3rd July 2019
Lapa Rios is a well-established hotel in the Osa Peninsular overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Panama. Most of the rooms share his view and mine was no exception. I left my curtains drawn, as I wanted to wake naturally up to the gorgeous sunrise, and the familiar sound of howler monkeys of course. My room also had an outdoor shower facing the sea and rainforest, which made my morning here even more special.
Costa Rica is not known for its cuisine, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect when it came to the food. It was delicious! The fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the pineapple and mango, were full of flavour. Expect fish, steak, chicken or plantain paired with rice and beans for a more traditional meal, like the one I had in San Jose market.
If you are vegetarian like me, you will not struggle as many hotels serve buffets and meat is replaced with aubergine or plantain. In the hotels, you will find varied buffets with everything from black bean soup to fajitas, mashed potatoes and grilled meats. My favourite meal on the trip was at Tortuguero from Mawamba Lodge. The lodge has its own floating dining platform for an intimate dining experience, best enjoyed at sunset. Floating down the river after sunset, all you can see if the distant lights of Tortuguero and other lodges, adding to the exclusive feeling.
Every accommodation I stayed at was different and provided a unique experience. Whether it was the volcanic mud treatment at Borinque, the volcanic thermal pools of Arenal Kiora, the easy access to Tortuguero’s turtle beaches at Mawamba Lodge, the boat ride journey to Playa Cativo in Golfo Dulce or the art collection at Studio Hotel in San Jose, to name a few!
Wild Frontier’s aims to work with accommodations which have achieved the four or five leaf sustainability certification from the Costa Rican government.
The part of the trip I was most nervous about was the zip lining at Arenal Volcano area. I'm not great with heights but I wanted to challenge myself so that I ccould try and conquer my fears. Arriving at the activity centre, we were welcomed by our host who provides us with a safety briefing before we sign a waiver. We stepped into the sky tram, which takes us high up the mountain and through the rainforest. After taking the first zip line, the only way back to the finish line is forward. The zip line guides are fantastic and make you really feel at ease, their calm demeanour helping reduce my nerves. As I travel fast over the valley with Arenal volcano in front of me, I am terrified but mesmerized at the same time. I somehow remember the instructions provided and finish on the other side of the valley. Then six exhilarating more zip lines takes you back to the activity centre. The adrenaline rush is fantastic and I'd recommend this activity to anyone, not just adrenaline junkies.
Playa Blanca plays host to an incredible natural phenomenon. Female Olive Ridley turtles lay their nests here every month for four days. Staying in Nosara during my trip, I was lucky enough to be in the area during this short window, especially since April is an early time for females to be nesting. You cannot attend the beach without a turtle guide, who will instruct you on how to approach the turtles in order to not scare them and cause them to return to the ocean before making their nest. We get surprisingly close to the turtles yet they don't seem at all bothered, probably due to their extreme focus on the task at hand! I am blessed to witness a female turtle dig her nest and lay her eggs. She goes into a state of absolute calm as she deposits her eggs into the warmth of the sand. With surprising speed, she then covers her nest in sand and shimmies back into the sea as the sunsets. A moment I will never forget.
From San Jose, there are a number of excursions available, one being a tour of a coffee plantation. I love coffee but have never really thought much about how it's made. This tour gave me an insight into the traditional methods of processing coffee, using a 100-year-old processing mill, which uses hydrologic energy. After tasting the product, I had to buy a pack of it!
Whilst staying in Nuceusa Lodge in Golfo Dulce, I was lucky enough to witness bioluminescent algae in the sea. From the dock, our guide pointed a hose of water into the sea to stimulate the algae. The hose created beautiful twinkling patterns in the water, emanated by the pitch dark of night. Although I dipped my feet in and became my Tinkerbell fantasy, my only regret is not running back to my room and getting my swimsuit so I could swim in this incredible phenomenon.
I would advise bringing water shoes if you are going to the Osa Peninsular. The waves are often very strong on the Pacific coast so swimming is not always advised. In Golfo Dulce, the gulf waters are calmer so there are plenty of opportunities to swim, but there are often rocky beaches.