Casa Río Blanco Ecolodge, overlooking the beautiful Río Blanco near the Caribbean-slope town of Guápiles, is a dream come true for Herbie Proost and his partner Annette Mercuur. Both seasoned travelers in their early 40s, the Dutch couple from Amsterdam dreamed of having a Band-B in the tropics.
“We both had extremely stressful jobs,” Mercuur said. “I worked for Dutch TV and Herbie had his own charter aviation company.”
Proost transported cargo mostly to Africa, where he was involved in relief work. A gifted raconteur, he has some amazing and humorous stories to tell. Both the charming, hospitable hosts take great pleasure in sharing their rain-forest paradise with their guests.
This small lodge is the perfect place to relax in a lush, green jungle setting, as you listen to the never-ending sound of the pictureperfect Río Blanco, with its crystal waters gushing and gurgling over its rocky bed.
Nestled among the verdant tropical garden, with its pre-Columbian figures and lighted pathways, are four delightful wooden cabins offering complete privacy. Light and airy, they have floor-to-ceiling screened windows and furnished porches – an ideal spot to sit, read, contemplate nature and listen to the symphony of the forest at night, when a variety of weird sounds, croaking frogs and flying or night-prowling critters can be heard against the background of the Río Blanco’s rushing waters.
Rustic in appearance from the outside, inside the cabins offer all the comforts of home: king- and queen-size orthopedic mattresses, individual reading lamps, ceiling fans and spacious bathrooms with hot showers, with an eclectic collection of artwork adding the finishing touches to the romantic Tarzan-and-Jane abodes. One of the cabins is ideal for families, with two bedrooms, one with bunk beds, separated by a shared bathroom.
Attached to the main lodge are another two rooms, not as attractive, but still very comfortable and normally used when the other cabins are occupied.
As you enter the lodge, you will spot a glass cabinet inherited from the previous owner, a biologist. It contains an interesting collection of insects and reptiles in jars. If you suffer from arachnophobia or hate looking at snakes or other creepy-crawlies, just walk on by to the very friendly, comfortably furnished, open-sided lounge with its rainforest panorama.
Breakfast is served in the screened dining room, and consists of a fruit plate, eggs any style, cheese, toast, jam and excellent coffee. Mercuur will cook dinner ($10 per person) if you order ahead of time. There’s a choice of restaurants a few miles away, but her Surinam chicken curry comes highly recommended.
A plethora of activities will keep you busy during your stay. One of the most popular is the short walk down the forest trail to the river for a dip in the private swimming hole.
Skinny-dipping adds to the enjoyment of this magical place, frequented by stunning, electric-blue morpho butterflies, toucans and kingfishers. If you’re lucky, you might see a sunbittern lurking by the river’s edge, an otter taking a swim or a tiny, colorful poison dart frog.
This is a birder’s paradise, so you don’t have to stray from the lodge to see hummingbirds, motmots and many other species. Proost will gladly take you for a bird-walk into the more open countryside, home to raptors, kites and many other feathered friends, including the great green macaw, often spotted in March and April.
Walking sticks and rubber boots are provided for your rambles, as it can get very muddy along the trails.
Wildlife spotting is never guaranteed, but sloths, the two-toed and three-toed varieties, literally hang out in the trees, mainly nocturnal armadillos forage noisily around the cabins, and howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys inhabit the area, as do white-nosed coatis and northern and crabeating raccoons.
For the more energetic, the lodge provides mountain bikes, and a local farmer with well-trained horses in excellent condition will take you riding through his cattle pastures and up the hillside, which offers breathtaking views of BraulioCarrilloNational Park and Irazú and Turrialba volcanoes.
The physically fit can take a stunning but strenuous, two-hour guided hike to a 100-foot waterfall, explore the bat caves and enjoy a picnic lunch.
For those who want to explore farther afield, day trips can be arranged to the nearby Rainforest Aerial Tram (Casa Río Blanco guests receive a 20% discount) or La Selva Biological Station, as can whitewater rafting on the Sarapiquí River, a visit to La Tirimbina Cacao Farm in northern Costa Rica, or an overnight trip to Tortuguero National Park, on the northern Caribbean coast.
The lodge is less than two hours’ drive from San José and is an easily accessible destination for visitors and residents looking for a rain-forest hideaway close to the capital. Rates are $75 double occupancy, including breakfast and tax. For info, visit www.casarioblanco.com, e-mail [email protected] or call 710-4124.
By Car: Casa Río Blanco is located off the highway to Limón, seven kilometers before Guápiles coming from San José, on the Río Blanco Road, one kilometer south of the Río Blanco bridge along a bumpy dirt road.
By Bus: Buses to Guápiles depart San José when full, from 5:30 a.m. to 8.p.m., from the Caribbean Bus Terminal at Calle Central, Avenida 11 (¢835/$1.60). Ask the driver to stop at the Río Blanco bridge and hike up the road, or continue to Guápiles and take a taxi (¢2,500-3,000/$4.80-5.80).