The new Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica (011-506/696-0000;; doubles from $395), on the Papagayo Peninsula in the northwest, comes fully loaded: it's flanked by two broad beaches and has a full spa, an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, two kids' clubs, two pools, and on-site horseback riding. Naturalist-led outings take place in nearby national parks, and there's Class II rafting on the Corobici River. Best of all, direct flights are available from Atlanta, Miami, and Houston to Liberia Airport, 40 minutes from the resort.
—Kimberly Brown Seely

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Take Four Seasons pampering (chilled towels delivered to your pool chaise), cross it with the charm of location (just north of the Nicoya Peninsula, above the placid Gulf of Papagayo), and you'll see why guests return to this hilltop property year after year. The design here falls into the simple-but-luxurious category: bamboo and rattan, indigenous stone and wood, and Costa Rican art. Activities exceed the average menu of options: guests can go horseback riding in nearby national parks; boost their energy with a body wrap using volcanic mud from the Osa Peninsula; spend the day at either of the resort’s two golden-sand beaches or four pools; sign up for a trip to Diria coffee plantation; follow a naturalist on a bird-watching expedition; and much, much more. At the end of the day, you'll be ready to fall back into one of 175 unfussy yet plush rooms, suites, or private residences, complete with verandas and deep soaking tubs.