Stay in a jungle hotel in the southern carribean coast of Costa Rica, close to Puerto Viejo. Unwind in a rocking chair, listen to the sound of the jungle, watch wildlife from your porch or take a walk through the garden. This is pura vida!
The Caribbean side of Costa Rica offers a broad variety of activities. From little coastal villages to caribbean towns like Puerto Viejo. There is something for everyone. On our trip south, we decided to spend more time in Playa Chiquita, located 6.5 km southeast from the more popular coast town, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and just next to Playa Cocles.
Playa Chiquita offers one of the most pristine beaches of Costa Rica, with a very laid-back atmosphere and only a bunch of tourists. The perfect spot to be for a vacation where you can completely relax and gather new energy together with your partner, family or, on your own.
What is it like to sleep in a jungle hotel? Imagine the jungle, but, with the comfort of having a nice room with an en-suite bathroom and neat paths that lead from one house to the other. I do have to admit that I love nature, but, when it comes to sleeping in a jungle I am a bit sceptical. I am scared of spiders, so, sleeping outside in a hammock, being surrounded by jungle would be an ultimate nightmare for me. Not to imagine all the bugs and such.
That's why for me, a stay in a jungle hotel comes perfectly along with what I like, combining nature with a little bit of comfort. At the La Kukula Lodge, the houses are build in an eco-friendly way. The high ceilings and the way the air flows through the rooms, make airconditioning unnecessary. I loved the wood which was used and the possibility to open and close some windows to allow some fresh air to come in. Each window is covered with mosquito nets, so during our entire stay, there were no bugs, spiders or any other tiny animals inside. Thus, a deep sleep was guaranteed.
One of the biggest surprises for us was the shower. Having traveled around for the last 10 months, we saw all different kinds of showers. This is a true rain shower with a view straight out into the jungle aka hotel garden. The shower gel and shampoo are made out of the Ilan Ilan tree, thus biodegradable. It's locally produced in Cocles. And believe me, you'll never forget that incredible smell.
Outside of the room, you'll have plenty of space for your yoga mat (yoga with an incredible view), there are enough seating options and we loved to have our own hammock. Whether you're on vacation, you're planning to catch up some creative work (writing on your book, blog, project), this was my most favorite place to get some work done.
As an ultimate breakfast lover, the first meal of the day is quite important for me. At the La Kukula Lodge, homemade bread and jam are served, next to a tropical fruit mix and another dish you may choose from the menu which changes every day.
La Kukula is Spanish and stands for 'sloth' and in the hotel's garden are quite a few to spot. One of their favorite trees is right in front of the lodge. We left breakfast a few times, to watch the sloths move elegantly along the tree. Bring your camera to the table so you won't miss a nice picture. The owner always keeps an eye on the trees and tells his guests, whenever he sees them. With a little luck you could also see toucans, different birds, agoutis, different kind of frogs, howler monkeys, and beautiful butterflies throughout the property.
The owners, Sonia and Pepo, originally from Barcelona, are wonderful hosts. Pepo sometimes takes his guests out for a frog tour to the hotel's little pond. When he asked if we would like to go, I didn't say no, of course. For all who don't know yet, I am scared to hell of spiders, but I adore frogs since I was a kid. So, off we went with our torches. We passed the suite house and walked around the pond. Pepo is extremely talented in spotting frogs. Having never seen exotic frogs, I expected them to be much bigger, but the opposite was the case. During our walk, we only saw two bigger ones. If you have a macro lense, pack it, you'll need it. How we got the shots? I was pointing towards the frog with my flashlight while Michael took the picture.
Things to do around Playa Chiquita
Playa Chiquita is a small place, which doesn't mean there's not enough to do. But, everything is easier with a bicycle. We rented ours from the place just next to the supermarket in Playa Chiquita, El Duende Gourmet.
Bicycle rental: $ 5 per day
Life & Culture Adventure (sign with tourist information): $ 8 per day
We took the one for $5 per day and it was perfectly fine. Having a bike is great as it gets much easier to explore the surrounding areas and its beautiful beaches. Also, bicycling here leaves you baffled, the nature is incredible, people are friendly and everyone greets you with 'Hola' and I found it very relaxing as there is not much traffic. At night, we took our torches with us because there are no street lights.
The Ara Project
I have always loved parrots, and when we heard that there's an Ara project, we both wanted to go and see them in nature. After walking up all the way to the place, we were happy to see The Great Green Macaws once we already entered the property. From the view point on the hill, you have a spectacular view over the jungle and it's easy to spot the macaws. It's also the best place to take pictures when the parrots fly. The colors on their body are simply stunning.
Our guide explained to us that 50 years ago the people who arrived here cut down the trees in order to build up their farms. The macaws came over from Panama and were captured by lots of people who kept them as a pet. This is how the project came into place to save the Aras. Many of the birds were in poor condition and relied heavily on humans. Thus, it wasn't possible to release them immediately. They were rehabilitated and the owners gave them the opportunity to reproduce, which would give the babies the chance to fly free.
At 03:30 PM the birds are fed with either palm fruits, flower seeds, almonds, or sunflower. Apparently they love sunflower. Our guide explained us, that around 4:00 until 5:00 PM it's time for them to play and fly. While some of them were flying, others chose to sit quite close to us on a tree and watched us.
Most of them fly out into the jungle around 06:00 PM to find a place to sleep. The reason why they fly out and look for another place is that the predators smell them and it would be too dangerous to sleep always at the same place.
How to get there:
Ride your bicycle from the La Kukula lodge towards the street, turn right towards Manzanillo. Keep on riding until you see a sign on the right side that says ARA. Turn right and follow the street and the sign. At one point, the street goes up quite steep. If you have a rental car, you can easily drive up all the way. If not, park your bicycle there and walk all the way up (around 15 minutes).
Tours are every day at 04:00 – 05:00 PM, only with reservations +506 8971 1436 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Costs: Quite confusing, as there is no price listed on the website and it says donation base on Tripadvisor. Some wrote a suggested donation is $20 but to me, that seems more like a fixed entrance fee and not a donation.
If you happen to be on the other coast, you can visit the Ara project at Punta Islita to see the Scarlet Macaws (red Aras).
At the Lodge there's plenty space to follow your own yoga practice, either in your room or on the porch with a fantastic jungle view. If you need some motivation, new inspiration, meet other yogis, or try out a new style, there are some classes available.
Tierra de Yoga at Tierra de Suenos Lodge
8:30 AM daily
3 PM Wednesday & Friday
Chocolate plantation? Yes, please! Unfortunately we didn't go, but next time I would definitely book the tour and taste myself through chocolate heaven. The company is called Chocorart and is very close from the Lodge. Even if you don't want to go on a tour, you can go and visit their café.
From the lodge, you can reach the Playa Chiquita Beach within 200 meters on a footpath.There is a lot to do at the beaches. At Punta Uva, you can rent out kayaks, surfboards, and snorkeling gear, and surfing is also possible at Playa Cocles.My favourite beach was Playa Chiquita. We did a bicycle tour to Manzanillo which is 7.2 km away from the lodge. It's a nice trip but to be honest, I prefer Punta Uva beach, Cocles, and definitely Playa Chiquita. If you want to skip the beach and enjoy the hotel pool, that's possible too.
Here is a little map to help you get an orientation of Playa Chiquita.
How to get there
From the capital, San José, it's around 222 km to go until you are in Playa Chiquita. If you don't have much time you can book a flight from San José to Limón, go by rental car or by bus. The bus leaves from Atlantico Norte bus station towards Manzanillo and will take you approximately 4 - 5 hours. Just tell the bus driver where to stop. Don't through your ticket away as an inspector will sometimes walk through the bus and checks your ticket. From San José city you can easily get an Uber cab which will drop you at the bus station.
Have you been at the Caribbean side yet, or you want to go? If you have any questions, please ask. Always love to read your comments and I'm happy to help out.
All pictures are provided by Nussbaumer Photography. A big thank you to La Kukula Lodge for having us. My opinion is always, my own.