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!

more:
Bosque del Cabo's website
Lapa Rios' website

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