Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leaving Bosque del Cabo

January 4, 2010

We woke right before dawn. The howler monkeys were especially vocal this morning (or perhaps we just slept through the loud parts the previous mornings).

We got ready then had a super quick breakfast of granola and fruit. The staff packed us some sandwiches for later. I selected avocado; Nick selected the pb&j deluxe.

Eric drove us to the small, regional airport in Puerto Jiménez. It was a quiet ride; we were sad to go. We were fortunate to be able to stay 6 days; but even in this amount of time, we didn't do everything we wished to, like hike down to the beaches, hike to the waterfalls and the take the zipline tour.

As we continued down the road, we passed the signpost to Lapa Rios, the lodge we had stayed at the previous year. Which was better? I hate to make such comparisons, as each of these places holds a special place in our hearts. Lapa Rios was the climactic end to our very first trip to Costa Rica. It was during the rainy season; it was our honeymoon. Bosque del Cabo was the climactic end of our second trip to Costa Rica, this time during the peak, holiday season. It's not that one lodge is better than the other; each lodge has a distinct feel.

The grounds of Bosque del Cabo have more of an open, expansive feel. (Parts of Bosque del Cabo's grounds were once cleared for farmland by the previous owner.) At Lapa Rios, the restaurant and bungalows are more built into the landscape than built on it; it had more of an enveloping feel.

The distance between the restaurant and the rooms at Lapa Rios is further - and involves lots of stairs - than the distance between the restaurant and deluxe cabinas at BDC. The greater distance created a greater sense of seclusion, especially since the particular bungalow we stayed in at Lapa Rios was quite set apart from the others. It had more of a jungle view, with the water more in the distance. On the other hand, at BDC, the deluxe cabinas are perched right above the ocean, so the view is more ocean, with some surrounding jungle. (The deluxe cabinas are quite close to one another, but it was never a problem.)

So while Lapa Rios had more of a "secluded" (though still friendly) atmosphere, Bosque del Cabo had more of a "communal" type of atmosphere. We got to know other guests at BDC, which we really didn't do at Lapa Rios. This is further encouraged at dinnertime, where the tables come together for a buffet dinner and you can swap stories of the events of the day. (Of course, you can still sit separately if you like.)

Bosque del Cabo has more lodging options than Lapa Rios, like being able to rent an entire house on the grounds. I liked our rooms at both places. I liked the outdoor shower at BDC better than the one at Lapa Rios. (Lapa Rios also gave you the option of an indoor shower.) I know BDC is very keen on energy conservation, but sometimes I wished the bathroom had better lighting, mainly for putting in my contact lenses. I liked that our room at Lapa Rios had a ceiling fan and a very open view at the side and back of the bungalow that was all screened. However, I liked that at BDC, you could sleep with the giant doors completely open to nature, no screens. That was quite a nice feeling.

Both lodges generate their own electricity on the remote Osa Peninsula. There are no tvs, phones or in-room coffeemakers at either lodge and you cannot use hair dryers, curling irons, or irons. In fact, not all rooms even have electrical outlets. Fortunately ours always did so that we could charge our camera batteries. (If your room doesn't, you can always charge your batteries at the front desk.)

I loved that at Lapa Rios you could have coffee delivered to your room in the morning, for a small fee. (The walk to the restaurant at Lapa Rios was a lot longer than the walk to the restaurant at BDC, so I can see why this service was offered there.) Overall, you can maybe feel a bit more "pampered" at Lapa Rios; however, that does come with a matching price tag.

Both restaurant designs were nice. I liked that the restaurant at Lapa Rios had a stunning view and a giant spiral staircase that led to an observation deck. But the thing we missed most about Lapa Rios was by far the food. The cold, refreshing soups for lunch, the array of cold fruit juices, the different chips and dips of the day set out for snacks, the Tico-style breakfast, the casadas with light, fresh, perfectly done fish. It was so well-suited to my husband's and my tastes, and it utilized a lot of local ingredients, like hearts of palm. (I tended to order anything that had hearts of palm.) It was fine dining in the middle of a rainforest.

Though it's really difficult for me to say anything the least bit negative about Bosque del Cabo, for us, the food was the only thing keeping it from being absolutely perfect. And this is not to say the food was bad, by any means; it just didn't compare to Lapa Rios. Also, it's just our particular tastes. For instance, neither my husband nor I like the spice cumin, and so we didn't enjoy our first night's dinner - Indian-influenced cuisine. (It's not just the cumin; we are not fans of Indian food either.) At BDC, I missed having cold soups at lunch, and I don't remember fruit drinks being on the menu. And sometimes we felt the food was just too "heavy." But don't let this necessarily influence you - I will say that my husband and I are in the minority for not raving about the food because there are plenty of reviews that do. (Also, had we brought up our cumin-aversion to the staff, I feel very confident that they would've accommodated us in any way they could.) And I do have to point out two snacks at BDC that I really liked - one was a black bean, cheese, avocado and pico de gallo dip, served in a cast iron pan - that was a neat idea - and this yummy salty-coconut-flavored popcorn.

The staff at both places were excellent, though it seems like we got to know more of them at Bosque del Cabo than Lapa Rios. At BDC, they were so friendly and gracious. Eric, our driver, provided us with adventurous rides to and from Bosque and friendly conversation. Gerly, at the front desk, made us feel very welcome from the start and thereafter, taking care of all our requests with a friendly smile. Michael, a waiter with a highly infectious smile, went out of his way to talk to us the day we arrived and thereafter. Then there's the staff that we don't know by name, but they, nonetheless, made our stay memorable and enjoyable.

Bosque del Cabo also really shines with its guided hikes. Carlos, our guide for the Early Bird & Monkey Tour and the Dolphin Watch/Equinas River/Animal Sanctuary Tour, gave us the best New Years ever! Philip Davison - the resident biologist and guide - shared his vast knowledge of tropical ecology in the Sunset and Primary Forest Tours. His skill at teaching it in such an entertaining way is gold! We've had some excellent and informative tours on our previous trip to Costa Rica, but his was truly top notch! Furthermore, BDC lets you go and hike on your own, which you can't really do at Lapa Rios. Also, if I remember correctly, you have to drive a bit (or be driven) to get to nearly all of the trail heads at Lapa Rios, whereas at BDC you can easily walk to them.

Lapa Rios had been managed by the couple who started it, but they have since retired. Now it is managed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality. Phil and Kim Spier are the owners and managers of Bosque del Cabo, and they live on its grounds. They are very much involved in the operations, which makes it very personable - I like that. And what a story they have! I'd like to thank them for what they're doing to conserve this amazing part of the world and sharing it with their guests. What a phenomenal place they have to call home!

In summary, I don't think you can make a wrong choice with either lodge. It depends on what you're looking for. When we do go back to the Osa, it will be a tough choice. I think we'd quite like to do both.

* * *

Eric dropped us off at the Puerto Jiménez airport, and we said our goodbyes. We waited for the flight to San José. Our luggage had to go on another flight that was 5 minutes later, as the people in front of us were on vacation indefinitely, it seemed - they had numerous pieces of luggage, and it was all way over the maximum weight. But, we retrieved our luggage at the small airport later without any problem.

Since Nature Air flies to a smaller airport in San José, not the international one, we had to take a taxi. We paid 12,000 colones. That's $25 or so. (I think that was way too much!) As was the gatoraid, water, and small container of pringles in the international airport at $11.50! Going through security, Nick's carry-on was pulled aside to be searched. It was because of our sandwiches - they were wrapped in aluminum foil.

Waiting for the flight back to Houston, we ate our sandwiches, and I jotted down some thoughts in my journal...

Like any place on the Osa Peninsula, Bosque del Cabo isn't for everyone. While it is a comfortable way to experience the rainforest, there are no frills like AC, hairdryers, TV, wi-fi, or even phones. You're a 45 minute drive from the nearest town. Even with all the doors closed, bugs and critters do sometimes get in your room. (And because of the lovely tropical breezes, you want to sleep with your doors open anyway.) Additionally, it is humid, and you will sweat. Despite all that, it really is paradise! It's the best luxury camping trip ever! - you're immersed in nature yet have the convenience of a restaurant, restrooms, a laundry service, and a comfy place to come home to at the end of the day to shower and sleep. I cannot wait to go back!

previous post << Last Night at Bosque del Cabo

related posts:
Bosque del Cabo (the beginning)
Costa Rica: day 10 - Lapa Rios!

Bosque del Cabo's website
Lapa Rios' website

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Last Night at Bosque del Cabo

January 3, 2010

lizard in our outdoor shower

inside of the restaurant at night

dinner by candlelight

gigantic gecko on the restaurant roof beam

katydid on our umbrella pole

a sampling of the buffet selections

We skipped dessert on our last night so that we could take care of paying our bill, figuring out tips, packing and getting to bed early-ish. We would have loved to say goodbye to everyone individually, but we just didn't have the time. We gave the front desk a tip envelope of cash with a note on how to distribute it.

Around bedtime, the power went out and stayed out until some time in the morning. (You are warned that this inevitably happens from time to time. All electricity here is produced via a generator.) Unfortunately that meant we couldn't use the fan. Unfortunately also, the crickets were out in abundance this night, and the 3-sided bed-netting was not helping one bit. My husband had trouble sleeping because the crickets were freaking him out. I had to rescue him several times during the night by de-cricketing the bed.

next post >> Leaving Bosque del Cabo
previous post << Bosque del Cabo Palma

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bosque del Cabo Palma

January 3, 2010
After the horseback riding, it was time for lunch, so we ate and discussed what to do with the rest of the day. We were muddy, dusty and tired from the horseback riding. We had talked about hiking to the beach this afternoon, but I proposed we take showers, relax and read, and Nick agreed. We said goodbye to the couple from California; they were leaving BDC today, heading to Tortuguero, on the opposite coast.

Today, our 5th day here, we had to switch to another room, Palma. (We knew this when we made the reservation.) Palma was also a deluxe bungalow but with stucco construction, and instead of one king bed, it additionally had two more beds in the loft, which would make it ideal for a family. We stayed in Palma two nights. Overall, everything was more spacious. It was nice in a different way. However, it being just the two of us, we preferred Lapa over Palma. (Keep in mind that the staff will do their best to accommodate your room choice, but they can't guarantee it, of course.)

the loft

view from the bed

spacious bathroom

outdoor shower

back of the cabina

the deck

As I was taking the shot below, a wasp or an ant stung my little toe. It burned and throbbed like CRAZY!! This happened just as I had an excellent spider monkey photographic opportunity, but I had to put the camera down and tend to my little toe.

contemplative spider monkey 

Later in the afternoon, we started getting our stuff together to make the packing easier later. Then we went to the bar, where we had some drinks. After that, it was off to dinner...

next post >> Last Night at Bosque del Cabo
previous post << Bosque del Cabo Horseback Riding

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bosque del Cabo Horseback Riding

January 3, 2010
Today we had planned to go horseback riding at 9 am. We were driven to the Río Piro area, a 20 minute or so (I can't remember how long actually) bumpy and dusty ride. We rode with another couple and their two young daughters in the open back of a 4WD truck with seats along the sides. It enhanced the jungle experience and prepped our behinds for the saddles. We chatted with the family; they were from Long Island. (Actually, it seems that most people who visit Costa Rica are either from Texas or New York/New Jersey.)

Our guide Miguel Sánchez was born and raised on the Osa. Aside from a few English words, he spoke only Spanish. He was extremely personable, however. He understood - or I prayed that he understood - that I wanted an old, slow horse. I got the second slowest horse, Rosilla, as he gave the slowest one, Tranquilo, to the woman who was going to be holding her youngest daughter on her lap.

I'd have liked a bit of instruction in how to ride a horse, but there wasn't any. The dad of the family assured me that it's easy: if you want to stop, pull the reins back. To steer the horse left, pull the reins right and vice versa.

The family was expressing their concern that there were no helmets to wear. Helmets... I didn't even think of that. I was worried about all manner of other things...

about to board Rosilla

Yes, let me say at this point that I'm kinda scared of horses. (Go figure!) They are big. I admire and respect them; they are strong and soulful. I cannot hide my nervousness around them, and of course they pick up on this. I was quite anxious but tried not to think about it, and Rosilla seemed calm.

We rode through the jungle, through shallow river crossings, through mud. Miguel led the way, then it was the dad of the other family, my husband, the mom of the other family, then me. The guys and their faster horses went ahead. Sometimes my horse stumbled a bit, and she had to keep stopping for Tranquilo to eat and drink and do her smelly business along the way.

Neither of us took any pictures going through the jungle, as you had to be careful and duck under the branches and not lose your leg when the horses narrowly went in between trees. Nick later told me that his horse - who sported a mullet - was a jerk, trying to make him hit the branches and trees.

At times, Rosilla just didn't want to step in mud. She'd pause, and I'd think: oh God, she's gonna bolt off into the jungle, and I'll never be found again. But she would either find her own route, avoiding the mud - which meant squeezing through the space between two trees, which was a lot narrower than she was (sorry, honey) - or she reluctantly stepped in the mud and carried on. I can see why she didn't want to go through the mud, though; sometimes I thought she wasn't going to be able to pull her legs out of it.

Then the jungle majestically opened onto the beach...

the only photo I took from my horse

Rosilla seemed to want to go her own way. (Of course, I think I confused her a bit also because I kept forgetting that pulling the reins to the left meant go right.)

like a pro

Then Rosillo started getting antsy and wanted to gallop and gallop she did. (And here again, it enters my mind that she's gonna bolt off down the beach and that will be the end of me.) I'm trying my best to make her slow down, and she did eventually, but she really didn't want to. All the while, my husband is taking pictures of me probably thinking that I'm having a blast while in actuality I'm terrified.

me and Rosilla, Tranquilo in the distance

Finally, we arrived at our destination, got off our horses and Miguel tied them to the trees. We took in the gorgeous view, then ventured towards the tidal pools where lots of little aquatic creatures awaited us.



natural hot tub

Miguel said we could get inside the pools, but we didn't. We just looked for creatures inside them.

And sampled them!

bon appétit! (not really)

Miguel found a sea urchin in one of the tide pools and asked if we wanted to hold it.

Nick holding the sea urchin

video of the sea urchin

We took a few more pictures, then we headed back to our horses and began the trip back, along a different route.

the caravan back

the mullet!

Rosilla's close-up

Tranquilo was really taking her time on the way back, so the rest of us gathered at the path head to the jungle and waited, Tranquilo far in the distance. As we are doing this, I'm getting nervous because the horse that Miguel is riding is acting up. Then Rosilla starts moving around, which is making me even more nervous. Miguel tells me to pull back on the reins (or ,rather, shows me what to do) and I think I'm doing it, but what I'm actually doing is backing Rosilla into some trees, which is freaking me - and Rosilla - out. Miguel is telling me how to correct this, how to get her to move forward and then stop - in Spanish - but I don't know enough Spanish. I'm trying to get recommendations from my husband and the dad of the other family, but they have none. So I'm thinking yet again this will be my demise, when finally I do something that seems to work. Phew! Then Tranquilo strolls on up to our group, unaware of the drama that just occurred, and we head back into the jungle, fortunately without incident...

Would I recommend this? Most definitely! Would I do it again? I would, but I would read up on how to ride a horse.

next post >> Bosque del Cabo Palma
previous post >> Bosque del Cabo Early Bird & Monkey Tour