Looming in the distance, the misty mountains make a perfect backdrop for Pueblo Antiguo Lodge and Spa, nestled in the foothills of the Tilarán Mountain Range. It’s a perfect place to commune with nature, as you soak in the thermal pools, take a Turkish bath, cool off in the spring-fed swimming pool and enjoy a massage.
The 140-acre property, comprised of forest and newly reforested farmland, is located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, 24 kilometers south of Cañas in La Sierra de Abangares, near the small historical gold rush town of Las Juntas de Abangares.
Owner Silvio Segnini, a native of the area, purchased the property in 2001 and started developing it. Dedicated to reforestation and preservation of the natural environment, he now runs the lodge and spa with his charming young son Esteban, who goes out of his way to make your stay a comfortable and personalized experience.
“We don’t cater to package tours, but to individuals who are seeking a place to relax in harmony with nature and don’t need TV and air conditioning,” says the elder Segnini.
A three-and-half-hour drive from San José, Pueblo Antiguo Lodge is an ideal spot to spend a night after a visit to one of Guanacaste’s Pacific beaches. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve is only 16 miles away, but the road is steep and bumpy. If you take this route, four-wheel drive is recommended; however, approaching from theInter-American Highway
is no problem.
The lodge’s accommodations are excellent. Rustically designed in pine and cedar, the spacious, high-ceilinged rooms are airy and well appointed with comfy double beds, tiled bathrooms, ample hot-water showers, closets, bedside reading lamps and quiet ceiling fans. Breezy balconies furnished with wooden benches offer expansive views of the valley and mountains beyond. Built on a hillside, it’s an easy walk down a steep concrete drive to the wheelchair-accessible, kidfriendly pool area. The uphill climb is far more strenuous, though if really challenged you can drive down from the parking lot outside your room.
The most popular activities at the lodge are soaking in the two thermal pools, one with a Jacuzzi, taking a Turkish sauna, cooling off in the refreshing swimming pool and pampering yourself with a massage.Volcanic mud, seaweed and chocolate facial treatments and wrappings, exfoliation scrubs and aromatherapy are available at very reasonable prices, as are 30-to-90 minute massages ($10-20) – “one of the best I’ve ever had” was a comment heard by a happy hedonist.
Facials cost $13-30, and complete three-hour rejuvenation packages $40-73.
The poolside bar and restaurant offer a variety of snacks, sandwiches and tasty international and Costa Rican cuisine. Fresh fruit drinks, frosty beer and tropical cocktails are all served in plastic glasses for obvious safety reasons – no broken glass near the pools. For more formal dining and your wine served in long-stemmed glasses, Los Mazos restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
If you tire of the pools, there is still plenty to do. You can wander down a well-maintained trail to the small lagoon, home to water birds and amphibians, or trek across a field and take a dip in the crystal-clear, gurgling AbangaresRiver that runs through the property.
Located in a transition zone between tropical dry and tropical rain forest, the property is a perfect habitat for more than a hundred species of birds to delight birdwatchers.
Other optional activities include a visit to the nearby Abangares Mines Ecomuseum or the Gold Mine Tour (see sidebar).
Segnini is a dedicated conservationist who has adjusted to country life and created employment in the area by staffing the lodge with local people. Unlike other, pricey thermal baths and spas that have become major tourist destinations, Segnini’s beautiful property and delightful, family-run establishment offers a tranquil, reasonably priced getaway.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Coming from San José on the Inter-American Highway, after you cross the River Congo Bridge (24 km south of Cañas), make a left turn at the sign for Las Juntas de Abangares (6 km), drive through town and another 4 km east to La Sierra de Abangares. You will see a sign for Monteverde and Pueblo Antiguo Lodge in Las Juntas.
A double room including breakfast and tax is $65. The daily rate for use of the pools and facilities is $3 per person. For information and reservations, visit the lodge’s Web site at www.puebloantiguo.com, or call 662-0033 or 662-1913.
The Gold Rush Years
The sleepy little country town of Las Juntas de The sleepy little country town of Las Juntas de Abangares, with its quaint cobblestone streets and tree-lined boulevard, was transformed into a Wild West frontier town after gold was discovered in the nearby mountains in 1884.
North American entrepreneur Minor Keith, who constructed the narrow-gauge railroad between San José and the Caribbean port of Limón, envisaged another source of wealth apart from bananas, and purchased 40,000 hectares of land in the area. He formed the Abangares Gold Mining Company, which became the largest mining company in Costa Rica. Las Juntas, hit with gold rush fever, became a boomtown.
Fortune hunters from all over the world besieged the tiny rural community, and businesses flourished.
Keith brought electricity and telegraphs into the area,
and built a hospital, school, hotel and ice factory.
During its heyday, 1900-1930, more than 4,000 miners worked in the mines. When they flooded into town on payday, mayhem broke loose. Tall tales are still told by the locals about ladies of the night and drunken brawls. One of these led to the “Slaughter of the Blacks” in 1915, after two black guards killed a white miner. The actual number massacred in retaliation varies, but as many as 40 are talked about, and the area is home to a cemetery known as the “Cemetery of the Blacks.”
In the center of town a statue honors the miners, and the small locomotive that hauled ore from the gold fields is named the María Cristina, after Keith’s wife.
A kilometer beyond Pueblo Antiguo Lodge, you can visit the Abangares Mines Ecomuseum.
Why this funky little museum displaying mining equipment, tools and photographs of the mining days is called an “ecomuseum” is a mystery.
However, the grounds feature pleasant wooded trails leading to the river, and more mining artifacts can be seen at the nearby picnic site.
Though major mining ceased about 1930, a few locals still seek their fortune, and Pueblo Antiguo Lodge offers a “Gold Mine Adventure Tour” (helmets and flashlights provided) down the historical tunnels of yesteryear.