The anteroom to haven for nature lovers, this rustically engaging eco-friendly lodge overlooks Golfo Dulce in an isolated and untouched corner of the Osa Peninsula at the southern tip of Costa Rica (an hour by air from San José, followed by a 45 minute transfer over bumpy roads). Founded by American conservationists Karen and John Lewis, the exotic enclave nestles in a pristine thousand-acre rainforest reserve, where it harmoniously blends into wondrous surroundings on three jungly ridges connected by garden paths.
Handcrafted palapa roofs convey the spirit of South Seas tropical sanctuary, the open-air restaurant/bar pavilion being a palm-thatched work of art ascending 50 feet skyward to an observation platform poised above the alien forest canopy. From this eagle’s nest and picturesque bar-lounge desk, up close sightings of acrobatic white-faced monkeys and a dazzling array of toucans, parakeets and scarlet macaws become commonplace-as does the symphony of howler monkeys and the shattering nighttime din of bugs we never really cared to know about.
Sixteen fan-cooled guest bungalows (scheduled for refurbishment this fall, along with the public areas) cascade down a hillside through the wilderness terrain. Each simply appointed unit features two queen beds, a shower-bath, netted windows and furnished patio hugged by bougainvillea and philodendron plants. Bear in mind, the higher the room number, the longer and steeper the climb to the main building. Service continues to be caring and helpful, with most of friendly longtime staff coming from neighboring villages. A fascinating menu of self-guided and naturalist-led jungle hikes is offered, including a medicine walk with a charismatic local shaman. Also available: a small free-form clifftop pool, therapeutic massages, guided horseback rides, sea kayaking and beach excursions (a half-mile trail winding down through the forest to the shoreline).
Capturing the wild and authentic essence that most outdoor enthusiasts associate with Costa Rica, Lapa Rios is an ideal first stop on your itinerary. Happily recommended as always, but do wait until mid-December when the renovations should be fully complete. Double, $360-$445, depending in time of year, all meals included; Single, $265-$340. Rates for children over age 5 on request. From the U.S., Tel. 011-506-735-5130 or Fax 011-506-735-5179.