NOSARA, Guanacaste – The tent is big, but not too big. The bed is an air mattress, but it’s firm. The door and windows are basically just mosquito netting, but you can zip up a cover for privacy, and the openings admit a soothing breeze. There’s no air conditioning, but the rotating fan is a dream. There are even electrical outlets hanging from cords, so you can plug in your many devices. Instead of a private lavatory, there’s a communal bathroom a short walk away – a walk down quaint paths lined with rocks and trees.
Really, for $29 a night, what more do you need?
In the upscale surf town of Nosara, Jungles Edge is something of a black sheep. It is located a short distance from town, whether driving the rocky roads or strolling in sandals. The place is neither all-inclusive resort nor hippie hostel, although it has elements of both: You can laze in a hilltop infinity pool, swimming through non-chlorinated water and admiring a view of the forested hills; and you can also buy groceries and cook your own meals in the DIY kitchen. You can take an early morning yoga class in the hotel’s expansive open-air studio, or you can rent a mountain bike and pedal around town.
But what make the place unique are the tents – or, as owners Dave and Edie Maher call them, “jungle huts.” Each tent is permanently positioned on a wooden platform, which supports a slanted steel roof. Instead of a nylon tarpaulin, as traditional campers use, the metal shelter shields guests against tropical rains. For backpackers, this is the height of luxury.
To clarify, Jungles Edge is not “glamping,” the luxury accommodations that have become so famous in trendy wilderness settings. If you are looking for sprawling safari tents with zebra rugs, marble vessel sinks, and 600 thread count sheets, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
But as Costa Rica increasingly caters to all-inclusive vacationers, backpackers struggle to find cheap and dependable lodging. A town like Nosara has its fair share of sport-fishing attorneys, but it is also a world-famous surfing town, and for rucksack-toting travelers, a spacious tent and a safe storage locker might as well be the Taj Mahal. Other amenities, like the outdoor gym, are handy bonuses, and guests can sign up for paddleboarding sessions, horseback rides, and even mixed martial arts training. (Because nothing says “rainforest paradise” like strapping on gloves and punching someone in the face).
All these aspects would suffice for common travelers, but the Mahers are also extremely personable, and the central dining room serves as the hotel’s reception and office. When they’re not leading tours or teaching classes, the Mahers are basically always at the bar, welcoming guests as they arrive. While the U.S. couple have spent most of their lives in Virginia Beach, they have spent more than a decade living part-time in Guanacaste. Jungles Edge is only a year old, but they have built it around the hilltop residence that they built. No project could be more personal.
“We’ve never had a complaint,” boasted Dave Maher about their jungle huts. “Some people think they’ll be hot at night, but it gets really cool. We’ve had guests who asked for extra sheets. You’ll see.”
For flexible travelers, the tents are astoundingly comfortable, and they are just rugged enough to satisfy seasoned outdoorspeople. Compared to a claustrophobic hostel or rundown cabina, the tents offer a fresh approach to budget accommodations. (Although be forewarned that the $29 price tag jumps to $50 for two people.) With any luck, Jungles Edge will ignite a trend, as low overhead and self-sufficient guests could carve out a whole new market for entrepreneurs. Actual camping isn’t common in Costa Rica, and when the rare tourist sets up a tent on the beach, petty theft is practically expected. The jungle hut approach satisfies the desire to “rough it” without the annoying risks.
Jungles Edge is, in fact, located on the edge of the rainforest, and it’s perfectly normal to wake up to the low shriek of howler monkeys. Guests find themselves surrounded by nature, but they don’t have to smack mosquitoes off their forearms. That makes for a happy camper.
Jungles Edge is located in Nosara, Guanacaste. For more information, visit the hotel’s website.