VILLA MANZU, COSTA RICA'S FIVE-STAR HIDEAWAY

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<p>Aerial views of the Papagayo Peninsula, on the northwest corner of Costa Rica, reveal the 30,000 square-foot mansion, the Villa Manzu, its splendid isolation, alone on five green acres, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

Aerial views of the Papagayo Peninsula, on the northwest corner of Costa Rica, reveal the 30,000 square-foot mansion, the Villa Manzu, its splendid isolation, alone on five green acres, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

For most visitors to tropical Costa Rica, renowned for beaches, wildlife, volcanoes and — above all — coffee plantations — it’s the taste of that first, early-morning cup of joe that’s likely to linger longest.

But for a very few – very lucky – travelers, their most unforgettable memory will be the week they spend at Villa Manzu, a private mansion on the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula.

<p>Hidden outdoor features, with shade trees, grass and a pool, attract monkeys, hummingbirds, butterflies and birds, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

Hidden outdoor features, with shade trees, grass and a pool, attract monkeys, hummingbirds, butterflies and birds, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

More than a resort, more than hotel, more than a lodge, this remarkable private home, on Costa Rica’s rugged Pacific Coast, promises luxury, comfort, fine cuisine, impeccable service, and hassle-free days.

If peace and quiet is in your stars, float in the pool, watch the birds twittering in the trees or lounge under an umbrella on one of three quiet patios. For the group’s type-A travelers, recreational delights range from surfing and golf to yacht outings, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, wildlife parks and helicopter-sightseeing.

When friends booked Villa Manza and invited us to be their guests, we weren’t sure what to expect. What we saw, as we turned that last corner, was a three-story contemporary stone mansion standing alone on five cliff-edge acres. Surrounded by grassy lawns, leafy trees, terraced pools and shady patios, it was a universe unto itself.

<p>A slow afternoon in the pool, at Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

A slow afternoon in the pool, at Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

“Make yourself at home,” said our hostess, greeting us with a giant hug. “Take in the scenery. Join us in the pool; it’s heated, she said. “But first, meet our butler, Luis Morera. You’ll see. He makes the most marvelous cocktails.”

<p>Coves and distant peaks seen from Villa Manzu’s infinity pool (one of two), stretch away to the sky, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

Coves and distant peaks seen from Villa Manzu’s infinity pool (one of two), stretch away to the sky, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

Melting away to greet other friends, she left us to admire the art and artifacts lining the corridors and living room walls. Two chefs looked up to smile “hello” from a professionally-equipped, open-air kitchen adjoining the living and dining rooms. On the lower level, a theater, two bars, and casual party room adjoined a second swimming pool and waterfall.

From there, a path led down the hill to the beach; we followed a second path through a garden to the cliff, where a barbecue circle and seats faced the west, designed for sunset viewing. Upstairs we checked into one of eight spacious bedrooms, each with a view, enormous closets, walk-in bathrooms and its a unique theme — one of them designed for families with kids.

<p>The design and décor in Villa Manzu’s interiors reflect the arts of local and Southeast Asian indigenous cultures, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

The design and décor in Villa Manzu’s interiors reflect the arts of local and Southeast Asian indigenous cultures, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

With a staff of 12, including the managers, a husband-and-wife team, the butler and three chefs, Villa Manzu guarantees impeccable surroundings, sumptuous meals and complete privacy. Priced accordingly, it’s an ideal hideaway for celebrities, tech-company millionaires, movie moguls, industry titans and sports greats. For us, being there was dumb luck and a wonderful friends.

“Sit at the counter and talk ingredients with the chefs,” she said, reappearing. “They’re happy to share their recipes. Or ask about tonight’s recommended wine-pairings.” Tomorrow, she insisted, we must walk down to the beach and try snorkeling. “Or you can take one of the cars to the beach club, or to play golf. “It’s ten minutes away. Villa Manzu has guest privileges.”

<p>From Villa Manzu, access to public beaches, like Nacascolo Beach, is a ten-minute ride, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

From Villa Manzu, access to public beaches, like Nacascolo Beach, is a ten-minute ride, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/Colorworld

We arrived by plane, flying direction to Costa Rica’s Liberia airport, about 40 minutes away. And waiting for us was one of Villa Manzu ‘s drivers, parked at the curb. For our next trip, he explained, plan to come by yacht and dock in the neighboring harbor. “Next time,” we promised.

Your best bet? Plan a trip with family or friends and share the cost. The Villa sleeps up to 22 adults and/or children, and sometimes a few more, depending on ages. While you’re there, the house is yours, thus everything’s included: Meals, wine, cocktails, snacks, sports equipment, fishing gear, a car, guides, and as always, warm Costa Rican hospitality.

At Villa Manzu, the all-inclusive rate for the house and staff is priced per night. Call for dates, availability and current rates. Or go to www.villamanzu.com. More questions? Send them to Anne Z. Cooke at travelswithanne@cs.com.

<p>Keel-billed toucans, bright-colored and slow-flying, are easy to spot in Costa Rica’s dense rain forests, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica. </p>

Keel-billed toucans, bright-colored and slow-flying, are easy to spot in Costa Rica’s dense rain forests, Villa Manzu, Costa Rica.

©Steve Haggerty/ColorWorld