We sat on the wooden porch of our cabin, relaxing in the cool air of the Caribbean night. Surrounded on all sides by dense jungle, we were serenaded by chirps of insects and calls of geckos. Occasionally, a car would pass in front of the lodge, reminding us that we were only a short distance from Puerto Viejo.
It’s an easy thing to forget at the area’s first eco-lodge, an authentic Caribbean property called Miraflores Lodge. With its thatched roofs, open-air cabins and rustic yet elegant design, Miraflores takes guests off the beaten path and into an intimate eco experience.
Owner Pamela Carpenter built the lodge between in Playa Chiquita with her own hands before the hostels and hotels of Puerto Viejo were built. “I had no electricity, and I built this with chainsaws and [by] getting oxen to carry reforested laurel wood out of the jungle,” she said.
The wooden accommodations are all spacious and each exudes a sense of being in a tree house deep in the jungle. Many of the rooms are interconnecting, allowing for large groups if necessary. A few of the units offer private kitchens and living rooms, complete with wooden tables and hammocks. The Garden Suite is also the only lodge with screens instead of open-air windows.
Miraflores has maintained its responsibilities as an ecolodge since its opening. Carpenter helped start the first garbage collection and recycling program in Puerto Viejo. She also keeps her operation local, involving the native Bribri people in her business by setting up the first guide training program, giving guests a unique cultural and environmental education.
“It’s an education for people to feel comfortable in the environment,” she said, as we enjoyed a cold beer on the patio of El Ranchito, the quaint, wooden café in front of her lodge.
Across the street, Manzanillo wildlife refuge offers jungle tours and snorkeling, there are ample activities that acquainted guests with the area. To see wildlife, guests can just sit on the patio and relax, as the property is frequented by monkeys, toucans, and sloths.
In typical ecolodge fashion, Miraflores is self-sufficient, growing yuca, guanabana, papayas, bananas, spinach, plantains and more. Milo Paris, who runs El Ranchito, exchanges produce from the lodge for products like fresh fish, lobster and chocolate from local fisherman and farmers. Paris offers daily specials based on what he gets via barter.
The menu at El Ranchito offers meals for vegetarians, meat eaters and gluten-free foodies. For example, the Chiquita Monster includes smoked ham seared on a cast-iron pan with fried eggs, lettuce, tomatoes and spicy chili cream sauce on a sesame bun. The Iguana omelet has veggies from the garden and herb butter, served over a sprout salad with avocado and tomatoes. The gluten-free menu includes such items as massive gluten-free pancakes and rice pupusas.
Located 4 kilometers south of Puerto Viejo, Miraflores is about a four-hour drive from San José.
If you are driving, take Highway 32 east to Limón. From there, drive down Highway 36 to Highway 256, which will take you through Puerto Viejo. From Puerto Viejo, it is about a 20-minute drive to Playa Chiquita and Miraflores is located on the right-hand side of the road with signs out front.
You can find public buses in San José at El Gran Terminal del Caribe. The buses will take you to Puerto Viejo, where you can catch another bus to Manzanillo and get dropped off directly in front of the lodge. The noon bus from San José to Manzanillo will take you directly to the lodge. Rates range from $50-95 per night.