When we went to Costa Rica, we spent the first 5 nights (after an initial night in San José) at Lapa Rios, an ecolodge in the Osa Peninsula. To get there, you fly on a 20-passenger plane to Puerto Jimenez, then drive for 45 minutes to an hour over bumpy potholed dirt roads fording several streams. The ecolodge is situated on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce, and has a 1,000 acre reserve that they maintain free of development. There is no phone, no internet, no televisions. There is electricity, and there is “hot” water provided by solar heaters, there is a pool and indoor plumbing (as much as anything is really indoors at Lapa Rios).
We loved it.
Inside our bungalow
Falling asleep, we listened to the waves of the ocean and the beeping of the tiny red frogs that we never saw, and the chirps of insects. It was pretty loud, but I had no trouble falling asleep. We woke early to the sound of howler monkeys and bird squawks. Breakfast does not start until 7 AM, but there is an option for early morning coffee brought to the bungalow, plus coffee and banana bread are provided at 5:30 at the main lodge, and a cold breakfast can be had at 6 AM if you order it the night before.
The view from the hammock on our bungalow's deck
Every day, a variety of hikes and tours are available to sign up for, with your bungalow number and the number of people in your group. Most of the tours are limited in how many people may sign up. In addition, the front desk staff can arrange outside tours through other providers.
We chose the early morning bird walk with Danilo, the medicine walk with Guillermo, the Osa trail hike with Ulises, the night walk with Danilo, and the sustainability tour with Andres. In addition, we arranged for a dolphin watch on the Golfo Dulce. The medicine walk and the sustainability tour were the most educational. The night walk and the early morning bird walk netted the most photos of wildlife. The Osa trail was where we saw puma tracks, of a small puma.
Guillermo demonstrates burning sap on the medicine walk.
The first evening, we attended a talk about the wild cats of Central America. Ricardo (the guy who gave the talk) is a researcher (think poop analysis and camera traps) who obviously cares deeply about his work: documenting, studying, and preserving wild cats. The puma is the second largest of the wild cats in Costa Rica, and its paws have oval pads, which is how Ulises identified the paw prints we found on the Osa trail. We also saw camera traps along the trail, so it is likely that this small puma was caught on camera. Maybe we were, too. The tracks were pretty fresh, but heading in the opposite direction that we were going in.
Interestingly, one of the strategies for preserving the wild cats is to enlist the help of poachers. The poachers help set up a camera trap, and then are paid $100 for every cat photographed by the camera trap. Thus, the poachers have incentive to keep the cats alive. Unfortunately, research grants don’t cover payments to poachers. Find out more at the project website: www.yaguara.org.
Puma paw print on the Osa trail
The weather in the Osa Peninsula in late June is humid, warm, and prone to afternoon rain. The day before we arrived at Lapa Rios, they had torrential downpours, and people arriving at the lodge had to swim one of the streams because the car could not ford it safely. They were met on the other side by another car. We saw a lot of mud, and it caked our hiking boots and stained our clothes. We also got very sweaty. While Lapa Rios itself gets a lovely ocean breeze, the hiking trails in the rain forest do not. Happily, there is a lovely swimming pool, and all the cool water showers you could possibly want. We showered several times a day to wash the mud and sweat off. However, it took forever for anything to dry, whether it was our towels, our clothes, or my hair. There were some sunny mornings when we could lay our damp things on the deck and things DID get dry, but with all the showering and clothes changing we decided to splurge on laundry service on our last full day at Lapa Rios.
The sticky mud of the Osa Peninsula
As I said, they have a lovely swimming pool. It has a salt water chlorination system and we found it very relaxing. An added benefit–show up at the pool and start swimming, and shortly a staff member will come and ask you if you would like a drink. Pool towels are provided in a cabinet, Brazilian recycled-plastic lounge chairs surround the pool, and bats reside in the poolside shelter. I remember the times I stayed at hotels with my parents, when I was a kid. I always wanted to swim in the pool. As an adult, I generally don’t care about such things. But I was very glad of the Lapa Rios pool. It was the perfect place to cool off after a hike, when the cool shower in the bungalow just wasn’t enough.
All this writing and I haven’t even gotten to the food. The food at Lapa Rios is wonderful, and happily they have half portions available so you can manage to eat all the way to dessert!
Breakfast can be simple fruit, or yogurt and granola, or local fare like pupusas or corn cakes or the breakfast version of casado. There is always coffee (we take ours con leche, with milk) and juice (I preferred blackberry while Greg usually chose mango). At lunch, a juice of the day and a chip of the day are featured for tasting. Lunch offerings include a soup of the day (with chips), plus an entree and dessert if wanted. Entrees include salads and sandwiches (with chips) in addition to casado, fried rice, tortillas, or pasta. I love chips. I like potato chips, plantain chips, taro chips, yuca chips, whatever kind of chips that are offered, I love them.
At breakfast, it is also time to order the dinner entree. This is because if they know what you are having for dinner, they know what to order from Puerto Jimenez, from the local farms, etc, and they don’t have so much waste. It is a good system. Generally there are two soup or appetizer options and three entree options, plus two dessert options. One entree is always vegetarian, so Greg’s choice was easy. You arrive at dinner and find a candle-lit table with the right number of place settings, and your server arrives to ask if you would like a drink from the bar. A small appetizer is provided, and the bread of the day. Then, the server knowing already what you ordered, your soup arrives. Similarly, your entree. It was hard to have room for dessert, but we made an effort for coconut-chocolate pudding! One layer of chocolate pudding, one layer of coconut pudding, garnished with dark chocolate shavings. YUM.
Lapa Rios was definitely an awesome place to spend a chunk of our vacation!