I had a lovely experience here – mostly because I was traveling solo, stayed four nights (a perfect amount of time in my opinion) and was happy having the time to read, work, relax, with nominal interruptions. Having traveled alone, I would say Asclepios creates a pretty perfect environment for this. This IS nothing going on, so you don’t feel like you are missing out on anything; the pace is unhurried; it’s not an environment where you socialize with the few other guests that may be there (although you ‘can’); and their surroundings are really quite beautiful and relaxing. It’s a quick trip from the San Jose airport, and I was met by a friendly representative, just after exiting the airport; he radioed to my driver, and I was at the resort within about 20 minutes. The driver was extremely nice, spoke English well, and gave me some information on the area. Check in was easy – just a quick form to fill out for the spa (I did laugh because at the bottom it indicated that any sexual advances while undergoing spa treatments would not be tolerated), and the hotel, and I was off to my room.
It’s a small property with a beautiful main facility, housing the restaurant, reception area, offices, gym, common room (ONLY area with Wi-Fi). Just outside there is the pool area, with chaises. The rooms stand on one side of the pool, the spa facilities and yoga studio on the other. My room was Psyche (just one letter off!), and was on the second floor. It had a small porch looking out into the countryside. It was extremely spacious and very modern/Grecian. It is equipped with two twin beds, writing desk, large wardrobe; the bathroom with dual sinks and a large open shower. There is no minibar or other food/beverage option, other than a carafe of water that was placed in the room each day. I will say – bring snacks. The granola bars I brought saved me on many occasions. While you can always ask a member of the staff for something, there are really no snacks – only formal meal times, and they are at set times in the day. Other than that, the room was perfect; well, a bath tub would have made it perfect. I think some rooms may have these, and it’s worth it as it gets chilly at night.
Even though I had a good time, for what I was after, there are some definite highs and lows to this property. There is an impression that there is “a way” to do things here. There is a time to eat. And when you eat, you sit in the dining room or just outside at a table (not poolside). There is only a limited amount of foods/meals. Wine is not automatically offered (you have to ask for a menu), and, no matter when you order it, it’s not brought out until your meal is ready. However, I will say, the staff wants you happy so just express what you want. Wi-fi is only to be used in the community room (and you cannot get a signal in your room – although I could in the restaurant). As others mentioned there is no coffee served, though a good variety of teas and smoothies are available. It feels a bit cult-ish, although I do not use that in a negative way – you just kind of understand there are ways they like things done, but I found it more amusing than anything.
STAFF – extremely warm and friendly. You don’t a lot of them, but Carlos and Pablo are amazing. They were constantly providing water at the pool, excellent service at the restaurant, and tried to be as helpful as possible. As I’ve experienced elsewhere in Costa Rica, the staff was not overly gregarious; rather, they were polite, and if you made an effort, then they would open up a bit more. I got the impression several times that they make an effort to know you, your name, your itinerary, your likes and dislikes while there – staff I had never met knew what spa treatments I was getting that day – and that was nice. In the times I had a hiccup with my appointment times, they went out of their way to accommodate me. When I left, I generally felt I would be missed – really warm people there.
TREATMENTS – I found most of my treatments just “okay” to slightly below average. I tried to choose things others had enjoyed, and a few that I thought would be interesting/relaxing/etc. **Stone Massage – skip it; This is always hit or miss for me, but I wanted to try it here. It was fine for the first half, but it ended ten minutes early, and the last half felt a bit frantic and disorganized. I would book massage here again, just not this one. **Naturopathy – My counselor was an hour late, I was informed, due to traffic. It ended up being more like 90 minutes, but this was perfectly fine with me, as I had no problem occupying myself with other things. I didn’t realize until after the appointment that I had been meeting with Marisia, the owner. She is a charismatic, confident woman. My appointment was again, just okay. If you have specific nutritional concerns, this may be for you; for me, it was more of a therapy session, and again, she has very specific ideas about food, medications, supplements, life, etc; I was open to listening, but this may not be for some. **Hammam – Interesting experience. I was with two other people, which surprised me – so wear a swim suit. You go into the steamy room for 15 minutes, plunge into a pool, come out and sit in a relaxation area for 15 minutes, then 15 more in the steam. It was a relaxing experience. However 15 minutes in the steam started to actually cause me anxiety because it was SO difficult to breathe – the other two people in there had the same issues. However, they don’t lock you in there, so just go out if it’s too much! **Body Wrap – Terrible would be one way to describe it; and a waste of money would be another. I was told to lie on a table; there was no ‘choosing’ what treatment I wanted (as stated in the menu); clay was put only on certain areas of my body (which made no logical sense). I was wrapped in the plastic. Then the therapist just left the room indefinitely. The clay part took all of ten minutes at the most. She came in 20 later and said “Your treatment is over!” I probably looked at her like she was nuts. Then she asked me to stand up (keep in mind I’m still wrapped in plastic and was now standing, holding one hand over my chest and trying not to slip on the wet floor); she cleaned the table while I stood there uncomfortable, then told me I was to shower myself off when she left. The only “shower” was 3 shower heads Above the table, so basically you have to slide back onto the table, get the plastic off, and try to take a horizontal shower, while the bed is sliding around everywhere. Humorous, but that’s about it. **Reiki – I was informed that the person coming in to do the reiki was from Spain; and when he arrived (about an hour early) I happened to be in the community room and he guided me to a website where he told me to look at the (many, many) types of reiki and try to pick a few (he spoke very little English). This was like picking a needle in a haystack – I had zero idea how to do this, so I glanced at it but decided I would let him choose for the most part. My experience isn’t really fit to print here, but all I have to say is that it was odd, and not for the faint of heart. If you want a better idea, google tantic reiki (Note: do not do this at work, or when children are present; also not a good idea if you are easily shocked.) That’s all I’m going to say about that. **Life Coaching – this was the only thing I very much enjoyed, and it was the thing I almost cancelled. The therapist was an expat from the U.S., and was extremely laid back, insightful, and friendly. She uses a lot of different techniques and I found this to be one of the best sessions of this kind I’ve ever had. My session was with Natalie G, who works with Inner Balance in Escazu.
ACTIVITIES – **Volcano: Good; my guide and I went to the Poas Volcano – it’s a national park. I would have been much happier being dropped off and left to explore on my own – there are very clear trails everywhere and there’s not an abundance of things to see – that’s what I would recommend asking if you plan to go. However, after he informed me he was taking me to breakfast because he knew the food at my place was “terrible”. I immediately loved him. He took me to Fredo Fresas and it was the best food I had the entire stay! Definitely plan on asking for a meal stop! **Yoga : Good, challenging, and in a beautiful studio on site. Ask when in the week they are planning group classes, because they are far less expensive. Although I almost cancelled by $45 solo class my last day there, it ended up being awesome! Tamara is a great instructor – challenging and helpful, so I’m glad I ended up doing it. **Go for a Walk: Just across the street there is the most beautiful cemetery and a lovely plantation that you can roam around, walk through, and just generally explore. The cemetery was literally magical.
FOOD – I was well aware of the food controversy going into this trip, however I like to eat vegetarian and I figured – how bad can it be? I’d like to say that maybe I just didn’t order the right thing, but the fact is that this is not a ‘restaurant’ and it is definitely not Costa Rican food. It is a kitchen that serves a set number of dishes that – to me – made odd sense in terms of overall health, wellness or nutrition. As many have said, the salads and the soups are solid. I had a great onion and almond soup, and a very good arugula salad (I hope you like nuts because they are in everything. I do.). The entrees were generally disappointing. I wanted to give it a chance, but it was difficult. The snapper I ordered the first night was abysmally overcooked to the point that the skin was rendering off of it in those pools of fleshy globs that occur when fish is not cooked properly. I knew this was fine, just unappetizing, but the taste was extremely bland, even when I applied salt. The vegetables were undercooked and unseasoned. Next I tried vegetarian – the black bean and yucca burger. This was – hands down – the worst thing I have ever eaten at any establishment. The “burger” turned out to be three, runny, soggy patties the texture of a thick smoothie, piled on a plate with some mango and lettuce. I ate it because I was starving. I could go on, but suffice to say some other diners there seemed to like their meals because I heard them say so. But I have a hard time believing it. The stuff I did like – smoothies, juices, salads and soups, and dessert. The single entrée I had that I liked best was the eggplant stuffed with mozzarella. It was basically gooey fresh mozzarella with pesto on a plate. Again, I have no idea how this was overtly healthy, since it was swimming in oil, but it tasted good! The food is nothing you can’t get past, if you choose wisely, but there are No other options around, so just make sure this is for you.
OTHER – Dress casual, pack light. There is no obvious dress code, and you are pretty isolated from everything. Bring something heavier for nighttime, as it can get chilly and there is no A/C or heat in the rooms. I had zero problems with bugs overall.
I would probably come back here, if the price was right, but it would have to be extremely right. As it was, I came at the shoulder season in August, and I loved the way it was sunny in the morning and rained in the afternoon. All in all, an interesting, relaxing place; just be pretty certain it’s what you are looking for. And if I did return, I would spend my money on things like the sauna, Hammam, yoga and other activities that I enjoyed best and that turned out to be the least expensive.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Asclepios (honoring the Greek God of Health) is located in Alajuela, Costa Rica and offers its guests 12 rooms which evoke the most important medical traditions of the world, together with a regulated ionized swimming pool, amphitheatre, fitness center, exercise pavilion, sauna, hammam, nature paths, 6 treatment lodges, a relaxation room and a Conference room.We are located on the edge of a tropical forest with views of the surrounding sugar cane and coffee plantations, mountains and volcanoes.We work with a team of selected holistic practitioners and highly skilled spa therapists. We have put together a great understanding and passion for physical, emotional and spiritual health resulting in great wellbeing.Asclepios also seeks to educate in environmental appreciation and conservation. It is built in siding and brick, two sustainable materials. We use thermal solar collectors and take advantage of natural ventilation and natural lighting. Wild life has been preserved and our primary and secondary forests have been untouched. Our quest is to restore the person’s whole being to its natural state of balance, by correcting such diverse factors as improper diet, sedentary lifestyle, lack of a correct oxygenation, negative thought patterns and their emotional impact, and the lack of rest or restorative sleep, among others.We do this by five Special Wellness Programs that include Detoxification and Revitalization Programs, Stress and Weight Management and the Spa Experience Program.A la carte: Naturopathy, Meditation, Pranayamas, Acupuntura, Floral Therapy, Vichy and Scottish Showers; Kneipp, Shiatsu, Shirodhara, Yoga, Reiki, Tai chi…And, as health also includes your palate: bioenergetic gastronomy, where you can rediscover the original flavors of vegetables, fruits and fish. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Asclepios Wellness And Healing Retreat
- Asclepios Wellness & Healing Retreat Hotel Alajuela
- Asclepios Wellness & Healing Retreat Costa Rica/Alajuela