Naudy is covering me in mud, rubbing it between my toes, into my belly button and across my nose. That might sound like the antics of a middle-school bully, but Naudy is actually very polite and whispers in my ear to make sure that the temperature of the mud is to my liking.
The mud at Nayara Resorts is from the nearby Arenal Volcano, and immersing oneself in it is said to detoxify and soften skin. When Naudy slathers it on in circular motions, I can’t say that I feel the impurities fleeing my pores, but whatever’s happening is definitely relaxing as the rain falls lightly around us in the open-air suite.
The mud ritual is just one of the methods Nayara Resorts employs to connect its guests with the surrounding rain forest. Nayara embraces the biodiversity of the 63-acre property with thermal-water plunge pools, outdoor showers and guides who point out howler monkeys, armadillos and sloths.
Opened in 2007, Nayara is situated inside Arenal Volcano National Park. A footbridge connects the 50 bungalows of the family-friendly Nayara Gardens to the 35 luxury villas of the adults-only Nayara Springs. Seven restaurants span the property, including the Asian/Peruvian Asia Luna, with furniture painted by members of the indigenous Maleku tribe, and the romantic Amor Loco, which features fine dining.
However, a return to nature necessitates a degree of innovation. An intricate pumping system carries the thermal waters into reservoir tanks that feed the villas’ plunge pools. The resort doesn’t chemically treat or heat the mineral-rich waters, and every two days the pools are refilled. Though the water is naturally warm, heavy rainstorms can lower temperatures. “Sometimes guests ask us how to warm the pool,” says Constanza Navarro, Nayara’s sales director. “But there’s nothing we can do about it—that’s how natural the water is and how natural the property is.”
Nayara has also planted hundreds of Cecropia trees. The trees are sloths’ main food source, and the idea is to create a sanctuary for the endangered animals.
As a guide escorts me across the property, he notices one called Alejandra dangling off a high limb. I squint and catch her lazily stuffing a leaf in her mouth. He hands me a pair of binoculars, but I don’t need them to see why she likes it here.