Whether you‘re a nature enthusiast or an adventurer seeking the extraordinary — or both: Costa Rica caters to all interests and has the perfect accommodation suiting every taste.
Getting to the Pacuare Lodge is an adventure in itself, and involves either an extensive hike or —if that sounds too tedious— a river rafting tour. The Pacuare River in Limón is considered one of the best rafting routes in Costa Rica. The river is wild, impetuous and rough. Referred to in the language of the local Cabécar people as "life", those travelling on it soon understand why. But the real 'Wow' experience is had on arrival at the Pacuare Lodge — a small paradise nestling in the heart of the rainforest.
"Life" is also a very fitting description for the lodge. Roberto Fernández, founder and co-owner, explains: "We pay careful attention to the environment and make every effort to keep things as environmentally sustainable as possible." With that in mind, rather than sourcing wood from the rainforest, sustainably grown teakwood from a reforestation project was used to build the lodge. The staff are chiefly from the local communities and earn a good wage by Costa Rican standards. As for the palate, Roberto Fernández and his team are all about serving fresh food: much of the fruit and vegetables used are grown on the lodge’s own farm. The rest is purchased from local farmers’ markets. Solar energy is used in the main building while the other areas of the lodge do without electricity. Instead, the lodge is illuminated by a sea of candles which the staff light at night. Add the sound of chirping crickets, birdsong from the rainforest and a starry sky to the mix, and the result is a magically romantic rainforest experience.
But there is no need to forgo luxury: the suites of the Pacuare Lodge are all equipped with hammocks and four-poster beds; some also have a private infinity pool (needless to say, without any chlorine). With just eighteen suites, privacy is ensured. The Canopy suite is a favourite with honeymooners and can only be reached via a private suspension bridge. Roberto Fernández is currently planning two more suites — but no more will follow, as what really matters to him is to conserve Pacuare’s natural beauty.
Besides focusing on the luxurious and ecological approach, adventure tourism is also close to Roberto’s heart. "It all began when I purchased a kayak and dared to venture on to the river." Today, he is considered the founder of Costa Rica’s rafting scene, which is also pretty obvious at the Pacuare Lodge: guests who enjoyed the experience of arriving on a raft can book additional river rafting tours, available in various grades of difficulty. Guided birdwatching and hiking tours to indigenous communities are also very popular activities. The lodge‘s 120-metre zip-line is a real highlight and provides access to "The Nest": situated on a 20-metre high treetop platform, "The Nest" tree house can be reserved for breakfast, lunch or dinner for up to four persons. What a fabulous experience enriched by delicious tasting food! By the way: Costa Rican coffee with its mild yet flavourful aroma is a must-try!
A very different experience is to be had in Pérez Zeledón, situated some 150 km from San José. Formerly a coffee plantation, the area is now home to the Hacienda AltaGracia. A pearl embedded in a hilly landscape. Accommodation at the luxury resort is in fifty "Casitas"— which are small villas. The "Casitas" feature elegant American-style furnishing in hues of brown and beige. Equipped with a king-size bed, a Jacuzzi and a private fireplace, they truly leave nothing to be desired.
In culinary terms, the food served at AltaGracia is of the highest quality. The fruit and vegetables used to prepare the various dishes are grown on the adjacent farm. The small but fine menu is simply irresistible — and the burger with delicious chips/French fries most definitely worth the sin, best enjoyed with exquisite wine.
Pure luxury — pure Costa Rica
The heart of AltaGracia is its spa, decorated in shades of blue. The locals consider it to be the best in Central America. Whether facials, massages or a relaxing visit to the sauna — the spa is the perfect getaway from a stressful day. Fitness and yoga lessons are also on offer (not a bad idea, considering all the great food served in the Hacienda). Booking a hot stone massage is highly recommended, followed by a dip in the indoor pool that offers a fabulous view of the former coffee plantation.
Those who prefer the outdoors can make their way to the stables, with some of the most beautiful horses in the country, and explore the countryside on horseback. Ultralight aircraft will take visitors to lofty heights, from where scenic aerial views of pineapple plantations and secluded waterfalls can be enjoyed. An exclusive breakfast will be served on request, before returning to the Hacienda. Evening bliss can be found on one’s "Casita" terrace, counting shooting stars and relishing that priceless feeling of peace.
The two most beautiful places to stay in Costa Rica:
Price: A night’s stay in the River Suite is available from 465 US$.
Activities: With a choice of rafting, kayaking, hiking, zip-lining, birdwatching and much more, you’ll never get bored at the Pacuare Lodge.
Suitable for: Adventurers looking for a special rainforest experience. Being so close to nature whilst enjoying maximum comfort in Costa Rica is quite exceptional. A digital detox is part and parcel in the Pacuare Lodge, as WiFi and mobile networks are scarce commodities.
Address: Limón, Limon, Costa Rica. For more information: http://www.pacuarelodge.com/
Price: A night’s stay is available from 460 US$ if booked in advance.
Activities: Apart from relaxing in the stunning spa, there is horseback riding across the Pérez Zeledón countryside or a flight in an ultralight aircraft with scenic aerial views on offer.
Suitable for: Anyone looking for relaxation and time-out from the daily hustle and bustle. The view is spectacular, the tranquillity blissful, and the spa treatments provide the proverbial icing on the cake. Hacienda AltaGracia is also a great way to end a Costa Rica adventure holiday.