.A.


Spa Director:

Nathalie Tosso



December 2008


70% female
30% male



-Costa Rica


6,330 square feet;
18 treatment rooms


aromatherapy, body treatments, couples’ treatments, facials, fitness, guided meditation, hair treatments, hand and foot treatments, hydrotherapy, makeup application, massage, nailcare, outdoor treatments, Pilates, prenatal services, salon services, waxing, yoga


Guanacaste Aromatic Herb Ritual
($165, 90 minutes)



Nikupu (Earth) ($264, 3 hours), which includes an outdoor yoga session; a yogurt, honey, and mango shake; a Volcanic Mud Wrap; a massage; and a Banana and Mint Mini-Facial



Aromas para el Alma, Babor, CND, Framesi, Germaine de Capuccini



Dermisystem, Monarch Robes, OKA b.,
Spasoft, Technogym 



Zurcher Company
(Liberia, Costa Rica)



Paul Hussein (Miami)