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The Allure of Costa Rica’s Villa Avellana

Every so often one comes upon a place so magical and so perfect, a place that possesses that certain je ne sais quoi, that one becomes certain a slice of paradise lost has in fact been found. Such is the case with Villa Avellana in Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula. 

Immediately upon arrival to Guanacaste airport (LIR) – with nonstop service from several major U.S. cities – guests are met and whisked away in chauffeured SUVs, and it becomes clear straight away that you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. Forty minutes later, after entering Prieta Estates, a private enclosed estate within a gated community, the realization hits that you have arrived to perhaps the most uniquely designed privately owned villa in a secluded, idylic part of Costa Rica, and perhaps in North America.

Villa Avellana is available for full buy-outs only, and it is perfectly suited for wellness holidays, corporate team building retreats, multi-generational gatherings, or groups of friends longing to enjoy each other while having plenty of space of one’s own in one of the most beautiful, beachfront locations, amid lush greenery, plentiful wildlife, and every conceivable amenity and staffed by an inherently hospitable group of local, English-speaking professionals.    

The Suite Life is Sweet Indeed

Opened just this month, Villa Avellana is ultra-luxury at its finest. Situated on three lush acres fronting a black sand swimming beach, there are 33,000 square feet of impeccably designed indoor and outdoor space with 10 enormous ensuite bedrooms for 18 adults and five children. Created by the supremely talented Sarco Architects and Sens Interior Design team, every aspect of the villa was thoughtfully designed and implemented, sparing no expense.

The color palette is neutral and calming with intermittent color pops of differing shades of blue. As if Mother Nature is speaking directly, “Enjoy and contemplate the peaceful calm, yet never fail to be surprised for magical moments that may be shown.” The villa’s main floor is level with the sea delivering a sensation of bringing the outdoors in, and a sense of suspended animation in an expansive asymmetric design. While Mother Nature may be softly speaking, without doubt you’ll want Father Time to stop altogether allowing you to appreciate every moment.

All suites have incredibly comfortable bedding with linens from Katé, a Costa Rican purveyor. The six of us at Villa Avellana last week spanned a four-decade age range all agreed that these were the best beds and linens ever experienced anywhere, whether in a private villa or a luxurious 6-star hotel. Needless to say, falling asleep was easy to symphonic surf and sleep was deep, restful, and regenerative. Fifteen-foot ceilings delivered an immense space while 15-foot sliders to the veranda with electric black-out panel shades were the backdrop for the projection system providing a theater-like entertainment experience. The furnishings are modern minimalist but emphasizing total comfort. 

Bathrooms likewise are large and decorated in Guanacaste woods, lightly-veined white marble, and slate-colored porcelain. Locally curated amenties such as facial cleansing mousse and hair masks were a thoughtful touch. Massive walk-in showers have both oversized rain showers and European shower heads. The walk-in closet was larger than the entirety of my first east coast apartment and the immense verandas with designer furnishings provided a perfect space to contemplate one’s good fortune in having landed at Villa Avellana.

Villa Avellana also boasts a good collection of local art and promotes the talents of emerging artists which brings the warmth of the Tico personality to bear to all who enjoy the villa. 

The public areas are likewise expansive and seamlessly integrate differing activities thus providing a level of versatility second to none. For example, there are three separate state-of-the-art kitchens. Have a craving for pizza? No problem as one of the kitchens has a full size pizza oven. There are so many distinct areas in the villa and surrounds that guests can choose to be together or apart. There is even a one-acre hidden park on the property where guests can play croquet or bocce ball, and separate media and ping pong rooms. Or one can simply enjoy the pool and 12-person Jacuzzi, or sit in one of the adult-sized tree swings overlooking the sea while communing with nature. 

Food and Drinks Fit for Food Fanatics

Villa Avellana has 18 to 22 staff depending on the number of guests for a ratio of 1:1 so waiting for anything at anytime is happily not on the menu.

Meals are curated under the skilled hand and eye of the gifted Chef David Moja and his team emphasizing locally sourced items. Breakfast were fresh fruits of every imaginable variety, fresh juices and elixirs, house baked breads, pastries, and muffins, yogurts, cereals, and a made-to-order station for the freshest eggs and also included a daily unique specialty. One day it was Costa Rican, with Turrialba cheese, Gallo Pinto, and sweet plantains with eggs. Another day it was avocado toast with spring greens that was nearly too pretty to eat ­­– but of course I did­ – and another day, a delectable Shakshuka that was far better than most I’ve tasted in the middle-east where the dish originated.

Lunches were either a buffet of the freshest salads, with selections of grilled chicken, Wagyu flat-iron steak, and red snapper, or a delicious plated meal depending on our activities. Dinners were a harmony of wine-paired courses where Chef Moja’s culinary skills shone with dishes such as jumbo shrimps with Pico de Gallo, smoked mackeral with starfruit sauce, and Pelibabaye tamale with tangerine bisque. If I live to be a hundred, I doubt I will ever taste a more delicious short rib dish with Costa Rican mole sauce than his. If variety is the spice of life, with a trajectory of both local, continental, and international flair, there is simply zero chance of food boredom here.   

If between meals you are feeling peckish, or you decide to sleep in, Chef Moja’s team will whip something up for you. This is on-demand at its finest. And did I mention the delicious Costa Rican coffee? 

The massive Madera Bar is made of yet another stunning piece of Guanacaste wood, has every conceivable top-shelf liquor, a well-curated wine list and is staffed by a creative mixologist who will make certain you remain pleased as punch with signature cocktails. My favorite was the Golden Rush with vodka, gooseberry, passion fruit, orange, and turmeric. The latter ingredient's inclusion no doubt made it healthy.   

Activities for the Active

In addition to the pool, beach, and water activities, there is plenty to keep guests happy and occupied. A five-minute walk away is Prieta Beach Clubhouse to which Villa Avellana guests have access and contains an excellent state-of-the-art fitness center, two additional pools, a kid’s club, full spa, tennis and paddle courts and co-working space. For golf aficianados, the Arnold Palmer signature 18-hole, par-72 course ranked “Top 100 Courses Outside the U.S.” is five-minutes away.

Guests likewise have access to a captained 42-foot Boston Whaler for fun private jaunts along the picturesque peninsula for swimming, snorkeling, and of course, champagne. Another morning we went paddle boarding on lake-like conditions at nearby Playa Nacascolo. At Palmares Preserve some of us went on a seven-station zip line with a 26-element challenge course, while others went on a guided, several mile nature hike amid lush flora and fauna.

Villa Avellana has its own staffed open-air yoga pavillion. Stretching to the surf never felt so good. It also has two elevated ocean view massage studios where talented masseuses inspire bliss to the sounds of the ocean. Four six-passenger electric golf carts can be used by guests for scenic rides around the peninsula, or one can walk the peninsula stopping at one of many fitness stations along the way.  

At the villa we enjoyed Salsa classes one evening with an adept instructor. Another day a chocolate farmer and chocolatier came and showed us the art of making this brown bliss. One of the most wonderful aspects of Villa Avellana is that all logistics are handled by staff without skipping a beat leaving time for guests simply to enjoy each other, the beach, the activities, and of course, the culinary delights.

The Lesson Learned

I won’t soon forget that I was chatting with Villa Avellan’s mixologist about a rosé sparkling wine guests enjoyed before dinner a few nights before. Five minutes later as I headed to my beach perch for sunset, another staff member greeted me with a glass of that same Indigo Eyes bubbly. Although it seemed like magic, in fact all staff have secret service-style earpieces to seamlessly create unmitigated joy.

Like an orchestral masterpiece where all skilled parts make up a fantastic whole, your own slice of heaven can be found. Staying in such an incredible villa with highly-trained, warm, and caring staff to meet your every need and desire, plus all the benefits of a gorgeous, private country club a five-minute walk away along with plenty of enjoyable activities at one’s fingertips is certain to ensure that about two minutes after you arrive, you will be swiftly plotting your return.

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” Her work has appeared in several major publications, including The LA Times, The SF Examiner, The Asia Times, The Jerusalem Post, and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, among many others.  She can be reached at

Julie L. Kessler

Written by Julie L. Kessler

Julie L. Kessler is Money Inc's Senior Travel & Luxury Editor and writes for several major media outlets in the U.S. and overseas. She is also an attorney and legal columnist and the author of the award-winning book "Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight." She can be reached at

Read more posts by Julie L. Kessler

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