Families seeking an authentic taste of Costa Rica in 1,000 acres of virgin rainforest bursting with life should look no further than Lapa Rios Lodge, part of the Cayuga Collection. One of the first true ecolodges in the country and recognized as one of the top 50 such accommodations in the world by National Geographic, Lapa Rios is committed to sustainable practices at a level that far surpasses the ornamental practices of many hotels who strive to be eco-conscious. Lapa Rios is an inspiring model for the industry, and the family experience within the hotel is as educational as the family experience outside it in this regard.
Lapa Rios is in the Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park, which is known for extraordinarily rich biodiversity and wildlife. Although this park is accessible within an hour’s drive or flight from Lapa Rios, guests get a taste of what makes Corcovado famous right from the lodge, as the wildlife experience at Lapa Rios is immersive — the sights and sounds of the rainforest are around you at all moments.
The remote setting and integrative all-screen bungalow accommodations are not for everyone, but they sure were for us! Here’s what we loved about the Lapa Rios experience for families:
Seventeen all-screen thatched bungalows overlooking the Pacific Ocean are spread through the jungle and form the heart of Lapa Rios. Each bungalow is totally private and luxuriously appointed with beautiful wood furnishings and crips white linens. Mosquito nets provide extra protection for any unwanted flying friends that may sneak in the door; every bungalow has a huge terrace with a hammock, lounge chairs and an outdoor shower.
Monkeys and incredible tropical birds are constant companions. The otherworldly sound of a howler monkey wake-up is something our family will reminisce about forever. Guests can request coffee and hot chocolate delivered to the room as the sun rises; pure joy, as morning is magic at Lapa Rios.
Families can choose bungalows with two queen beds or adjacent bungalows.
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Lapa Rios’ professional naturalists are scheduled around a variety of activities each day to educate guests about the rainforest and ecosystem. Most of the activities involve hikes of different lengths — there’s even a night hike to explore all the creatures who only show themselves when the sun goes down.
The naturalists at Lapa Rios are some of the best we’ve experienced anywhere. They are knowledgable, friendly and passionate about Costa Rica’s wondrous natural resources.
From pigs who consume all leftovers and produce the gas used to heat the stove, to hiring people from the surrounding community to work at the lodge, Lapa Rios is committed to sustainable tourism at every level. The property mission is to protect and preserve the rainforest and its inhabitants, as well reduce the social impact of the lodge. These efforts have earned them the Certification for Sustainable Tourism. Although staying at the lodge is about fun and vacation, guest education is a big part of the experience and a lodge differentiator.
An open-air restaurant with gorgeous views and bar offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals are included in the nightly rates for guests. The menu features local and international options. There’s enough variety not to be bored after sequential meals, and the fresh fruit and fish are amazing.
The swimming pool overlooks the jungle and is a wonderful place to relax between activities. Lapa Rios is a 15-minute walk from a set of spectacular beaches; the property also runs a shuttle to/from the beach. This is not a resort beach with chairs and fruity drinks — it’s wild and pristine, a wonderful place for tidepooling and surfing. It’s also good for wading and swimming when the surf isn’t too rough.
Otherwise, there isn’t a long list of additional resort infrastructure amenities at Lapa Rios. On-property activities include language lessons, a tour of the eco-practices (amazing), and soccer with local kids when school is in session. The Lapa Rios experience is about appreciating the Osa Peninsula and is optimal for active families with school-age and up kids.
Our son spent the morning at the local surf school on the beach and loved it. Other activities in/around Lapa Rios include:
> dolphin and whale watching
> just-hatched sea turtle conservation
> mangrove tour
> kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding
> fishing, snorkeling and diving
> rainforest zipline
The best way to get to Lapa Rios is to take one of the daily flights from San Jose into nearby Puerto Jimenez. The hour-long flight has beautiful coastal and mountain views in clear weather. I’m not a fan of small planes and, as the person next to me said, “This plane is smaller than my car.” However, this is one of those situations where it’s worth the mental discomfort for the time savings as the drive takes most of a day.
Lala Rios provides complimentary transfers to and from the airport.
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Editor’s Note: Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.
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