This article comes to us from Tom Keller & Zoe Courtier, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Mention the Caribbean and mental images abound of breathtaking beaches, turquoise seas, tropical cocktails and dinner on a balmy veranda with a hibiscus tucked behind one ear.
It’s a glamorous destination that most of us have dreamed of on a rainy Monday behind the computer. But many of us also assume an accompanying big price tag and just dream on.
However, there are Caribbean gems which have it all without the hefty price tag. Now is the time to discover the east coast of Costa Rica, or, as Columbus called it, the ‘rich coast’.
It’s your affordable Caribbean.
Puerto Viejo village lies on the south of The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and is the gateway to 16 kilometres of spectacular beaches and verdant rainforest. Untouched by the larger developers, small scale development on this coast is a bonus if you value originality and personal service. While the tourist majority head to the all inclusive resorts on the west coast the east coast reward is more rainforest and beach to yourself.
And ah, this rainforest… it’s the Caribbean experience in overdrive. Not for nothing do many refer to this area as a ‘Garden of Eden’ and film-makers choose it as their Robinson Crusoe and Tarzan backdrops. Forget manicured lawns and regimental flower beds. This is a a botanists and bird watchers paradise with flowers a metre long, trees that drip Tarzan vines and all running parallel to the coast. At many points this wonderful verdant jungle even drips into the ocean.
It would be a stunning backdrop to any beach even without adding the inhabitants. But you also have the howler monkeys swinging through the trees, ‘smiling’ sloths hanging around and the magnificent electric Blue Morpho butterfly fluttering by your beach towel. And then add the birds… Toucans sitting in palm trees, green parrots raucously heralding dusk and the magnificent pelicans fishing a few metres from you as you float on your back in a crystal clear sea.
Costa Rica’s east coast has everything to offer and more that you would expect from the ‘usual’ Caribbean experience: palm or rainforest-fringed sandy beaches to snorkel, dive or just relax on, an impressive array of restaurants, live local music and residents of 34 nationalities mirrored in the eclectic characters and colours of this vibrant and laid back coast.
If you need a break from such hedonism, there are activities and trips in abundance … go horseback riding along the beach or through the rainforest, zip line through the canopy, go dolphin watching and catch some Snapper for supper, raft the Rio Pacuare for the ultimate adrenaline rush, learn to surf with experts who guarantee you’ll stand within the hour, or perhaps finally get that PADI certification and dive the coral reefs.
If you’re feeling ‘tranquilo’ try a Chocolate tour (with tasting of course), take a nature walk with certified guides and spot iguanas, Spider monkeys and the Poison Dart frogs, be dazzled with tropical flowers at the Botanical garden, or lie back and just be completely pampered at ‘Indulgence’ or ‘Pure Jungle’ spa.
But of course there’s still the option of lying in your hammock eyeing toucans over the top of your book.
Whatever day of the year and whatever you choose to do, you can be sure that you won’t be one of the masses. Crowds, tour buses and large groups don’t exist on this coast. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is still relatively undiscovered and appeals to individual travelers: that could be the best news of all.
Most guidebooks and websites concentrate exclusively on the other coast so few people know that the Caribbean coast has its own micro climate. Here, there is no distinct dry or wet season and it’s hurricane-free, with an average balmy temperature of 27 degrees centigrade. Oh yes, and not unimportantly, the sun shines most days of the year!
Puerto Viejo and the settlements of Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo are strung like a necklace along this coast and offer plenty of accommodation options. So whether you’re looking for a hammock at Rocking J’s, a thatched cabana at Costa de Papito, a wood house at Finca Chica, a beach suite at Tree House or a luxurious house with your own private plunge pool at Geckoes Lodge, you’ll find more than enough choices to suit your style and budget.
So don’t just Dream Costa Rica Caribbean, Do it!
Tom Keller & Zoe Courtier own, manage and live at Geckoes Lodge in Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
In 2009, we opened Geckoes Lodge, which is all about Barefoot Luxury. With just two luxury holiday houses, each with a private plunge pool, set in 2 hectares of beautiful rainforest, Geckoes is a place to ‘get away from it all’ but have spectacular beaches and all amenities close by.
Keeping our business small allows us to offer privacy and personal service in stunning surroundings. The houses are designed around the landscape rather than vice versa, minimizing the environmental impact and as a consequence, there’s more bird and animal life for our visitors to enjoy.