Goldilocks would probably stay at Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge. Set back on a hill overlooking the Puerto Viejo area, on the southern Caribbean coast, the hotel is close enough to be able to get anywhere in the small town in a few minutes’ walk, but secluded enough to be able to settle into the rest and relaxation bit. Just right.
The lodge is made up of seven themed cottages. A far cry from the spare hostel bed, Cashew Hill’s cottages are well suited for couples, families and groups wanting to unpack a little as they explore the region.
Each cottage has a fully stocked kitchen for those who aren’t keen on eating out for every single meal or maybe just want to whip up a snack.
Some guests have almost taken too much to the self-contained cottages. Owner and Tico Times contributor Wendy Strebe says she was worried at first when one German family didn’t leave the property for the first two days, with the two children running happily around the grounds. “But they went to the beach on the third day,” she says with relief.
One Dutch bird-watcher originally booked for four nights but ended up staying for 10, because “he saw more birds sitting on his veranda than on all his other trips,” Strebe says.
As for land animals, a five-foot-long iguana takes early morning dips in the pool sometimes, and armadillo families often snack from the compost pile. The kinkajous, known sometimes as night monkeys, though they are actually related to raccoons, make regular appearances to eat from the star fruit trees, and sloths drop by from time to time, too. Wendy attributes the presence of wildlife to the fact that the hotel uses environmentally friendly cleaners, among a slew of other eco-conscious measures.
The wildlife aren’t the only animals at Cashew Hill. Two massive English mastiffs, Elvis and Ozzie, perform lumbering patrols around the grounds. Marley, a miniature pinscher, completes the alarm system, alerting his owners of each guest’s arrival with a yelp. Stevie, the one-eyed cat, roams the grounds with an eye out for rodents or a good place to nap.
While guests shouldn’t miss Puerto Viejo’s top-notch restaurants, they can also request vegan catering at Cashew Hill, with advance notice. The lodge always has a few cold beers ($1.50 each) and organic wine ($12 a bottle) on hand, should the mood strike.
Puerto Viejo is easy to get around on foot or bike, a good option for those who want to avoid driving. An array of gorgeous lightsand beaches is a scenic – though sometimes dusty – and easy ride away.
Cashew Hill’s guests come from places as far-flung as Russia and New Zealand, and a good number have come back to the hotel over the years. They go out with adventure groups, on rafting trips, dolphin tours, canopy and waterfall tours or out to explore the Bribrí indigenous reserve, CahuitaNational Park or Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.
At the end of the day, they can kick off their shoes and unwind in their cottage deck hammock – the unofficial posture of the pura vida lifestyle.
Wendy and her husband, Erich, have effectively turned the “there’s no place like home” mantra into a living. The couple bought the property in 2003, a week after arriving in Costa Rica. They went back to their U.S. home in northern New Mexico just long enough to pack up a couple of suitcases and sell everything else, and completed the permanent move three months later.
While many business owners might shun the idea of not being able to separate the office and home, the Strebes seem most comfortable with the arrangement – or rather, just doing away with the “office” bit.
“We live our work,” Wendy says. “We’d rather have you in our home than in an office.”
“If guests want to sit down with us every morning and plan their days, that’s great,” she adds. And if they’ve got their own plans, that works, too. Often, though, guests are eager to solicit the Strebes’ help and know-how.
One woman who recently sent her young adult daughter and friend to Costa Rica enlisted Wendy to stock the girls’ room with little gifts, such as sarongs and aftersun lotion.
That the Strebes thrive on hosting is evident in their interactions with guests. Sometimes dinners are held on the deck of the Strebes’ house overlooking the property, and sometimes guests just come to join the family at the end of the day and “all jive together,” Wendy says.
Getting There, Rates, Info
Coming into Puerto Viejo, take the first right after SupermercadoOldHarbour and follow the road to the edge of town, past the soccer field on the left, over the wooden bridge and up the dirt road to Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge.
The lodge has three smaller cottages for one to three people and four larger ones for up to six and eight. Nightly rates ($90 to $150), weekly rates ($450 to $750, or about 30 percent off nightly rate) and monthly rates ($1,350 to $2,250, or 50 percent off nightly rate) are available and include taxes, cleaning services and wireless Internet. On-site massages and laundry are offered for a fee.
For information and reservations, call 2750-0256 or 2750-0001, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cashewhilllodge.co.cr.