In-your-face nature is the No. 1 draw when it comes to Costa Rica. The country abounds with a mix of microclimates, from cool-as-rain cloud forests to bright beaches. Most travelers will touch down in San Jose Airport. Those intent on maximizing their nature experience will want to give the gritty capital city San Jose a pass and head right into the countryside. Wherever a traveler chooses to go in Costa Rica, there will be plenty of opportunities for animal interaction.
There’s also a great variety among the eco-lodges of Costa Rica. Some are luxurious and offer fine dining, while others will be on the rustic side with facilities to prepare your own meals. Some, such as Pacuare Lodge, specialize in whitewater rafting, while the El Silencio Lodge & Spa provides a health and wellness experience complete with yoga and sessions at the spa. Whether you go high or low, don’t forget your binoculars, bug repellent and a lightweight rain poncho for rainforest hikes and sudden downpours.
Costa Rica Tree House Lodge
Those looking for an eco-lodge on the beach will want to check out the Costa Rica Tree House Lodge, convenient to Puta Uva beach. The family-friendly property has five screened-in accommodations built with natural materials such as bamboo and locally sourced nispero beams. There’s no restaurant on the property, but each of the houses has its own kitchen. There’s a grocery and bakery about a five-minute stroll down the road, and several restaurants within walking distance. The Costa Rica Tree House Lodge is built within the boundaries of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, where tours of the rainforest can be arranged. It’s about a five-hour drive from San Jose to Costa Rica Tree House Lodge. Roads can be iffy and driving by night is not recommended. The easiest solution is for travelers to arrange to have the property’s driver pick them up at the airport. Rates start as low as $200 per night for two guests.
Lapa Rios Lodge
Located on the Osa Peninsula, the 17-bungalow Lapa Rios Lodge has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability and is a founding member of National Geographic Lodges of the World. Eco-luxurious accommodations are in screened bungalows offering laid-back features like hammocks and terraces with rainfall showers. The lodge is situated within 1,000 acres of rainforest and offers numerous opportunities for outdoor adventures. The Osa Peninsula is on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica, and the Lapa Rios Lodge is only a 10-minute walk to Playa Pan Dulce beach. The lodge is about a seven-hour drive from San Jose, although there’s an option to take a charter flight to Puerto Jiménez, which still requires a 45-minute drive to the lodge. Rates vary depending on the season and begin at $280 per adult.
El Silencio Lodge & Spa
El Silencio Lodge & Spa is a good match for those looking for chic eco-accommodations in a mountain setting with a trio of easy-to-reach waterfalls thrown into the mix. Guests can be surrounded by nature while still enjoying luxe amenities like outdoor hot tubs, a spa and a yoga deck. The lodge is located 2.4 miles from Parquet Nacional Juan Castro Blanco, which offers rainforest hiking with the opportunity to observe a wide variety of birds and animals, including sloths and howler monkeys. El Silencio Lodge & Spa is about 36 miles from San Jose. Rates start at $375.
Whitewater rafting enthusiasts will love Pacuare Lodge, which is perched on the shores of the Pacuare River. The river is so baked into the lodge’s DNA that one of the preferred ways to reach the secluded eco-property is via raft from the town of Siquerres (ground transportation is another option). The lodge is family-friendly up to a point: Guests need to be seven or older to stay at the lodge and 12 or older to join one of the rafting excursions. The upscale eco-lodge has 20 suites with a sophisticated interior design inspired by the craftsmanship and lodgings of the Cabécar indigenous people. The kitchen is supplied by the lodge’s organic farm, and dinners are three-course affairs by candlelight. The package includes transportation from San Jose, all meals and an impressive range of activities, such as a tropical canyoning tour, birdwatching excursion or waterfall hike. Per person rates, double occupancy starts at $965.
Travelers who wish to connect with the Costa Rican people during a budget-priced eco-adventure should definitely have Rancho Mastatal on their radar. Imagine a nature-based center for responsible tourism, where guests have the option of joining a permaculture farming workshop, interacting with locals and enjoying communal meals in simple accommodations. Folded into this are lots of opportunities for birdwatching or taking a hike to a nearby waterfall. Rancho Mastatal is about a 2.5-hour drive from San Jose. A night’s stay and all meals start at $45 for one person and $85 for couples.
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