“Quirky self-catering eco-houses set in the jungle near pretty Punta Uva beach”
The masterstroke of Dutch owner Edsart Besier, these shabby chic rustic houses make up Tree House Lodge, undoubtedly a very special place. Not only are its eco-credentials spot on (all building materials are sustainable, electricity is solar powered, paints are made from natural oils), but its profits fund a green iguana conservation programme - now an endangered species. It's buried deep in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and you can canoe to an indigenous reserve, zip-wire through the canopy, go white-water rafting or take a nature tour.
- Fantastic location, with uninterrupted views of the jungle and the Lodge's botanical gardens
- Unique, eco-aware houses that are perfectly in tune with their surroundings yet surprisingly upmarket (with coffee makers, iPod docks, a Jacuzzi)
- Sitting on your deck to watch hummingbirds flit about, agouti and lizards scamper past and sloths laze in the trees above you
- Total privacy; the houses are set well apart and there are no neighbours
- Good for families, friends or honeymooners
- Plenty of great activities on offer, or you can just relax on one of Costa Rica's most beautiful coastlines
- We don't recommend the cheaper Garden House: much simpler, next to the road, with no glass in the windows
- The beach in front of the lodge is not great for swimming (big waves), but there are better spots 20 mins' walk away
- It's 15 minutes' drive into Puerto Viejo, though there are restaurants in walking distance
- You're between ocean and jungle, with open sided houses, so be prepared for bugs and monkey noises, plus inevitable wear and tear
- It can be humid year-round, and rainy during July-August and November-January; this is the rainforest, after all
- It's a 4-5 hour drive, or short internal flight, from San José; and the last 5km of road are pretty rough
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Jungle Lodge
- 5 houses for 2-6
- Self-catering (but breakfast can be provided)
- All ages welcome (but no cots provided)
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
The 5 houses are completely unique in design, but bound by their shared eco-credentials. The wood used in construction was either fallen trees or from a sustainable source; walls are open wherever possible, to provide natural light and cool breezes; electricity and hot water are solar powered; waste water is recycled. Each has its own kitchen. They are spaced well apart in the forest near the beach.
The Beach Suite
In our minds, the Beach Suite is the coolest, not least because it claims to have the biggest bathroom in Costa Rica! It's ideal for a group of friends (3-6), thanks to its 3 double bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an extra separate WC, a spacious living room and eating terrace. Hammocks rock in the open wall spaces, there's a swinging basket chair and some of the furniture is simply fashioned from whole tree trunks; it's gorgeous.
The famous bathroom is a real work of art: from the outside it's dome shaped, covered in coloured glass circles; inside there's a space rocket feel to the massive room, enhanced by the giant knobs that control all the taps. There's a double shower in one corner and a huge jacuzzi bath in the middle - bizarre but groovy.
The Beach House
Built entirely from fallen Nispero (loquat) trees that oxen dragged from deep in the rainforest, the Beach House lies 80m from the shoreline, so you can actually lie in bed and watch waves lap the beach. A thatched dome roof, shuttered windows and rattan walls keep it cool and airy inside, and a beautiful wooden staircase spirals up through the centre. This is also a split-level design, with a master bedroom on the top floor and an open-plan living space down below - home to a second double bed, a sitting area and a kitchen. We think it would be great for families (2-5) and there's an additional single bed for kids who don't want to share a double with a sibling.
The organically shaped bathroom is enclosed yet light, thanks to a glass roof, and made entirely from stone, with a walk-in shower and plants throughout.
The Tree House
Built on tall stilts, this back-to-your-childhood house is submerged by the forest, with a sloped wooden walkway leading steeply to its front door. Inside it's split level: upstairs, a double bed and a small ensuite toilet; downstairs, a second double bed, a bunk bed and a kitchen. There's enough room for a family, but it's not toddler-proof and we think it's very romantic and better suited to a couple. All of the furniture is handcarved sustainable wood, windows are open but screened against bugs, while scarlet Birds of Paradise flowers provide splashes of colour. It's not luxurious but it's super quirky, making you feel as if you were 'playing house'. The shared bathroom is back on ground level and this is fabulous: a 100-year-old Banyan tree shelters a toilet in one trunk fold, an outdoor shower in another. A mirror is framed with seashells, towels are folded into different shapes each day and there's an electric light should you need it.
The Garden House
We don't normally recommend this house because it is much simpler, and located next to the road with no glass in the windows, so can be noisy at night (especially in busy periods). But if that does not deter you, it is the cheapest option. Built mostly from bamboo, it sleeps 4 people in 1 kingsize and 1 queensize bedroom, to suit a family or 2 couples. There's a kitchen, cosy lounge, bathroom (with another separate WC and basin upstairs), and an outdoor hot tub. It shares a private gate with the Beach Suite. From the outside it looks like a Wendy House, with vermillion walls and a pointed bamboo roof; inside furniture is built from tree trunks and clad in bright fabrics.
The Crystal House
Formerly the owner's house, it's named after the 5,000 or so glass bottles that have been incorporated into its open-plan walls. We have not seen it yet, but gather that it sleeps up to 5 in two kingsize bedrooms, one with an additional single bed.
- Air conditioning
- Coffee / tea making
- Full kitchen
- Internet access
- Ipod dock
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
All 4 houses are set up for self-catering, with a stove, a fridge, an oven, hot running water (solar powered) and a good range of utensils in each, including a juicer and a coffee maker. All houses have access to a BBQ, too. Bear in mind you'll need to buy all ingredients and supplies (salt and pepper, washing up liquid, bin bags etc). There are 2 small pulperias (grocery stores) a 5-minute walk away and these offer fresh milk, vegetables, Italian deli products and homemade bread, as well as a wide range of dry goods.
You do get a welcome breakfast delivered to your house on the first morning - choose your preferred time between 7-9am - this consists of fruit, warm bread and pastry, cheese, ham, butter and jam. You can request breakfast every day if you wish at an additional cost.
Should you prefer to eat out, there are several good restaurants within walking distance. Duende Feliz is a recommended Italian, whilst Selvin's, Jungle Love and Helena's all offer good quality Costa Rican specialities, including fresh lobster.
It’s a 15-minute drive into Puerto Viejo if you wish to venture further afield. Here you'll find Salsa Brava, which does an excellent grill and the Lodge recommends trying the tuna. Amimodo and Pecora Negra both do good Italian fare, and Sodas is cheap and cheerful, serving a traditional rice and bean dish, cooked in coconut milk with jerk chicken on the side. If you're feeling adventurous, some local restaurants offer 'rundown', a soup made from the kitchen's odds and ends, usually seafood with nampi and cassava or other root vegetables. El Loco Natural is the best place in Puerto Viejo for live music and the food there is said to be good.
- Coffee / tea making
- Full kitchen
- Organic produce
- Restaurants nearby
- Hike out from your house, through primary and secondary rainforest that's teeming with life. Local guides can lead the way and point out medicinal plants and wildlife as you go
- Go snorkelling and diving in Cahuita National Park, a conservation area and home to 35 species of coral, as well as unusual mollusk, tropical fish and nesting turtles. On land keep your eyes peeled for raccoon, sloths and the rare tamanduas (a type of anteater). The Lodge can recommend local tour operators
- Hire a kayak or bicycle to explore the mangrove swamps or go surfing (not for beginners though, the waves are vast!)
- Head into Puerto Viejo for the day. This town is home to 3 different cultures (the English-speaking black farmers, the indigenous people of Bribri and Caber who live in the foothills, and the Spanish-speaking immigrants) and as a result there's a rich mix of cultural traditions and heritage. Sit and listen to live reggae, eat jerk chicken, wander around the colourful shops or hang out in the funky bars. The nightlife is said to be fantastic
- Adrenaline junkies can go on a canopy tour and zip through the rainforest on a high wire, or try white-water rafting down the Pacuare river. As you paddle you'll pass glorious waterfalls and virgin rainforest, and see tropical birds swooping overhead
- Every activity you book through the Lodge will contribute to the Iguana Verde Foundation, set up by Edsart to help prevent this species from becoming extinct. There's a free Iguana Conservation Tour every other day, which will allow you to see these dazzling creatures up close
- Take a day trip to the Bribri indigenous reserve, where you'll learn about their cultures and traditions. They have their own language and are relatively untouched by western civilisation, instead relying on a system of bartering amongst themselves. Agriculture is the main way of life, and they also breed iguana to release into the wild to preserve the eco balance. Part of this trip will include the opportunity to buy their handicrafts
- Hit the beach. Punta Uva and Playa Chiquita are both within easy walking distance of all of houses, and are lovely places to swim or sunbathe. Every day at 4pm a group of locals meet to play volleyball on Playa Chiquita and you'll be encouraged to join in, should you wish
- The Lodge can arrange a host of other activities too, including boat rides to watch dolphins and turtles spawning, fishing trips (catch and release), tennis, horse riding and bird watching
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
Families will probably find the Beach properties best as the Tree House won't suit toddlers(!). The Beach House is better value and can still sleep 4-5, though kids will love the bathroom in the Beach Suite. The beach in front of the property has a shallow pool formed by the coral reefs so it's ideal for kids. There are no cots provided for babies. You are welcome to bring your own travel cot if but it can only be accommodated in the Beach Suite.
Teens (over 12)