If you need to de-stress, want to connect with nature or perhaps have a yearning to sample the campesino life, then El Sol Verde Lodge and Campground may be just the place for you. Only 20 minutes from Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste – land of haciendas, vaqueros (cowboys) and open spaces – El Sol Verde is located near Curubandé, an authentic Tico village where small homes and sodas (local eateries) hug the roadside. Tucked on a hillside a short distance off the main road to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, it provides a peaceful resting place from which to explore of the area.
“People come here to see the nature,” says Gerard van Vuuren, who, with wife Ingrid, moved here from the Netherlands in 2006 and opened the bed-and-breakfast over a year later. “They see our sign on the road, turn off and come up here, and they don’t expect what they find.”
The surprise consists of 6,000 square meters of tranquility: lovingly maintained grounds, mature trees and grand views. To the south, the valley spreads out for miles beyond Liberia.
“Looking down on the treetops, we see a lot of birds,” Ingrid says. “A troop of howler monkeys often rests in that large tree in the distance.”
The air is fresh here at 350 meters in altitude, with temperatures in the upper 20s Celsius during the day and the low 20s at night.
“There are some nights we need a blanket,” Ingrid notes. “In the evening at certain times of the year, the yard is covered with fireflies. This is a treat for many Europeans – most of them have never seen them before.”
Small in scale but grand in ambience, the three-room lodge sits on the edge of the property, facing the valley. Tables and chairs on the porch provide a place for enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. The cozy and immaculate rooms are equipped with orthopedic beds, quiet ceiling fans and private bathrooms with hot-water showers and sinks. Two hammocks beneath the trees beckon guests to take a siesta, enjoy some reading or simply listen to the breeze.
Behind the lodge, stone steps and a bougainvillea arch mark the way up to the bluff-top campground, complete with a beautiful view, concrete platforms for tents and a bathroom with three private shower stalls, toilets and sinks – unique amenities in a country where campgrounds are hard to come by. For travelers without their own equipment, the van Vuurens offer rental tents and air mattresses that will be set up and waiting. A picnic table is in place, and they are soon installing a gas cookstove for campers to use.
Across a spacious yard is the breakfast terrace, where a full tropical breakfast is available each morning. Upon request, you might also enjoy a fresh egg, provided by the van Vuurens’ brood of hens.
“We don’t serve lunch or dinner because we try to encourage our guests to go into town and support the local businesses there,” Ingrid explains. “There are four sodas nearby, and we are happy to give recommendations.” The Breakfast Terrace also acts as a gathering place for guests to use the book exchange or supply of games.
El Sol Verde was created purposefully on a small scale.
“We wanted to keep it small so we can give our guests personal attention,” Gerard says. “We want them to always have the feeling they are visiting friends or family.”
Travelers enjoy the company of the family dog, Khaki, and delight in “talking” with Pablo, a parrot that speaks in Spanish and Dutch. The van Vuurens are the kind of proprietors travelers love to meet – amiable and gracious people who are always happy to share their knowledge about the area.
“It’s pleasant just to drive or ride a bike around this area, even without going into the park,” Gerard says. “It’s beautiful here.”
A 20-minute scenic walk takes you to the Río Blanco, where you’ll find a calm swimming hole at the foot of a small waterfall.
Khaki will show you the way; he likes to jump in and cool off. The Río Colorado is just a three-minute stroll from El Sol Verde.
Though not suitable for swimming, this river offers a big dose of nature, occasionally including monkeys.
Rincón de la Vieja is only 10 kilometers away, and the van Vuurens offer transportation for travelers without cars. They will lead a guided tour up the trail to the volcano’s crater, which can be dangerous for the inexperienced hiker. They can also arrange horseback riding with a local guide.
Adventurous travelers have been visiting Costa Rica for decades, and small properties such as El Sol Verde seem to attract the most colorful characters from around the globe.
“Probably our most interesting guest so far was the gentleman in his 70s who came on his bike; he was riding this same bike all over the world for 15 years,” Gerard recalls, smiling. “He carried an aloe plant for the sunburn. He also carried his own hammock and preferred to sleep in that.”
Getting There, Rates, Info
By car, drive 5 km north of Liberia on theInter-American Highway
and turn right at the large sign for Rincón de la Vieja and Curubandé. Continue 10 km on a wide, well-maintained dirt road until you reach Curubandé. You will see a sign for El Sol Verde on your right at the entrance to town; turn and drive 200 meters.
Buses leave for Curubandé from the Liberia bus station three times a day at 6:40 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. It’s a short walk from the main road to El Sol Verde.
Rates in the lodge are $45 double and $65 for a quadruple room, including tax. A campsite for two people costs $7 or $22 including a tent. A full tropical breakfast is available for $5, or $6 with fresh farm eggs. Note: Cash only.
For information, visit www.elsolverde.com, call 2665-5357 or 8357-4593, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.