When I read about the Osa Peninsula located in the Southern tip of Costa Rica, I had visions in my mind about what to expect. I did not realise that my visions would not even come close to how magical this part of the world is in reality. It is absolute paradise. I was blown away by how the rainforest meets the ocean on the boat ride across the Gulf of Dulce, from Golfito to Puerto Jimenez, mesmerised by the Scarlet Macaws, and amazed by the endless and EMPTY beaches, except for the surfers who come here to ride on one of the longest breaks in this part of the world.
There are plenty of hikes you can do in the area and they will all have you never wanting to leave! As I don’t always do overnight hikes, I do like to stay in accommodation which implements sustainable principles. And to experience the Osa Peninsula at its best, you must stay at Lapa Rios Eco Lodge.
Built in 1993, Lapa Rios (Lapa is the Costa Rican name for Scarlet Macaw) is a beautiful property that offers you more than just a room, it offers you an experience – one you certainly won’t forget. I had the opportunity to take a tour of the eco lodge and a jungle hike which gave me a little insight into the magic you will find at Lapa Rios.
First of all, the views are spectacular. Lapa Rios has been built on the top of a hill, offering full views of the private reserve and down to the ocean. There is a viewing platform to take in the 360 degree views and if you decide to leave your room, you an sit in the dining area or by the pool to take in this tropical hideaway.
The rooms are heaven. They are void of all electronic toys and are open air, but still have screens, made of nursery shade, at the top of the rooms to minimise bugs from entering. This allows you to be at one with nature. With each room opening out to a wonderful private deck, and a garden shower, it will be hard to leave you own little sanctuary.
Such luxury is combined with a sustainable approach to the property. Lapa Rios invest time and money into the entire property, surrounding nature and local communities where everyone benefits. Their focus towards sustainability has contributed to the appeal of the eco lodge and to winning numerous awards.
What I loved about Lapa Rios is the extensive and diverse activities they offer. With horseback riding, surfing lessons, Spanish lessons, jungle hikes, birdwatching, snorkelling and cooking classes, Lapa Rios is more than just a relaxing hideaway. You have the opportunity to spend your days being very active indeed. The jungle hike that I took on the property was wonderful. We hiked to a pristine waterfall and along the way, saw monkeys, frogs, birds and many beautiful plants. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and had a great eye for finding wildlife. When we returned from the hike, he showed us the resident sloth and different species of birds through a telescope.
I was fortunate to talk with the General Manager, Marieke. With ten years at Lapa Rios she was a world of information and it was easy to see why she loved her job so much and was so passionate about Lapa Rios and her team of fabulous staff.
Located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Lapa Rios is surrounded by lush rainforest and an abundance of diverse wildlife. How does Lapa Rios show their guests this beautiful area?
The main focus is definitely on the wildlife. Our inclusive packages offer tours in our private reserve, with up to eight per day. We search for protected animals, take guests on birdwatching tours, hike to our beautiful waterfall, and educate and show our guests the medicinal plants. Our private reserve is home to the four different species of monkeys found in Costa Rica. 300 species of birds live here, and two types of sloth. On our night walks, guests may see frogs, snakes, spiders and owls.
We also have a big focus on water activities. Guests can explore the ocean through snorkelling, surf lessons and dolphin/whale watching (August – October). For adrenalin lovers, Lapa Rios can also arrange zip lining or horseback riding. If you like culture, guests also take Spanish classes and cooking classes or visit the local school during their stay.
With 16 luxurious bungalows, guests can feel seclusion and privacy. Talk me through the layout of the property and the rooms. What makes the property so unique?
The bungalows are set in sets of two, but they are still very private. The best thing about them is the open screens, so it feels like you are in the rainforest. None of the walls in the bungalows go up all of the way to the ceiling. Each bungalow has its own shower with hot water, its own private deck with lounge chairs and ocean views and a garden shower and you can choose from two queen size beds or one king.
When staying at an all-inclusive eco lodge, part of the experience is providing guests with high quality meals. How do you cater for your guests and what type of food can guests look forward to?
We try to combine gourmet dining with local ingredients and our guests are very interested to learn about our local food. Yucca, sweet potatoes, and other tubercles are local ingredients we use a lot at the lodge. We also have a variety in vegetarian food as many of our guests are vegetarian. We accommodate all dietary restrictions and try to make an experience with each meal. Our fruit juices are amazing! We have specific times for dining but the kitchen is open all day.
Lapa Rios’ original vision was to create a private nature reserve. With such a primary focus on sustainability, how is Lapa Rios continuing to incorporate sustainability into its future?
In the beginning, the owners were looking for something worth conserving. They previously worked in the Peace Corps in Kenya. In Kenya they saw a focus on animals and wildlife but not with the locals. With Lapa Rios, they wanted to work with the locals and combine local staff with standard service and luxury in a rainforest with natural materials. The sustainability part of the Lapa Rios vision has three components. The first is conservation through preserving the land and the wildlife. The second is education. The local school was founded by the owners of Lapa Rios and this resort with their guests has been able to support 14 other local schools in the Osa Peninsula, which help provide books and uniforms. The third is local community. Lapa Rios chooses to train local people and of the 58 staff over 90 per cent are people raised in the local area. The main idea of Lapa Rios is one rainforest left standing is worth more than one cut down. In this respect we are trying to create awareness.
A stay in Lapa Rios for some people is a once in a lifetime experience. What makes it so special for you?
I travel a lot and I love coming back home. There is no place like the Osa Peninsula. Having everything up close and living in harmony is amazing and not found anywhere else. I love the service we offer. Every one of our staff loves what we do and their quality of life. This makes us the best hosts!
Lapa Rios kindly arranged the tour and jungle hike