Our colleague Lloyd has recently returned from a comprehensive road trip to Costa Rica to explore some new regions and lodges. His fact-finding itinerary included several national parks, reserves, rivers and in total he visited 13 regions and 32 hotels. In keeping with the Sunvil ‘promise’ we handpick all our accommodation and resorts and are very excited by Lloyd’s findings and we will add some of the new properties and resorts to our Latin America programme in the near future. Lloyd flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on the new British Airways direct flight from London Gatwick.
We asked Lloyd to pick out some highlights of his visit to this beautiful country in Central America.
Details of your favourite property and why ?
Tough one but I will go for Lagarta lodge in Nosara. It is an elegant hotel, recently opened and located on a hilltop above two rivers. The general manager is Allan Ortega who we know well from one of our favourite hotels in Manuel Antonio. The views to the coast and forest below are truly magical and my top tip would be to pay extra for the Flor Blanca rooms which enjoy the best views. The property has two infinity pools and are the perfect place for a cooling swim and to enjoy the wonderful sunsets and has its own private biological reserve with magnificent mangrove trees. There are plenty of local activities on offer such as boat trips, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and complimentary shuttle buses to the nearby beaches. There is the added bonus of a nearby airstrip (flights from San Jose) and a spa will be ready soon. If you are lucky you may even see a crocodile which are lurking in the nearby river! Ostional beach which is approximately 25 minutes from Nosara is the world’s second largest nesting ground for the olive ridley turtle mainly between July and December.
Favourite activity and why ?
Whilst I was staying in the Savegre river area I tried out the Aqua hike tour which takes approximately 6 hours and the guide teaches you all about the natural history of a lowland tropical forest. The steam eco-system of the Quebrada Arroyo is fed by underground springs and cascades into the Savegre valley through a series of wonderful waterfalls. The tour starts at the Savegre river with whitewater rafting in order to reach the starting point of the hike. A steep but short hike up a jungle trail leads to a vantage point with stunning views of the river below and the Pacific ocean in the distance. The trail is home to some extremely rare poison dart frogs, lizards, squirrel monkeys and a host of species of birds. Eventually you will make it to an impressive 120 foot waterfall which also offers a great swimming spot. A delicious ‘fire cooked’ lunch is at a local community project called Los Campesinos and after you cross a 127m long suspension bridge (40m high) and then a 4×4 drive back down to the Savegre. If you’re feeling energetic strong hikers can walk the 8km back to the lodge. For this particular activity I would recommend a reasonable level of fitness.
Favourite beach and why ?
I believe that Playa Pelada is arguably the most beautiful beach on the Nicoya peninsula. It is a small horse-shoe shaped white sandy beach situated between Punta Nosara and Punta Guiones. It still operates as a fishing hub as indicated by the colourful boats that line the beach. A trail at the northern end of the beach winds up onto the cliffs of Punta Nosara and continues onto the Nosara rivermouth. At the southern end of the beach a blowhole shoots water high into the air when the tide is high. Pelada is an ideal place for quiet walks, shell hunting or simply relaxing with a book. However, a more lively scene can be found in front of Olga’s bar where the local fishermen, tourists and workers gather to play football on the beach and watch the stunning sunset.
Where you ate your best meal. What did you have ?
In a place where I least expected it! We decided to try out the coastal road between Santa Teresa and Nosara (as an alternative to the interior route) on the Nicoya peninsula. I must say it was quite an experience – we had to drive through several small rivers (no bridges) and also navigate a section where you have to actually drive on the beach before rejoining the road. We missed the beach exit but thanks to a local fisherman we eventually got back on track. Along the way we found a cafe in a remote village which proved to be an unusual lunch stop in very quirky surroundings. We were curious as to how many people they actually serve each day. We were served a real treat – tasty Gallo pinto which consists of rice and beans mixed together with scrambled eggs, chopped beef, fried plantains and tortillas. The lively Caribbean music certainly added to the ambience. Whilst we were talking to the man behind the counter we pointed out that some chickens were behind him and settling down on the shelf. He responded casually ‘Yes don’t worry it is where they lay their eggs’. You can’t get fresher ingredients than that!
What was the highlight of your trip ?
It has to be seeing a puma on the remote wilderness trails in Corcovado National Park. It is one of my favourite parks and as we entered pre-dawn via La Leona station I felt the familiar knot of excitement in the pit of my stomach. I have visited the park several times before but I have never seen a wild cat – so this was a very special moment. This large solitary cat is a territorial animal and has a range of up to 100 miles. It’s amazingly fast and it is the second heaviest cat after the jaguar and is protected by the national park authorities. We also spotted a good selection of other wildlife including monkeys and birds and a bridge built by the renowned explorer John Blashford-Snell and his team following a recent expedition.
General feel of the areas
This was a rewarding trip which really opened up my eyes to some alternative regions and combinations especially in the south of the country. Areas such as San Vito, Piedras Blancas National Park and Uvita can easily be added to other established areas. Although natural history will remain the main reason for visiting the country there are also some great cultural and community experiences.
Sunvil has a range of itineraries to Costa Rica – one of the world’s most bio-diverse nations. It’s unique characteristics allow nature to thrive all around you, making a Costa Rica holiday perfect for those with a keen interest in wildlife and eco-tourism.