Three adventure-themed resorts that blend nature and creature comforts
Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is the new darling of the eco-adventure crowd. This thumb of land on the country’s Pacific coast harbors Central America’s largest remaining Pacific lowland rainforest, containing some 50 percent of all plant and animal species found in Costa Rica. There’s plenty of bucket-list activities awaiting, from jungle hikes and prospecting for gold to surfing safaris and big game fishing trips.
Lapa Rios Lodge
This landmark eco lodge is set in a 1,000-acre private nature preserve on the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula, where the waters of Gulfo Dulce meet the Pacific. The resort is recognized as one of the pioneers in the sustainable lodging movement. Lapa Rios was a founding member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World program, and became the first hotel in Costa Rica to receive Five Leaf status from the Costa Rica Tourist Board. The lodge’s commitment to sustainability extends to all aspects of operation, from solar-heated water and the use of bio-degradable products to more eclectic solutions such as the use of locally produced bio-gas in the kitchen, and non-motorized farming techniques in the on-site organic gardens.
Guests at Lapa Rios are housed in a collection of 17 rustic hilltop bungalows built from local and sustainable materials. Each bungalow features large ceiling fans, king-size or two queen-size beds and spacious indoor bathrooms with two showers, one with rain-like cool water and one with solar-heated hot water. An open-air design ushers in panoramic views of the rainforest and the waters of Gulfo Dulce, and includes expansive covered porches furnished with hammocks, lounges and an additional outdoor shower. The on-site restaurant provides similarly impressive views of forest and ocean, and delivers an upscale cuisine with a focus on fresh, property grown and locally sourced foods. Other amenities include a salt- based pool with direct beach access and a hilltop deck used for yoga sessions and al fresco massage treatments. For those who must stay connected with the outside world, the Guides’ Hut offers complimentary Wi-Fi.
Nature takes center stage at Lapa Rios. Guests wake to bird songs and the sounds of the jungle. Since the entire property is maintained as a wildlife corridor, it’s not uncommon to see wildlife right from bungalow decks. A network of self guided hiking trails crisscross the property, and additional scheduled walks and tours include a waterfall hike, medicinal plant tour, rainforest ridge hike, sunrise and sunset birding excursions, tours of Corcovado National Park, and nighttime jungle walks. On-property activities include daily yoga and qigong sessions, regional cooking classes, cultural immersions and sustainability workshops. Guests can also engage in day trips for adventures from surfing lessons and zip lining to dolphin watching.
The back-to-nature experience at this premier eco-lodge begins with a boat ride, because there is no road leading to this pristine private nature preserve. The hillside buildings of Playa Nicuesa face a small, pristine beach on the shores of Gulfo Dulce, with the wild jungle of the Piedras Blancas National Park on all sides. The solar-powered lodges’ eco-credentials are impeccable, and the property’s design exudes rustic regional charm while also delivering a civilized take on jungle living.
At the center of the resort is the main lodge, which is an open-air, two-story structure. The lower level is home to a library, lounge and terrace bar, and is fitted with hammocks and game tables. The second floor terrace provides all round views of the forest, and is the setting for family-style meals, which are served by candlelight in the evenings. Tucked into the property’s wooded hillside is a collection of private one and two-bedroom cabins, cabin suites and a tree house inspired two-story guesthouse with four private rooms. Each of these unique cabins is finished with rich hardwood floors, louvered windows, netting canopied beds, open-air showers and wraparound terraces that provide canopy level views of the forest.
A network of trails leads from Playa Nicuesa into the forests of the surrounding national park. Guided walks include an edible landscape tour, where guests learn to forage for exotic edibles in the rain forest, then work with the chef to transform their finds into a savory meal. Other favorites include the guided night hike, and kayak trips on the Esquinas River, where mangroves teem with wildlife. The lodge’s kayaks can also be used for trips into the waters of Gulfo Dulce, which is an important habitat for dolphin and migrating humpback whales. Guests can also use the lodge’s fishing equipment to catch their own dinner, which will be expertly prepared by the lodge’s chefs.
Crocodile Bay Resort
This relative newcomer to the Osa Peninsula offers civilized but still an authentic take on the eco-adventure theme. Crocodile Bay sits on 44 acres of manicured tropical gardens close to the village of Puerto Jimenez, and convenient to the town’s air strip. To provide fishermen with a wide range of marine ecosystems, the resort’s location was chosen for it’s strategic proximity to both the sheltered bays and coastal estuaries of Gulfo Dulce, and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. This location also proved to be an ideal starting point for a wide range of land based activities on the Osa Peninsula, making Crocodile Bay an ideal destination not only for fishermen, but also for nature lovers and families seeking an adventure themed vacation.
The resort’s 28 rooms are spread across the property in a group of two-story buildings. All rooms are air conditioned, and include telephone service for connectivity. Families and groups can stay together by booking the three- bedroom villa. Guests are immersed in nature the moment they step onto private balconies or terraces, where hundreds of species of birds and butterflies fill the nearby forest canopy. A short walk through garden-like landscaping leads from rooms to the central lodge and dining room, where all meals are included in the daily room rate. Nearby is the resort’s pool, which includes a swim-up bar and a Jacuzzi set on an elevated terrace to take in jungle views. Also nearby is the 5,000-square-foot spa, which offers a full range of treatments. A long dock extending into the waters of the gulf houses a fleet of sport fishing and excursion boats.
Many guests of Crocodile Bay come for world-class fishing, which includes both inshore and offshore big game angling, and specialized kayak angling programs. But there’s more to this prime property than fishing, as the list of available activities includes more than 30 distinct adventures. Relaxing options include butterfly tours, rainforest walks and bird watching excursions. For the more active, there are waterfall hikes, climbs and rappels, zip line experiences, cross-country bike rides and a chance to pan for gold in jungle streams. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to tour coastal mangrove forests, and boat trips to deserted beaches include opportunities to snorkel and possibly swim with dolphins in the wild.