It was a bright Sunday morning, and four green parrots were circling in. We could hear them land and squawk at each other in the eaves of the open-air restaurant where we were eating breakfast.
The waiter strolled out into the sun, looked up, then whistled a little tune. Just like that, three of the parrots swooped down and landed on his hand and shoulders, and he carried them inside.
Breakfast time for them, too, at Suizo Loco Lodge.
Nestled among tall trees just outside Cahuita, on the southern Caribbean coast, Suizo Loco (“Crazy Swiss”) Lodge is one of those places that make you thank the stars for European expatriates.
Where U.S. citizens might erect a ridiculous theme park, and Ticos something resembling a bomb shelter, Daniel Trosch, a Swiss construction professional who has lived eight years in Costa Rica, was content to craft out a little space to relax and enjoy the beauty of things.
It’s small and simple, yet immaculately clean and elegantly landscaped, with a pool and a swim-up bar. A breakfast of homesmoked bacon, imported cheese and bread from a local German bakery is included in the room rate.
What’s not to like?
Arriving at Suizo Loco, it was immediately apparent that we were in the presence of the Swiss. A giant, three-story, chalet-style house looms at the entrance, flying a faded Swiss flag.
Behind the house are the lodges: four low buildings with peaked roofs and cute, woodframed windows. Trosch came out to meet us wearing swim trunks and an open shirt –the picture of tropical chill.
Trosch worked building hotels in San José for four years before moving with his Tica wife and two kids into the chalet, formerly owned by another Swiss couple. It was four years ago that he designed and built the lodges, swimming pool and restaurant in his back lot.
“I think what people want is to have clean rooms, really nice service and to feel safe,” he mused.
It’s a simple philosophy that’s immediately apparent in the rooms. High, peaked ceilings give them space and light, the blond wood furniture looks handmade, and even though the lodges are four years old, the bathroom and all its fixtures still look like new.
There’s no air conditioning, which I suppose might bother some people, but for my taste the ceiling fan and open eaves mean that natural air circulation keeps the atmosphere plenty fresh.
We dropped off our bags and headed outside. Each of the four lodges has its own entrance and ceramic tile patio; three of the lodges house three rooms each, and one is a stand-alone. A concrete path lined with flowers winds past the lodges, connecting them with the pool and the open-air restaurant, Don Pelón’s.
The buildings are surrounded on all sides with, more or less, jungle. Some of the trees are so massive they must be half a century old, and birds are everywhere (Trosch said one time an ornithologist spotted 50 different species here).
Birds aren’t the only wildlife at Suizo Loco. Lizards dart about, and one evening, while we were sitting on our patio, a giant guinea pig-like rodent called an agouti (or guatusa, in Spanish) wandered out of the trees to forage around in front of us.
As the rule sheet in each of the rooms so charmingly requests, “In the evening, please close the door to your hotel room, because there could be curious animals around.”
That includes the aforementioned parrots, four birds that Trosch raised from chicks and then let loose. During the day they’re off doing their own parroty things, turning up again in the morning and at night for feeding time.
Trosch’s giant German shepherd, Bongo, gives the birds a curious sniff now and then, but they seem to get along.
The flora around the lodges is almost more interesting than the fauna. The property has a full selection of exotic fruit trees –mango, avocado, papaya, citrus – as well as many dazzling varieties of humming birdattracting flowers.
Trosch, an orchid enthusiast, can give a pretty decent tour of his little kingdom, and said he’ll soon be labeling all the plants and applying for a sustainable tourism certificate. The lodge has solar-heated water and its own well.
Suizo Loco has many other little perks that make it a fun place to hang out.
Wireless Internet access is free for all guests. Drinks at the restaurant are only a few dollars each, and during the upcoming high season Trosch said he’s bringing in a Swiss chef for five months.
Possibly the only drawback to Suizo Loco Lodge is its location; it’s an hour’s walk from Cahuita with its national park and swimmable beaches. A taxi ride costs ¢2,000 (about $4), but the upside is that you get to meet the colorful expatriate characters who work as informal cab drivers in the area.
Sunday morning came, and while the waiter was feeding the gang of rowdy parrots, we were enjoying possibly the best hotel breakfast in the country. No gallo pinto here – just eggs, scrambled with bacon that Trosch smokes himself, and a wedge of Gouda.Accompanied with a fruit salad and a brace of croissants, we thought it couldn’t get any better.
Then a flock of 20 or more great white egrets landed in the trees bordering the property. That’s never happened before, Trosch said, gazing up at the big birds. Back at the restaurant, the parrots were squawking again. Time for seconds.
Getting There, Rates, Info
From San José, take theBraulio Carrillo Highway
to Limón and then follow the road south to Sixaola. Direct buses to Cahuita leave daily at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 1.30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. from the Caribbean Bus Terminal at Calle Central, Avenida 11 (257-8129).
The turnoff for Suizo Loco Lodge is about three kilometers before Cahuita; look for the signs.
Doubles range from $76 to $135, depending on the room and the season. October and November are the dry season in the Caribbean, though it’s low season for the tourism industry.
For information or reservations, call 755-0349, e-mail [email protected] or check out www.suizolocolodge.com.