Costa Rica's beach resorts and hotels receive a lot of well deserved attention among North American sun and surf worshipers. With white and dark sand beaches, great waves and romantic sunsets – it's hard to go wrong. But for those tired of the salt-crusted-hair-look, who prefer something a bit more adventurous and off the beaten path, Costa Rica offers a delightful alternative: The jungle / rainforest lodge. Located in misty cloud forests, lowland jungles and remote beaches, the jungle lodge is everything a beach resort is not: intimate, secluded, bathed in nature and refreshingly authentic.
Imagine white water rafting down one of the world's most scenic rivers to a palm-thatched paradise offering gourmet meals and unique nature tours. How about flying to one of Costa Rica's remote jungles and then taking a small boat down a jungle-laden river straight out into the ocean and then on to your very romantic getaway. Maybe an emerald-green cloud forest with myriad tropical birds and a cool moist breeze is really what you're looking for? You can find this and much more at one of Costa Rica's eclectic mix of jungle lodges.
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Because many lodges are located in fairly remote areas of the country, most supplies must be bought in from a good distance away (many times by raft, boat or plane), making the price you pay for a quality lodge somewhat more expensive than a regular hotel – though not necessarily as much as a beach resort. Still, when you consider that many rainforest lodges include meals, transportation and some tours in the price, it really is a great bargain. Lodges on the lower end of the price spectrum may cost anywhere from $ 70 – $ 125 dollars per person per night. Expect to pay anywhere from $ 150 – $ 350 per person, per night for high-end lodges. Most lodges can be paid for beforehand over the internet, so you should not need to take much cash to the lodge itself. Some lodges also require a minimum stay, so make sure to call and find out.
It's a jungle out there …
Before you go, make sure you know what you are getting into – literally. Although these sounds like common sense, you'd be surprised how many people blindly book their vacation through a third party and then are surprised (to say the least) to learn that their so-called jungle lodge is either a lodge, nor in the jungle. Or maybe they expected some vibrant nightlife but are surprised to learn that it is the six legged type. If the sight of a creepy crawly sends you in search of a shot gun, then maybe you should stick with the Marriott. So make sure you give the lodge a call (if possible), or at least visit their website. Ask questions. Are bugs included in the price? Or are they extra? I meant good questions. Is food included in the price? What kind of food is served? Is there electricity? Is there a naturalist guide at the lodge? Are tours included? What is your children policy? The more you know, the better prepared you will be to enjoy yourself.
The great majority of jungle lodges are built to, and upheld, strict standards of eco-responsibility. These may include materials used, waste management, the use of renewable resources, and the way they educate their guests to respect the environment. Many rainforest lodges are also very involved with local communities, donating resources, money and time to projects that benefit the area's residents. Some lodges may offer guided cultural tours, allowing you to enjoy a much more satisfying experience rather simply participating in recreational and nature activities. That said, because of the boom in everything "eco", there are some "lodges" that have simply added this prefix to their name and nothing more. They talk the talk but do not walk the walk. So again, if a true eco-lodge is what you are looking for, ask the right questions. What concrete steps do you take to protect the environment? How do you avoid disturbing the wildlife? How do you minimize energy consumption? Do you support local communities? Are you members of any eco-tourism organizations and have you received any rewards for eco-responsible practices? Direct questions such as these will soon separate the wheat from the chaff.
What should I pack?
The answer to this question depends on the particular lodge you will be staying at. If easily accessible by car, then you can probably take just about anything you'd like, just make sure you get clear instructions from the lodge itself – you will not want to take a hair dryer or laptop and then find out there is no electricity. As mentioned before, some lodges are only accessible by plane or boat, and these may only allow a limited weight or luggage size. As a rule of thumb, the less you pack the better. Most quality lodges will include a list of recommended items to pack. Typically this list includes hiking boots, cotton pants (dry-out quicker and are less heavier than jeans), cotton shirts, underclothes, three or four pairs of socks, light jacket, a cap with wide brim, sun glasses, sun block, insect repellant and toiletry items. But then again, this will be determined by the lodge's location and activities available.
You are now armed with the basics for choosing the perfect jungle lodge for your needs and budget. So if the pungent aroma of three-day old suntan lotion has lost its romantic appeal, or if you simply want to enjoy nature in a much more intimate way, I highly recommend you look into visiting a jungle lodge, one of Costa Rica's more unique and enjoyable accommodation alternatives.