Mind-body balance; where the Costa Rican jungle meets the Pacific Ocean at Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge
For my 50th birthday, I wanted to head for the jungles of Costa Rica to get my re-balancing on. I found just what I was looking for at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.
I live in Costa Rica, but I live in the city and, let’s face it: a city is a city, no matter what kind of paradise it’s located in. For my 50th, I really wanted to leave behind the daily grind, and get back to nature; get back to my yoga practice; and, get back to my soul.
Reaching out to Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica, I knew they would be able to suggest exactly the right place, which could offer what I was looking for. Off-the-beaten-path seclusion, sustainability, healthy- yet delicious- eating, hiking trails, waterfalls, surrounding flora and fauna, yoga, meditation, and, most importantly, rest and relaxation.
We decided to drive the distance from San Jose to Golfito, where we would get a private transfer boat to the lodge; the only way to get in and out of the property, by the way. We could have flown into Golfito or Puerto Jimenez on a regional carrier like Sansa or Nature Air, but decided we’d really enjoy the road trip.
Costa Rica is, after all, so beautiful, and so very diverse. On our way, we passed through the city and its surrounding mountain range, through dry forests and palm farms, past rainforests overlooking mind-blowing ocean views, and finally arrived at the gulf. The trip took about 5 hours, with a couple of short stops along the way, and we were glad we did it, because it was such an interesting and beautiful drive.
Arriving at the appointed restaurant where we were to leave our car for the weekend, we were met by Melo, who turned out to be not only our escort to the lodge, but also our guide along the way, and our bartender in the evenings during our stay.
As we made our way through the gulf toward the lodge, it was like something out of a movie. Intense, verdant views of jungle mountain rainforest came right down to meet the edge of the deep, jade colored waters of the Pacific Ocean. About halfway through the trip, playful dolphins surrounded the boat, leaping up in the air as if to put on a show for us. Slowing down, the captain took a short break to allow us to delight in the site of them, and take pictures, while Melo explained about the different types of dolphins that inhabit the local waters, and about their habits.
Arriving at the dock (one of the only docks built in the area), we were greeted by Cesar, the Nicuesa Lodge manager and our bags were handed over to a porter for transport to our room, where we would find them later.
Handing us a glass of freshly squeezed tropical juice, Cesar walked with us up to the lodge, explaining about the gardens with their “edible landscaping”, the covered yoga deck overlooking the bay, the meditation deck, and the hiking trails. He explained about the family style dining, the bar, the lounge area, the shoe cleaning station (which also offers complimentary water shoes, as well as rain boots, on loan), and finally the “snack box” where you can grab a watermelon, a pineapple, or whatever else you may find in there, and have the kitchen staff prepare it for you between meal times.
He said, “I imagine you guys are hungry.” It was around 1:30pm, we'd been on the road and water, and we most definitely were.
He directed us upstairs to the dining area, and told us to meet him back downstairs when we were ready to head for our room.
After our delicious lunch of Mexican style, make-your-own burritos, he explained about activities and tours that would be available during our stay, let us know the times for yoga classes (daily at 6am and 4pm), and advised us to check on the tide if we planned to use certain hiking trails. After booking a massage for that very evening with the resident massage therapist, he led us to our digs for the weekend.
We felt we were in dreamland, or someplace very like it.
No television. No internet. No street noise. Just the surrounding jungle, the sound of nature, and an open concept room. There were no glass windows, and no air-conditioning, either; just louvered wooden doors, window shutters, and screens with a surrounding deck, and outdoor seating; a spacious bathroom with organic, biodegradable products by Raw Botanicals (even a natural bug repellant, which smelled deliciously like lemongrass), and a shower that is open to the forest. There were fresh flowers in the bathroom, and on the corner table, a flashlight for getting around after dark, and a four poster, canopy bed with beautiful, romantic white mosquito netting, prettily decorated with freshly picked, red hibiscus flowers, which were tucked into the corner knots.
Having been on the road since 6:00am, we decided an afternoon nap was just the ticket; so, nap we did to the sound of light rain in the jungle.
At 4:45pm, I headed down to the yoga deck for my massage appointment. I approached via the trail along the water, when the 4:00pm yoga class was just wrapping up. As students meditated in savasana, Adalina, the resident yoga instructor and massage therapist, quietly came out and suggested that I wait on the lounge chairs near the dock. Once finished, and set up for our massage appointment, she came to get me, and led me back to the deck.
Wow. This was truly one of the most relaxing and therapeutic massages I’ve ever experienced. Incorporating methods from Reiki, Tai massage, Swedish and deep tissue work, Adalina’s technique and energy is transformative. Between her talented hands and the ambient music of singing birds, jungle frogs, light rain, and gentle ocean waves, I was transported to a place of blissful, deep meditation and relaxation.
After my heavenly massage, I slowly (and a bit sleepily) made my way back up to the lodge to get ready for dinner.
At dinner, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of seared tuna on a bed of sweet potatoes and complimented by perfectly prepared, locally grown (on the property), herbs and vegetables. While dining, we met and chatted with another couple that were staying at the hotel, which was fun and stimulating. A lovely thing, we thought, is that the family style dining table allows for meeting new and interesting people from all over the world; and yet, if you’re feeling less than social, you can always grab a corner on the end, or eat in the bar area.
As always in the jungle, with nothing much to do and a natural “alarm clock” of howler monkeys at around 5:30am, we hit the sack pretty early; drifting off to the sound of heavy rain, we peacefully dreamt the night away to the white noise of a torrential downpour, and the jungle’s nocturnal inhabitants.
Rising bright and early with the forest, I donned my yoga garb, grabbed my matt, and headed for the 6:00am yoga class down on the deck overlooking the sea. I guess I was the only one feeling it that morning, because I was treated to a private class. Again, blissful surroundings made for an exceptional experience, and my practice was deeper and more satisfying than usual. Adelina provided yoga mats, blocks and belts, wonderful music, aromatherapy, and her gift of talented instruction and peaceful energy.
After yoga, I showered and went up for breakfast with my partner. We fell in love with the multi-grain muffins, fresh out of the oven. Fresh fruit, good strong coffee, and other basics were also provided, along with a choice of either a typical Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto and eggs, or a quesadilla with eggs. We asked, and learned that the menu changes daily and always has a couple of choices.
We chatted with our dining neighbors, everyone excited about the day and discussing plans. Ours was to go hiking up to the waterfall; though, we were invited to take the sustainability tour, or go snorkeling. In the end, we opted for a self-guided hike through the forest and up to the old, abandoned farmhouse. Along the way, we heard the loud, nearby call of monkeys, but we didn’t see them; we did, however, spot a beautiful green poison dart frog, a blue tailed Central American Whiptail Lizard, some wild turkeys, and a variety of mushrooms, tropical flowers, and magnificently huge, and bright, Blue Morpho Butterflies.
Upon returning from our 3-hour hiking adventure, we thought about how good a swim in the ocean would feel, and headed down to the dock. Holding hands like kids, my tummy did a little flip as we plunged off the end of the dock, relishing the refreshing water of the bay. After a good little swim, we showered and went to lunch.
Again, we were not disappointed. This time, the chef delighted us with a tropical quinoa grilled chicken salad. Fresh mango juice, good company, and a delicious desert left us feeling satiated and ready for an afternoon nap. Good thing too, because the green season rain came in a bit early that day, making the afternoon all the more pleasant for it.
A long, lazy afternoon, we spent our time reading, sleeping, and gazing out at the rain coming down hard on the surrounding forest.
Around 4:00pm, I decided to go over to the lodge to get some ice, and discovered the kids and some parents cracking open huge cacao beans. It turned out that the sustainably tour had been cancelled due to the rain, so they decided to do a cacao class instead, and all were busy, happily making chocolate treats to share with everyone at dinner that night. The smell of chocolate was divine!
Arriving back at our room, I reported on the goings-on up at the lodge, and promptly found myself alone. My partner, who is a chef, was all over that activity, and loved every minute of it.
That evening, dinner was amazing, fresh and delicious, as usual, but the best part might have been (for me, anyway) when the lights suddenly went out. Thinking it was just a brief power outage (common in the jungle), I ignored it, and went on in my conversation with the English couple sitting across from us. Suddenly, everyone started singing “happy birthday”- to me! Out came the chef with a huge birthday cake, to be shared with all, along with the chocolate treats made that afternoon by the kids, their parents, and my partner. Needless to say, all this made me feel very special; the cake, and the chocolate, was absolutely scrumptious.
Alas, we had to get an early boat out the following morning, but we could have easily, and happily, stayed for a week. Blissful, restful, and balancing; I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful birthday, wellness-retreat kind of weekend.