I just returned from a five night stay at the La Leona Eco Lodge outside of Corcovado National Park, on the Osa peninsula in Costa Rica. All I can say is ‘WOW’! I had read some wonderful reviews of this family-run lodge and I was expecting a lot. My expectations were far exceeded. This place is incredible.
Before I get into the review, let me first say that La Leona might not be ‘for everybody’. It’s a bit of a trip to get there. A one-hour Nature Air flight from San Jose to Puerto Jiminez, followed by a 1 ½ hour bumpy cab ride to ‘the end of the road’. There, you leave your luggage at the La Leona Base Camp (it will be brought to the lodge via a horse cart). You, on the other hand, have to get to La Leona via foot, on the beach. We were told it was about 2 ½ km to the resort. It took us about a half of an hour to reach the lodge. To me, however, his remoteness is one of the most wonderful things about La Leona. As such, there were no kids at the lodge (apologies to parents for my views – I’m sure that there are some children mature enough to handle the lodge). The adult-only atmosphere that I experienced made for wonderful conversation at dinner between guests, and also afforded very quiet walks thru the woods. The remoteness of the lodge also filtered out ‘high maintenance’ guests. Everyone there knew what they were signing up for. There was never a complaining word about the lack of creature comforts. I shared meals with wonderful travelers from England, France, Switzerland, Germany and the States.
Back to the review of La Leona - Once there, and refreshed with a pineapple drink, my traveling companion and I were shown our tents. Simple, permanent tents on strong platforms. The tents in the front row had their own bathroom with toilet, sink and cold water shower (coming out of a coconut shell!). Two chairs with cushions sat outside of the tent, on the covered ‘porch’. Inside the mosquito netting of the tent were two cots with comfortable mattresses and clean sheets/towels.
After freshening up, we went back to the bar area and met Danilo Alvarez, our guide for the next four days. I signed up for every tour that Danilo offered, and was not disappointed in any of the outings. My traveling partner and I took a 9 hour private tour into the Corcovado National Park (just a five minute walk from the lodge) with Danilo. This tour cost $120 total, plus $10 apiece for entrance to the park. We walked about ½ way to the Serena Ranger Station, ate a box lunch, and then returned to the comforts of the lodge. We passed only a handful of other travelers all day. On this tour, we saw two Baird’s tapirs, one sleeping in a bog, and the other out feeding. We saw our first spider monkeys, at a distance, and we were lucky to get a very close encounter with a troop of white-faced capuchin monkeys. Lots of birds, marine life, and reptiles were also seen. Along the way, Danilo pointed out many different types of trees in the primary and secondary forest, explaining their part in the eco system.
Needless to say, we were quite tired when we returned to the lodge and were very thankful for the cold beers and wine available for purchase (I think the beers were $5 US and don’t remember what the wine cost. My bar bill for five evenings, which included several beers and a glass or two of wine per day was $118. I was able to charge this bar bill to my credit card at the end of the stay). (We were requested to pay for our tours in cash, at the end of our stay).
The food was excellent and plentiful. We had two dinners of chicken, one of pork, one of mahi-mahi and another of tuna steak. Each meal was accompanied with salad, beans and rice and a side of mixed vegetables. There is plenty of free water and juice to drink all day/night. By the way, we were told that the water was safe to drink. It was provided to the lodge by a very nearby underground spring and was filtered before being delivered to the sinks at the lodge. I was not aware of any traveler at the lodge that had any bad experiences because of the water. (While in the Corcovado National Park, we refilled our water bottles from a small spring-fed stream. That water was perfectly fine to drink).
The next day, we took a group tour (although we were the only ones who signed up) that was a combination bird watching (we left camp at 6:00 am) and a demonstration on pan gold mining. We saw many, many different birds – the Macaws being the most beautiful. After checking out the birds, Danilo introduced us to an older couple that lives on the river outside of the park. They make their very difficult living panning for gold. To get to their claim site, we walked up the river (and over many rocks, under/over fallen logs) for about an hour. There, we watched the miners clear rocks from the river bed, exposing fresh soil. This soil was then panned by hand, exposing very small quantities of gold dust. It was very interesting. This tour cost $40 per person.
That evening, we took another group tour at night with a walk up the river that separates La Leona property from the national park. We saw all sorts of toads, crabs, spiders, crustaceans and more. This tour cost $25 per person.
I finished each evening in silence, with a glass of cold white wine on my porch, listening to the constant pounding of the Pacific Ocean on the beach in front of me. It was heaven.
The next day, we joined Danilo on a two hour tour of the La Leona reserve. We saw a couple of toucans and a poisonous blue/green dart frog. We passed over a huge colony of leaf cutting ants, and watched as Danilo ‘summoned’ the army ants from the colony by thumping the ground with his walking stick. Later, we came across a large troop of spider monkeys that shook the trees and beat their chests, in an effort to scare us away from their territory. It was incredible being that close to these primates. This tour cost $30 per person.
On my last full day I joined two British travelers for a 5 hour morning tour back into Corcovado National Park. On this trip we were rewarded with a troop of squirrel monkeys. At the same time that we were taking pictures of these monkeys, Danilo called to us to see an ant eater walking on the limb above our heads. Later we ran into a couple of coatis and an agouti (a rather large and fast brown rodent). This tour cost (I think) $45 per person.
The following day, with a bit of remorse, we left La Leona, and walked back down the beach to our awaiting cab. We had an incredible visit there, splitting time between wonderful nature walks and quiet moments of pensive thought.
I would not hesitate to recommend La Leona to any nature lovers in search of an off-the-grid visit to a great park. Please note that there is no wifi, no cell phone service, and (other than one set of plugs in the office for recharging camera batteries, no electricity). It was pretty hot and humid at night, making sleeping a bit of a challenge, but the rewards far outweighed the slight discomfort.
Just a couple of other notes – I walked the first two days in my Teva’s, as we criss-crossed many small creeks. Later walks were done in a pair of lightweight hiking shoes/socks. The night walk in the river was done in rubber boots, supplied free of charge by La Leona. Walking sticks were always available for use (and very much appreciated). The trails in Corcovado are mostly flat, and run approximately 85% in the shade of the forest and 15% on the beach. (In March) we didn’t encounter a single mosquito. As such, all walks were done in short sleeves and short pants. We did put on sun screen as a protection against both the sun and ticks (apparently ticks don’t like suntan lotion). I didn’t have a single bite from any insect for the five night excursion. Some people might find falling asleep to the loud Pacific waves difficult – I found the waves very soothing and had no problem sleeping. I did appreciate the front-row tents having their own bathroom/shower. The staff was very welcoming, friendly and helpful. Danilo was always available when not giving tours, and spent many hours with me identifying the various frogs, birds and such that I had captured on my camera. He has lived in the Osa Peninsula his entire life and has been guiding tours for over 27 years. He was great.
Equipment notes: I brought my Canon 60D, 100-400mm IS L lens, 24-105mm IS lens, a +1 and +2 Hoya close-up filter for the 100-400, and a lightweight tripod/ballhead setup. I used the 100-400 almost 95% of the time. The 24-105 was just used around the lodge, taking pictures of the tent, bar area and other guests. If weight was an issue, I’d probably not bring the 24-105. I used the close-up filters just a couple of times, but was glad that I had them with me (I forgot to bring them the time that we ran into a blue/green poison dart frog!). I didn’t use the tripod once – it was a total waste of weight and luggage space. Shooting in raw/jpg combinations, I almost filled a 32gig card, and had one extra that was unused. I brought my laptop to San Jose but decided to leave it at the hotel instead of bringing it into the jungle with me. (good move – would not have been useful at the lodge). Prior to going, I purchased two 10 gram silica gel canisters on eBay. I put them into zip lock bags and stored my camera gear overnite, to help prevent moisture problems with the equipment. I kept up with ‘laundry’ using the sink in the tent and biodegradable camp soap. My nylon-ish camping clothes dried overnight on the little rubber clothesline that I strung between two of the supports of my porch.
In all, I’d rate my experiences at La Leona an easy 10 out of 10. If you can do without electricity and wifi for a few days, then you’ll love it too.
Email me if you have any questions.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- We are located at the entrance of Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, nestled in the most beautiful, primary rainforest and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Come and see for yourself what paradise looks like, and enjoy all the attention and accommodations of a lavish stay in the wild! Prepare yourself to embark on the journey of a lifetime! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Leona Eco Hotel Corcovado National Park
- La Leona Eco Lodge Costa Rica/Carate