Savoring Slow Travel at the SarapiquiS Rainforest Lodge
by Geri Bain
Stepping into the open-air, high-ceiling lobby at the SarapiquiS Rainforest Lodge, I got my first glimpse of Costa Rican wildlife before even checking in. Built in the circular architectural style of the pre-Columbian people of the area, the lobby is home to a few dozen small bats. They darted around but never at low enough altitudes to see how cute they were. I walked out to the hotel restaurant overlooking the Sarapiqui River, where the reality of how far I’d come hit. Costa Rica is a visual feast, with wildly colored plants and flowers punctuating the thick foliage. We were only about 50 kilometers from the San Jose airport but the sights and sounds were a world apart.
After a friendly check-in, I followed a garden path to my room in a separate thatch roof building with four units. The high roofs allow for good air circulation, important since most rooms have ceiling fans and are not air-conditioned. While there is Wi-Fi in the lobby, restaurant, bar, and pool area, rooms have no TV or Wi-Fi. Here, the focus is on nature, and rightly so. Each evening brought a symphony of sounds, constantly teasing with hints at the unseen, such as the occasional brazen outbursts from howler monkeys and I fell asleep to the sound of crickets chirping in a slow soothing rhythm that felt like the forest itself was inhaling and exhaling.
The open-air restaurant served buffets featuring local produce, from yummy fried plantains and fresh juices and fruits to a choice of beans, veggies and grilled meats. The service was always friendly and efficient but my favorite part was watching the colorful hummingbirds, butterflies and other birds flutter and fly in and out of the tropical foliage. This is a place where slowing down pays off. Take the time to gaze deeply in any direction and colorful flowers and creatures are likely to come into focus. One morning, I took my coffee to the pool as the sun was rising and a toucan emerged to splash in the pool’s mini-waterfall. One tip: Bring a flashlight. Walking back at night, I could be sure I wasn’t stepping on any stray creatures, and shining my light into the foliage for a few minutes, I spotted a colorful frog.
Adjacent to the Lodge, The Tirimbina Biological Reserve offers a variety of nature tours. These include self-guided and guided day and night walks where participants may spot howler monkeys, and, since this is a prime birding area, some of Costa Rica’s hundreds of bird species. There are also rare and colorful frogs, such as the red-eyed tree frog, iguanas, sloths and many other tropical creatures. Specialized programs here focus on bats, where you can actually hold and feed them, as well as birds, snakes and a pre-Colombian archeological site and museum were under restoration during my visit.
TheThe Tirimbina Biological Reserve also offers an indigenous chocolate tour and tasting, an entertaining and educational program that takes participants through the entire process of chocolate making, from picking out the cocoa fruit ripening on the trees to drying the cocoa beans (inside the fruit) and then cooking and grinding them and turning them into cocoa and chocolate. It was an all-senses tour, and we were able to smell and taste everything from the sweet ripe chocolate fruit pod to the beans in various stages of production.
Coming soon, some highlights of the Sarapiqui region, one of Costa Rica’s less-discovered treasures.
Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 65 countries. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.