I recently enjoyed a great holiday in Miami & Costa Rica. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Business Class from Frankfurt to Miami
- Review: Acqualina Resort on the Beach, Miami, USA
- Review: Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Nayara Springs & Garden, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Lapa Rios Lodge, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica (today)
- Review: Los Altos Resort, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Andaz Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Review: Edelweiss Air Airbus A340 Business Class from Liberia to Zürich
Today: Review of Lapa Rios Lodge (Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica)
Costa Rica’s pristine Osa Peninsula is blanketed by some of the last remaining lowland tropical rainforest in Central America and edged by beaches rich with marine life. At its tip is Lapa Rios, a remarkable lodge surrounded by a 1,000-acre reserve, which helps to buffer the Osa Peninsula’s Corcovado National Park – home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity and a regular feature on National Geographic’s nature documentaries. It would be hard to find a more authentic rainforest experience than this. You awaken to the mesmerizing sounds of the jungle, watch scarlet macaws glide by from your private outdoor shower, and set off into the trees to explore with local guides whose knowledge of the area’s ecosystems runs deep. And yet the experience is relaxing too – there’s a secluded beach, delightful meals served al fresco, and a luxurious bungalow awaiting you at the end of the day.
Have you ever stayed at Lapa Rios? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Lapa Rios is the best eco-lodge on the world-famous Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica’s most magnificent and remote rainforest destination. Located on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula is dubbed one of the most biologically intense places on earth by National Geographic. The pristine peninsula is bound on the northwest by Drake Bay, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Golfo Dulce. The area offers untouched natural scenery, secluded wild beaches, and abundant tropical wildlife encompassing lush primary rainforest and a complex system of freshwater and marine resources. Most travelers will arrive at the Osa Peninsula by plane from San Jose (a one hour flight), and the journey from the airfield at Puerto Jiminez (the main town on the peninsula) to the lodge is approximately 40 minutes (road transfer is included in the room rate).
- The prime reason why guests choose stay at Lapa Rios is its proximity to Corcovado National Park on the western side of the peninsula. Corcovado National Park covers nearly half of the entire peninsula and encompasses 13 major ecosystems including lowland rain forest, highland cloud forest, jolillo palm forest, and mangrove swamps, as well as coastal marine and beach habitats. The park has one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws, monkeys and sloths in Costa Rica (and they are frequently spotted). Other wildlife adventures include encounters with tapirs on the beach, watching herds of peccaries (sainos) in the jungle, and observing the fins of bull sharks in the river mouths. Less commonly seen species of the park include the endangered jaguar and the puma. Nearly all of the lodges in the region -including Lapa Rios – offer day tours to the park, although overnight tours are possible as well (and highly recommend to allow more time for wildlife spotting).
- Lapa Rios is set in a massive private reserve, whose purpose is to permanently protect 1,000 acres of Central America’s last remaining tropical lowland rainforest and act as a protective barrier and wildlife corridor for the 100,000-acre, mega-biodiverse Corcovado National Park. Only a small part of the reserve has been developed for the lodge, which – without question – enjoys a spectacular, off–the–beaten–path location. Surrounded by the lush rainforest canopy, the lodge is collection of several pavilions that are spread along three high forest ridges, offering unobstructed ocean views of the Golfo Dulce (and the sunrise). Due to its remote and eco-conscious location, guests do not need to leave the property to spot an amazing array of wildlife: toucans, scarlet macaws, sloths, poison dart frogs and monkey frequent the lodge on a daily basis (numerous privately guided walking tours are scheduled to increase your chances of spotting wildlife).
- Lapa Rios features a simple yet elegant design, herey putting the focus on the spectacular surrounding fauna & flora instead of the interior. The main building is a thatched, semi-open pavilion, which houses a small reception area, boutique, dining room with wine cellar (called Brisa Azul Restuarant), and an expansive terrace offering a gorgeous view of the rainforest canopy and the Gulfo Dulce in the distance. A short stroll from the main lodge is a second, smaller thatched pavilion, home to the lodge’s only bar which also doubles as an al fresco breakfast or dining area (weather permitting). The bar overlooks the pool deck, comprised of a sun terrace with some loungers and a large & deep swimming pool. Elevated walkways connect the lodge’s main buildings with the rooms further down the hill. All of the hotel’s pavilions were constructed using wood from fallen trees and the thatch roofs were made from locally sourced palm fronds.
- Lapa Rios features 17 rainforest villas, which come in four categories: Deluxe Bungalows, Matapalo Suites, Premier Villas, and Lapas Villas. Pemier Villas and Lapas Villas are the lodge’s newest accommodations, featuring hardwood floors and elegant furnishings. These six new villas (four of which have private swimming pools) can accommodate up to 6 guests (ideal for families) and in some cases can be configured as “adjoining“ for couples or friends traveling together. During my holiday, I stad in a Premier Villa, which featured a private wraparound terrace with comfortable lounge seating plus a refreshing outdoor rain shower. Indoors, there was a spacious bedroom with kingbed and sitting area, and an ensuite bathroom with double vanity, a solar heated indoor shower, and and organic amenities. Floor-to-ceiling screens let in the ocean breezes, and an air-cooling system over the bed as well as efficient eco-fans ensure a comfortable sleep, even on warm nights.
- Lapa Rios was acquired by Boena Wilderness Lodges in 2019 and underwent a massive renovation. Boena Wilderness Lodges is 100% Costa Rican owned and operated and has two other excellent lodges in Costa Rica: Pacuare Lodge and Tortuga Lodge. During the renovation, the lodge’s food offerings were redesigned by Boena Wilderness Lodges’ Greece-born Chef, George Belesis, who put the culinary focus on responsibly-caught seafoods, grass-fed beef, hormone-free chicken and fresh local veggies. All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are served à la carte in the property’s only restaurant, Brisa Azul. The menus – which rotate every three days – feature dishes like sea bass fillet with herbs crust, served on top of citrus flavored cassava with grilled corn and broccoli cream. A plant based menu is availalble as well with dishes like cold mango and ginger soup, or falawel wrap with chickpeas, grilled zucchini, bell pepper, roasted eggplant, cucumber, carrot and guacamole
- The close proximity to the soft sand, gentle swimmable waters of Playa Pan Dulce sets Lapa Rios apart from most other rainforest lodges in the area. In the past, guests of the lodge mainly reached the beach (located at the bottom of the hill) on foot and lacked the amenities to enjoy a full beach day in comfort. But since its takeover by Boena Wilderness Lodges, Lapa Rios started offering daily on-demand complimentary beach transfer to nearby Playa Pan Dulce (only a 5 min drive in the lodge’s own 4WD vehicles). In additio, the lodge put some lounge chairs & refreshments on the beach to create a remote & private “beach club” experience for its guests (although there is no staff nearby, so don’t expect too much). The grey sand beach itself is gorgeous and feels remote (since you won’t encounter other travelers, except for other guests of Lapa Rios). Surfing can be arranged through a local outfitter at the far end of the beach, which offers excellent equipment and great instructors.
- Lapa Rios has sustainability in its DNA. The lodge’s operating philosophy has always been that responsible tourism should benefit and respect local communities, and provide local people with viable economic opportunities that prioritize conservation over extraction. For example, a mandatory conservation fee of $25 USD per guest is charged, which supports Corcovado National Park through the hiring of two administrative personnel. This keeps park rangers away from the office desks and out on patrol through the park where they can best address the constant threats of illegal hunting, illegal logging and illegal gold mining. The lodge has also partnered with the Wildlife Department at the National University of Costa Rica to finance an extensive study of the Osa Peninsula’s peccary & jaguar populations through the use of camera traps (30 camera traps have already been donated to the team of researchers). Lapa Rios also boasts a robust system of 220 solar panels and 10 nano turbines that provide the property with 100% of its energy needs.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Lapa Rios’s 17 rainforest villas are connected to the main lodge by a long elevated walkway, which tumbles down a hill with many steps along the way. If you have difficulties walking, staying at Lapa Rios might be a real challenge. But even for fit travelers, the walk up the steps to the main lodge can be a challenge (especially given the humidity of the Osa Peninsula). If you don’t like to climb stairs, request a villa close to the main lodge. The Premier Villas and Lapa Villas are located in the lowest part of the resort, thus fartest away from the main lodge, but they have the advantage that they can be reached by car (complimentary, on-request shuttle service is provided).
- Most villas are built as duplex villas, whereby two villas are attached to one other. As a result, you may hear the guests on the terrace in the villa next to you. It’s nothing too bad and the villas are 100% private, but it can distract a little from being totally submerged in the rainforest.
- Lapa Rios is located in the heart of a jungle reserve, and is home to many animals, including big spiders, snakes, scorpions and other forest dwellers. If their presence nearby freaks you out (although chances are very small you would encounter one inside the villa), then Costa Rica might not be the best destination for you. For most guest though, exploring the jungle and its magical wildlife is the main reason to stay at Lapa Rios (count me in).
- Lapa Rios offers complimentary shuttle service (5 min) to nearby Playa Pan Dulce, a beautiful and deserted beach with crashing surf and wonderful tide pools to cool off in. As mentioned above, the lodge put some lounge chairs on the beach to create a “beach club” experience for its guests but there is no staff nearby (or at least, that was not the case when I visited the beach on two separate occasions), so don’t expect too much. Also, there are not enough beach chairs; for example, during one of my two visits, a large family had taken all the loungers, leaving the other guests with no other option than walking along the beach (which was not necessary a bad thing).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Lapa Rios (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is the dry season, which lasts from mid-December to mid-April, as there’s a smaller chance of being drenched in the rain. The rainy season (or “green” season) is generally from May to November: it may rain for several days in a row and torrential rains are frequent (the Osa Peninsula is one of the country’s wettests spots). I recommend against traveling to the Osa Pensinsula in the rainy season as roads might be inaccessible because of flooding and hiking trails in Corcovado Park might be closed without notice (trapping tourists for days).
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest & fastest way to reach Lapa Rios is by flight (50 min) from the capital city, San Jose, to the Puerto Jimenez airstrip. Sansa Airlines offer daily flights from San Jose. Once in Puerto Jimenez, it’s a 45 min drive to Lapa Rios (transfer is provided by the lodge).
Below is a selection of my photos of Lapa Rios. To view more photos of the resort (including breakfast and dinner), click here.