I made an excellent choice in Rancho Naturalista for our first trip to Costa Rica. I'm heavily into birding, but my husband is less so, and is a very fussy traveler. So when he accompanies me, I look for a place that will keep him happy while I indulge my passion for watching the birds. Rancho Naturalista is a warm and comfortable family-run establishment that caters to birders, but the accomodations, food and hospitality are a treat for anyone looking for an authetic travel experience.
I splurged on a private car to pick us up and transport us from the San Jose airport to Rancho, knowing that this would alleviate any anxiety over road travel, and I'm glad I did. Travel by car is slow and bit hair-raising in Costa Rica, so leaving the driving to someone else was key. Rancho is on a fairly well-travleled road, but not foolproof to find, and the drive is quite long, steep and a bit rough in spots. However, on arrival just in time for dinner, we were greeted warmly, settled in, and fed the first of our excellent meals. The food at Rancho is prepared fresh and served family style, with a great selection of fruit, vegetables and juices to go with the meat dish served at every meal. We loved every meal we ate at Rancho, and the service is prompt and friendly at every turn.
Rancho is owned and managed by an American expat family, with a mostly local staff, many with long experience at the facility. English and Spanish are the main languages, but we also met Swiss and German guests, on whom I practiced my very limited German. Because meals are served family style, it's a great place to meet other travlelers, almost all of whom share an interest in birds.
We stayed in Room 2 in the main building. Room 2 opens directly onto the balcony above the feeders (and where 3 of the hummingbird feeders hang), so it's not the quietest spot, but the lodge was not full while we were there, so we found the traffic manageable. I loved being able to just step out the door to the feeders and the fresh coffee placed out at daybreak, but if you aren't sociable first thing in the morning, this may not be the room for you. People are coming and going, and sounds from other rooms and the kitchen are clearly heard. Didn't bother us, but we sleep with a fan going, so that white noise helped.
Many reviews don't mention the spectacular view of the valley and the two volcanoes (Irazu and Turrialba) from the upper balcony, but it is not to be missed. My husband spent many hours on the balcony enjoying the views and the feeders. The weather can be changeable, and it's lovely to watch the clouds and sun move over the terrain, and the smoking volcano is always a fascination.
Of course, the birds were my mission, and Rancho does not disappoint. Our first morning birding the feeders was an embarassment of riches, with hummingbirds, tanagers, warblers, sparrows, robins, and dozens of other birds coming and going in a constant stream. The oropendolas, chacalacas, aracaris and tanagers are showstoppers, but we also saw parrot flocks and Keel-billed Toucans flying by regularly. We were guided by Harry on numerous occasions, but were also able to spend some time with Cali picking out birds from the balcony and at meals. Both are top-notch guides, and a pleasure with which to spend time. Harry stays at the lodge and functions also as sort of an on-site concierge when Lisa and Mario (the managers and part of the founding family) are not there.
We walked some of the trails, visited the pools, and one morning Harry took us to see the spot where moths and insects gather to a lighted screen which attracts birds that eat insects. Each trip yielded more and more birds, way more than I expected to be able to see.
As part of our week-long stay, we were entitled to a day trip, and Lisa created one for us that accommodated our interests and mobility perfectly. We went to Tapanti and then stopped at some hostorical sites and a few other spots to bird and check out the local countryside. It was a fabulous day and again, we saw many more new birds than we could have hoped.
I would recommend Racho to anyone traveling to Costa Rica who has an interest in a warm, comfortable lodge with excellent food and service. The birding is absolutely phenomenal, but it's such a treat to have it all in one package. We were treated like family members, and can't wait to go back.
If noise really bothers you, one of the rooms outside the main lodge might be your best choice. I...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.