Just 65 kilometers from the capital, pre- Columbian ruins offer sweeping views of the coffee-lined Central Valley, the raging Río Reventazón draws white-water rafting enthusiasts from around the world and the sulfur-belching Volcán Turrialba invites a sense of danger. Set within this epicenter of adventure is a small oasis of solitude.
Offering the most elusive luxury of the 21st century, sanctuary from traffic, Internet and television, Wagelia Espino Blanco Lodge in Turrialba combines the timeless luxuries of solitude and nature.
“We want Espino Blanco to be a gift to the spirit, an intimate place where people can reconnect with nature,” says owner Walter Coto Molina.
Set in North Verbena Turrialba, Wagelia Espino Blanco Lodge is a collection of 10 electricity-free cabins tucked within 29,000 square meters of primary and secondary forest. From the town of Turrialba, a scenic eight km drive leads to the property, which gets its name from the Espino Blanco (White Thorn) trees that dot the property.
Coto and other family members opened Espino Blanco Lodge in June of 2008 under the Wagelia brand. The name Wagelia is made up of the initials of each member of the family, beginning with “wa” for Walter. The Wagelia group also has two other hotels in the area –Wagelia Turrialba in the city center and Wagelia Dominica on the outskirts. Sustainability is the goal uniting all three.
“With this hotel, we wanted to create an example of how we would like tourism to develop in Costa Rica – a place closely connected with nature where we can sell peace, solitude, tranquility and spiritual contact with nature,” explains Molina, who is a former president of the Chamber of Tourism.
The lodge, built entirely from plantation-grown wood, sits within a gated and private property called the Espino Blanco Biological Reserve. From the small parking lot overlooking the valley below, stone pathways lead to the reception area, the restaurant and the cabins. Lit by natural sunlight streaming in through atrium–like glass walls, the reception area strikes an elegant balance with the verdant surroundings. Lanterns, which decorate the reception desk, are for guests to use in their cabins in the evenings setting the tone for this back-to-nature lodge.
Next door is the open-air restaurant pierced by towering trees, all of which continues the theme of fusing the indoors with the outdoors. A full bar surrounded by swing chairs takes up the corner. Tables are topped with linens, and coffee is servedfrom silver pots by impeccable staff. It is touches like these that give the lodge an air of sophistication in what would otherwise be considered rustic.
The cabins line the main path, and each one is discretely hidden amongst the trees with attention paid to sight lines. Outdoor recycle bins separate waste products. Inside the spacious cabins is a dining table with two queen beds topped with orthopedic mattresses and canopy-like mosquito nets. Tiled bathrooms have walk-in, gas-fired hot water showers. For outdoor relaxing and wildlife spotting, small hammock-clad terraces face the forest.
There is no television, stereo or Internet connection, making this the perfect place to catch up on your reading list. The evenings are best for stargazing or for storytelling under the lantern’s soft light. For more rigorous activities, well-maintained trails wind throughout the property. You can find short stories that encourage reflection posted along some trails, further adding to the retreat-like feel.
“Espino Blanco is a temple for us,” says Coto. “We love and care for it along with the animals, trees and plants in the area.”
And like a temple, Wagelia Espino Blanco Lodge is built within a natural setting and designed in harmony with nature. Far removed from the distractions of modern-day life, the lodge achieves that rare luxury which enables visitors to reconnect with nature by caring for and being nourished by the environment.
Getting There, Rates, Info
From San José, drive east to Cartago on Highway 2. Once in Cartago, continue east on highway 10, following the signs to Turrialba. You’ll pass the towns of Paraíso, Cervantes, and Juan Viñas. Wagelia Espino Blanco Lodge is in North Verbena Turrialba, eight km north of Turrialba city. Cabin rates are: single occupancy $65, double $87, triple $109 and quadruple $130 including breakfast, taxes and auto-guided hiking through the Espino Blanco Biological Reserve. All-inclusive package deals are also available. For reservations and more information, call 2556-1566, or visit www.wageliaespinoblancolodge.com.