We just had a remarkable week-long vacation to the Osa peninsula (150 species of birds and a PUMA among the highlights). I’ll break it up into two parts. Part one will be our arrival in San Jose through our stay at Iguana Lodge near Puerto Jimenez. Part 2 will be our experiences at Bosque del Rio Tigre and Bosque del Cabo.
Day 1) We arrived in mid-morning via TACA, and had a friendly face from Tucan Limo services pick us up and take us downtown while they looked after our bags. (our flight to the Osa was several hours later) At the airport, we saw a guide from a previous trip, Juan Brenes aka natureguide, who looked healthier than I've ever seen him. Small world!
In downtown San Jose, we spent a bit of time in the national theater before touring the Coin/Gold museum. We found it very worthwhile--especially the gold portion, which demonstrated how the items were made and their cultural meaning as well as showing off some amazing pieces. We did a leisurely lunch at the nearby Gran Hotel Costa Rica--the food was pretty good but you really pay for the atmosphere of an old-world style grand hotel.
The Nature Air flight to Puerto Jimenez went about as smoothly as a small plane going over mountains can go.
Upon arrival Maverick from the Iguana Lodge picked us up and our three night stay there began.
At the Iguana Lodge (on its own beach fairly close to Puerto Jimenez but seemingly far, far away), we opted to stay in the Club Rooms instead of the casitas in order to keep our budget semi-reasonable. This turned out to be a very good bargain—you get access to the same high level of service, beautiful grounds, tours, beach location, views etc as those in the more expensive units. The room itself was more than nice enough, with a nice shower and great view of the ocean/gulf.
Food at the Iguana Lodge was perhaps the best we’ve had in Costa Rica (Ylang Ylang in Montezuma is right up there). Everyone has breakfast at the main lodge building (El Rancho), lunch is over by the Club Rooms building (the former Perla de la Osa) whereas dinner is either at location. The dinner at La Perla is more of a standard ala carte menu with separate tables, while the dinner at El Rancho is communal—everyone eating the same food (a little more sophisticated than the Perla menu) while sitting around a table lit by candles at a single time (dinner is at 7:00 PM). The night we had the dinner the owners of the lodge were joined us and three other couples.
Those staying at the casitas have dinner at El Rancho included in their room price and it’s assume you’ll eat there. While staying at the Club Rooms, you still have the option of eating at El Rancho—you just pay for it. It’s a great deal, and much less expensive than you might expect. You do need to let them know by about noon if you’re going to choose that option. So, if you want to do that your first night, let them know in advance.
The only meal we ate outside of Iguana Lodge while staying there was a dinner at Pizzamail.it in Puerto Jimenez. The restaurant at La Perla closes by 8:00, and our night hike lasted until about 8:30. The pizza and drinks there were very good, and it’s a very charming open air place where both locals and tourists feel equally at home.
If you like scarlet macaws, this is perhaps the best place to stay in Costa Rica. The one morning we tried to count, we saw 17 by 8:45 am. We did also see some cool other birds, as well as seeing white faced monkeys and hearing howlers.
We did both organized and very casual ‘activities’ while at Iguana Lodge. We spent quite a bit of time in their lap pool (it gets HOT there as early as 7:00 am) which is close to the really lovely yoga/massage area. We also spend some time on the beach and on the platform they’ve built to look at the ocean while enjoying refreshing breezes.
Organized activities included:
Day 2: mangrove kayaking, which was very cool (saw things like an Osprey flying overhead with a fish in its talons, 3 species of kingfisher, etc). Besides that, it’s just kind of cool to navigate your kayak through the narrow inlets where you’re up close and personal with the mangroves. My wife even saw a hawksbill turtle on the way to the mangroves from the town harbor. WARNING: Do not use the two-person kayak unless you put a small, non-paddling child up front. With two full-size adults, it’s impossible to steer (even the guide couldn’t do so). The guide from Escondido Trex provided a really good explanation of the ecology of the mangrove areas.
Night hike at Rio Nuevo. This one involved putting on rubber boots and walking in a shallow stream (but not so shallow water didn’t get in our rubber boots—bring replacement socks or water sandals with you for afterwards). We saw a number of really cool things—sleeping birds, tons of frogs, a few snakes, and even a family of kinkajous. The coolest thing I would say was happening upon a tree with 5-7 juvenile basilisks in it. They eventually noticed us, got startled, and all dropped into the water and ran on top of the water at the same time. It’s a cool experience to see this happen once on a trip, and we were watching a bunch do it at the same time. Additional hint: wear your headlamp on your wrist, not your head . Wear long pants and sleeves, and use bug repellent—they are present in numbers. Not necessarily biting, but really annoying. Sidnar the naturalist for Iguana Lodge
Day 3: Boat tour of the Golfo Dulce: We were the only people to sign up for a tour, so the manager of the lodge called around and got us a really great deal. Our boat captain/guide who goes by Russo provided a very enthusiastic tour for us. So much so that we had to ask him to go back to port while he was offering to show us more and take us snorkeling—3.5-4 hours on the water was about all we could handle. Highly recommend him, if you want to ask for someone by name while staying there. The Golfo Dulce is just beautiful—open to the ocean but smooth as glass, surrounded by jungle-covered hills. We saw several pods of dolphins, including spinners, spotted and bottlenose dolphins. They were very playful, and would swim in front of the boat to show off for us, even at some points jumping straight out of the water. We then did a brief turn up the Rio Esquinas mangrove area to look for wildlife. There wasn’t much except for three Swallow-Tailed Kites, which I had never seen before and are extraordinarily graceful and lovely to behold.
That afternoon, we enjoyed some time on the beach and by the pool.
Day 4: This was all about being lazy, enjoying the pool, checking out the birds and monkeys, and one last Osa Sunshine (for me) and Passionfruit Daquiri (for my wife) at lunch before Maverick took us to Bosque del Rio Tigre.
That’s it for part 1. Will post part 2 (Bosque del Rio Tigre and Bosque del Cabo) relatively soon.