If my family and I ever get lucky enough to vacation at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, we are kicking back with Luis Salas. Luis is the resort’s simpatico Manager of Recreation, who runs the Kids For All Seasons* kids’ club and “all of the fun activities around the resort” with Liliana Virguez. I had the pleasure of chatting with Luis recently about the resort.
FS Family: Luis, imagine you’re me, vacationing with the kids at your resort. Describe our perfect day—from sun up to sundown…
LS: Well, we start with a Costa Rican breakfast: Gallo Pinto (painted rooster). It’s rice and beans, but in a different way—with scrambled eggs (or over-easy), sour cream on the side, local salsa, a tortilla and very sweet plantains. Every Costa Rican has this for breakfast. Costa Rican coffee—of course! We like it strong, and you will love the smell of it. You have to start with day with that.
Then, it’s time to drop kids off at the Kids For All Seasons* club. Honestly, they will love it. The girls are amazing and keep the kids entertained. Then you take time to relax and digest your food by the pool. Later on, you try a smoothie—perhaps banana-strawberry-mango, all natural—and enjoy an Evian spritzer on your face to cool down. The pool attendant cleans off your sunglasses and iPhone for you while you read a novel.
After this, stand-up paddle boarding is a must. If you’ve never done it, it’s really easy and my team will give you pointers. You start on your knees, stand up, and pretty soon you’re paddling around the bay. Sometimes, the water is so clear, you can see fish. In July (til October), we have a lot of whales and dolphins migrating. If you’re more adventurous, try yoga on the paddleboard. It’s very liberating and you can jump in the water to cool off.
Then it’s time for lunch. I love either Congos Bar & Grill (a Brazilian-style restaurant outdoors) to enjoy the nice weather and chirping birds—order steak for sure—or Papagayo. Papagayo has a great fusion of local recipes with American ones.
For the afternoon, you need to try the spa at least once. The hot stone massage is so relaxing, after that you don’t want to do anything. Or get the (award winning) natural healing bamboo massage with freshly cut bamboo: this releases tension in muscles and tendons.
Have a cocktail here or there, or Costa Rican coffee in the afternoon. Then it’s sunset, one of my favorite parts of day. Enjoy the sunset on the beach, alone or with the family, or go on my sunset kayak tour. We go all the way to the middle of the ocean and stay there by grabbing on to each other’s kayak. We talk about the history of the area and wait for sun to dip into the middle of ocean—right there from our kayaks!
FS Family: What’s your role at Four Seasons Costa Rica?
LS: Lily and I are in charge of all of the fun activities around the resort—for kids, teens and adults.
FS Family: How fun! Tell us more. What’s doing for grown-ups?
LS: For adults, we’ve got lots of activities, especially non-motorized water sports, such as snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking… and everything is complimentary. We lead guided tours. For example, a kayak tour for three-and-a-half hours to a secluded beach for hiking, bird and animal spotting, swimming and a picnic. We can use a double kayak if you’re not experienced. But the water is very smooth. We have dance lessons: Salsa or Merengue with a local flavor. We offer Spanish lessons. We’ve got beach volleyball and soccer, plus tennis courts and our golf course. We’re looking into stargazing next.
FS Family: What about teens?
LS: For teens, we have our Tuanis Teen Center (tuanis is Costa Rican slang for “too cool”). It’s an inside-outside hangout place with billiard tables, Wii, Xbox, Ping-Pong, basketball, volleyball, Foosball. It’s open 11 am to 10 pm for teens 13 to 17. We’ll put on fun things like a “mocktail” competition or a DJ academy night, where we teach them how to mix records. We record what they make and upload it to a sound cloud, then send them the link so they can tweet it or post on Facebook.
FS Family: And for kids and tweens?
LS: We put on our “Dive-In Movies” night. This started at Four Seasons Hotel Miami and we’ve just added it here. We serve our full menu, kids’ mocktails and popcorn. We put a screen between two palm trees and kids can sit in inflatable seats in the pool. It’s extremely popular. We walk around and take orders. (Show times are printed in our daily newsletter that has all family activities listed on the back cover.)
FS Family: Describe your kid’s club, Kids For All Seasons*?
LS: It’s aimed at four to 12 year olds. We have core programming beginning daily at 8 am and ending at 6 or 8 pm, depending on the season. It changes every day. We’ll have Spanish class or arts and crafts (friendship bracelets, beaded necklaces). Around 10 am we’ll do pool games and relay races. Then there’s free time—for Nintendo or drawing—and a snack. Lunch is at noon with a kids’ buffet or they can meet their parents for lunch. We’ll do things like face painting and mini golf, doughnut decorating with the chef or pizza making.
FS Family: What about in the evenings?
LS: We often put on night activities for the kids: the Dive-In Movies, a beach party with S’mores around the bonfire. We’ll play Limbo, do sack races and Costa Rican games. Or we’ll host a rock ‘n roll night.
FS Family: Do kids get the chance to learn about the local culture?
LS: Yes! And it’s so fun. We host Costa Rican nights. We’ll decorate with flags and balloons. We’ll teach local phrases: for example, Pura vida. That’s the mantra here. It means “pure life;” like, “everything’s going great, no complaints.” We’ll play musical chairs with local music in Spanish. We’ll do some Salsa or Merengue, and teach the kids how to move to the rhythm. The girls here come dressed in typical Costa Rican dress, very colorful and traditional. Sometimes we’ve put on a family Carnaval night, where we’ve brought in guys walking on stilts, aerial acrobats, clowns and mimes for 120 guests. We had a local band, Comparsa, doing traditional drumming. It was very loud, very Latin!
FS Family: What about learning about the Papagayo Peninsula?
LS: Absolutely. We lead nature hikes and explain how important it is to conserve; why we don’t cut down any trees at the resort—because it’s a natural highway for monkeys to come in and out of the peninsula. We tell about how the green turtles come here during a certain time of year for nesting (November to January). We talk about taking care of what is here: respecting the environment, not littering and conservation.
FS Family: What’s new for families?
LS: We have just created a butterfly garden, which attracts different species. We explain how butterflies like some plants and others not. We tell about how cocoons and larvae need completely different plants at that stage in their life. In Costa Rica, our butterfly farms are very popular. People can go and look at them. The blue-ish-purple Amorpho is the most common. With 14,000 species of moths and butterflies, we are one of the world’s top countries for butterflies.
Also, we’ve just introduced a water taxi that can take families to a local fishing village, Playa del Coco. It leaves twice a day and comes back in the afternoon. So you can spend part of a day in a Costa Rican town and meet the local artisans there.
FS Family: We understand you have launched a new summer camp?
LS: Yes, this is our first year for Camp Papagayo. It’s Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, and functions like day camp in the U.S. Kids earn beads and prizes via activities. It’s a nice mixture of local things—exploring wildlife, monkeys, parakeets—with sports and activities: adventure races, swimming, paddle board, hermit crab races… We explore archaeology as well and do an herb garden cooking class. We think this is a resort first and we’re very excited. (Read more about Camp Papagayo.)
FS Family: What about volunteering opportunities?
LS: We have a great program called Growing Together where resort guests can get involved in helping local families and school children. Families can visit a school and read, do crafts or play soccer with Costa Rican students. They can even help paint a school if they want or bring backpacks with supplies to donate.
It’s terrific because kids get to learn how children live here and what families struggle with on a daily basis. Kids and parents get to see the difference they’ve made, and be thankful for how they live and what they have. (Read more about voluntourism at Four Seasons Costa Rica.)
FS Family: Do you have any tips for families visiting your resort?
LS: First, make sure you look up info on what’s going on at the resort. These activities are free! So take advantage of it. Tuanis, our water sports, KFAS*—it’s a huge plus.
The other thing is our golf course is amazing: one of the top 10 in the world, excluding the U.S. (according to Condé Nast Traveler). We offer a tour, Trail of Giants. So you can hop on your own golf cart and tour, learning about nature, the monkeys, iguanas and birds here, and taking in amazing views. Even if you don’t like golf, you have to do that tour! The photo opps are just incredible.
Read more on Costa Rica in Four Seasons Magazine.
Check out one blogger-photographer’s gorgeous pics of her family trip to Four Seasons Costa Rica.
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, it’s like “holidaying in an aquarium,” as one blogger puts it. Kids get to meet with a marine biologist to learn about the exotic local sea creatures, such as flying fish and parrot fish.
Luis Salas is Manager of Recreation at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo and joined Four Seasons in 2011. Born and raised in Costa Rica, Luis lived in New York City for a few years, then traveled the world working on cruise ships. He returned home last year for a position “with the best hotel company in the world.” Luis has a business degree and marketing minor from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. His past work experience includes customer service, recruiting, operations, sales and marketing.
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