Most of our guests fly from San José to Puerto Jiménez. The Lapa Rios adventure starts on these small planes from which you can see many beautiful parts of Costa Rica on a good day. Flying time is less than one hour, unless stopping en route (you may land to drop off or pick up other passengers in Quepos, Palmar Sur, Drake’s Bay or Golfito).
When taking off from either San José airport, you will see most of the Valle Central and its three main volcanoes on the northern horizon: Poas to the west, Barva and Irazu in the east. (Downtown San José surrounds the Pavas Airport. The International Airport is NW of the city.) Within minutes you’ll fly south over stretches of rural, undulating areas dotted with coffee plantations and fruit orchards, along with primary-forested mountains to the east cascading streams and river valleys west toward the Pacific (see map). Costa Rica’s highest mountain range is on your left, a part of the Cordillera de Talamanca. Chirripo is the highest peak at 3,800 mts. (12,530 ft.). When driving to the Osa, you cross this spiny range at Cerro de la Muerte, where the Inter-American Highway climbs to 3,400 meters (11,350 ft.).
Reaching the Pacific coast you fly past the Manuel Antonio-Quepos area, Dominical and Uvita, near the National Underwater Park, Marino Ballena. At low tide the park’s unusual peninsular shape defines its name: whale. For 5 minutes you’ll fly over the huge national wetlands, the mouth of the Rio Grande de Terraba, Costa Rica’s largest river and fresh water delta. This estuary and mangrove swamp area is crisscrossed by the serpentine Rio Sierpe and canals built by banana companies. The small island on the horizon is Isla del Caño National Park, famous for diving and snorkeling: no hiking allowed. After passing Drake’s Bay, you’ll cross the Osa Peninsula isthmus, Piedras Blancas National Park and Central America’s deepest gulf: Golfo Dulce. Look down—see any dolphins and whales? The Rio Esquinas delta and Golfito are east, the high parts of Corcovado National Park to the west.
When you arrive in Puerto Jiménez the Lapa Rios staff will be waiting for you, to help you with your luggage and show you to our offices just a few meters from the landing strip. Take a moment to drink some water, soda or a cold beer and use a bathroom before continuing to Lapa Rios. If you need to make a phone call it is best do it when you arrive in Puerto Jiménez. Remember: there are no phones at Lapa Rios—we communicate with the town office via marine radio. (Needing to telephone, fax or check email will require a minimum 2-hour return trip.) A vast majority of our guests applaud being away from it all, with no television, cellular phone ringing or the pressure to empty the “in-box.” True decompression requires the shedding of responsibilities. ¡Vamos a Lapa Rios!
Departing the Lapa Rios office you will pass Puerto Jiménez’s shallow harbor, the soccer field and post office, medical clinic, stores and restaurants. You’ll see the local Children’s Library built by volunteers; Lapa Rios donated the furniture. After driving past the Osa Peninsula’s only bank and gas station you’ll bump along a dirt road 45-60 minutes, first riding through cattle pastures cleared of trees generations ago. The primary forested ridges on your right angle closer to the road and ocean as you move south. If interested in spotting wildlife along the way, alert the driver—he’ll try to point out birds and animals, using their common names. (The Lapa Rios staff is from the local community and native Spanish speakers. They learn and practice English, the travelers’ language. What they lack in proficiency is rectified with enthusiasm and kindness.) You’ll cross several rivers some over simple bridges, others by fording. Your driver will point out the Carbonera Primary School located at the border of the Lapa Rios Reserve. This school was built and is supported by Lapa Rios guests—a demonstration of Travelers’ Philanthropy: people giving back to those they visit. Barring a school holiday, one of our staff escorts guests to the school twice weekly.
Depending on the road condition you should arrive at Lapa Rios within an hour. Our staff will welcome you with a delicious drink, get you checked in and offer an eco lodge orientation: what to do/not to do, outline tours and activities, explain ecotourism’s sustainable practices and answer questions. If you arrive during a mealtime, feel free to proceed to the restaurant; check in and orientation will follow. By the time you complete your Lapa Rios welcome, your luggage will have been delivered to your beautiful bungalow. Bienvenidos!