In the laidback beach town of Junquillal – a place where hitchhiking is the preferred mode of transportation, although the bus or a car will work just fine – Michiel Breman and Lieke van de Loo discovered exactly what they were looking for.
It took three years for the Dutch couple to build their gorgeous Mundo Milo Eco Lodge. In November 2006, the two sold their house in Arnhem, Netherlands, and quit their jobs. They decided to pursue their dream “to build something in Middle America” in the jungle. They also chose to build it all by hand, to try to preserve as much of the nature as possible. Now, guests can wander up the forested dirt path toward Mundo Milo, five minutes from Playa Junquillal, to discover the small plot of land that Breman and van de Loo have turned into a friendly cabina, restaurant and bar.
Mundo Milo is in an alluring area enclosed by the jungle, yet close enough to the beach that you can hear the surf. The town of Junquillal lies on the northern Pacific coast, about 45 minutes from the town of Santa Cruz in the northwestern Guanacaste province.
“(Junquillal) was kind of like a magnet,” van de Loo said. “We checked the whole coastline, but every time we came back to Junquillal because of the tranquillity, the very strong community.”
“I felt very welcome,” Breman added.
The duo forged Mundo Milo with a do-it-themselves attitude. They learned Spanish to communicate with their small construction team and the locals around town, and Breman also learned how to make a website to create www.mundomilo.com. One of the reasons he and van de Loo chose to build the place without the help of a contractor was to ensure that construction would not cause excessive damage to the wilderness.
The two uprooted plants by hand, instead of plowing through the area with machines. They used eco-friendly products and reused leftover lumber to construct Mundo Milo. The jungle aesthetic remains even as the hotel’s restaurant serves up delicious fish dinners and cold beers. The gnarly tree trunks used to hold up the restaurant’s magnificent thatched roof might be Mundo Milo’s finest touch.
Mundo Milo has one cabina that guests can rent for any period of time. Breman and van de Loo eventually plan to build seven cabinas, with each one representing a different part of the world, for example, the Mediterranean, Asia and the Arabian Desert. The first cabina is a wonderful homage to Africa. The bathroom walls have giraffe print on them, the carpet is spotted like a jungle cat, a blanket has zebra stripes, and the architecture of the room adds other nuances to put guests in the mindset of being on an African safari. The cabina also includes a kitchenette with a fridge, a private terrace and bathroom. (See a 360 degree view of Mundo Milo’s Africa Cabina.)
The hotel’s location can make a stay feel like a jungle expedition at times. Sleeping in a cabina smack dab in the forest means Mundo Milo is not for the squeamish. Breman has seen guests leap onto tables in the restaurant as tarantulas crept across the floor.
The cabina also hosts some uninvited guests, such as red ants and spiders. But these creatures must be expected when spending the night in a Costa Rican jungle, and they leave guests alone.
Other, more exotic creatures nearby include howler monkeys, colorful birds and the olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles that nest on Junquillal’s 4-kilometer shoreline. Compared to the bustling beach town of Tamarindo to the north, Junquillal is a much quieter and close-knit spot. During nesting season, area hotel owners will collaborate with environmentalists working on the beach to give tours of the turtles returning to nest. Guests can also kayak in the mangrove lagoon near areas where crocodiles are known to lurk. Canopy tours, horseback rides and national park visits can be arranged as well. The hotel also has a swimming pool.
The owners are central to the experience at Mundo Milo. Breman and van de Loo are friendly and accommodating, whether a guest needs a delicious vegetarian meal or a simple rum and Coke. Both of them speak English, Dutch, Spanish and German, and enjoy conversing with guests. For travelers staying longer than a weekend, the owners will offer breakfast and laundry service.
Junquillal is the archetypal secluded beach town. And while you’re there, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful jungle, surrounded by the friendly community, at Mundo Milo.
From San José, take the Inter-American Highway north and turn off at Highway 18 toward Nicoya and Sámara via the La Amistad Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue to Nicoya and then Santa Cruz. As you pass through Santa Cruz, you will see a gas station on the right; immediately afterward you will go over a small bridge. Take the first left and follow the signs to Junquillal. The trip takes four to five hours.
From Liberia, take the road toward the Pacific beaches and Santa Cruz. Just before arriving in Santa Cruz, take the exit on the right toward Playa Junquillal and follow the signs. Travel time is about 1.5 hours.
Cabina rates at Mundo Milo are $45 during low season and $55 during high season, plus tax. For information, visit www.mundomilo.com, e-mail [email protected] or call 2658-7010.