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“Very Special Place” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Rancho Naturalista

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Rancho Naturalista
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1 Km este de Tuis de Turrialba | Tayutic, Turrialba 7150, Costa Rica   |  
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Ranked #1 of 11 hotels in Turrialba
Rocket City, Alabama
1 review
“Very Special Place”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 7, 2013

My wife and I stayed at Rancho Naturalista (RN) for five nights in February 2013. WE RECOMMEND IT HIGHLY!

Our room (number 1 in the lodge) was large and very comfortable, built of native wood. Having been there, we recommend the rooms in the lodge over the separate cabins, even though the cabins are newer.

Before I get to the birds, let me say that we enjoyed everything about the lodge: the food was terrific, the attention to cleanliness was outstanding, the friendliness of all of the staff was fantastic, and the manager (Lisa) was always attentive to the needs of every guest. We had a couple of special dietary needs, and they were met every meal without ever having to remind the staff or correct them regarding who got what food. It was amazing!

The lodge has a balcony overlooking blooming shrubs, bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, and bird baths. The balcony also has a pleasant view across the valley.

The feeders and shrubs around the lodge were replete with hummingbirds (including snowcap, green breasted mango, black crested coquette, and the violet crowned woodnymph, among a number of other species). A number of species visited the banana and rice feeders frequently, including tanagers (Passerini's [a split form scarlet-rumped], white lined, and others), Montezuma's Oropendulas, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Blue-crowned Motmot, Brown Jays, Clay-colored Thrush, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, and a lot of migrant warblers, such as Wilson's and Mourning.

The "Hummingbird Pools" are a must. They are supposedly at their busiest around 4:00-5:30, but we went at several different times. These pools are only a five minute walk down a trail from the lodge. Indeed, here come the hummingbird and some other species to bathe! We saw Snowcap, Purple-Crowned Fairy, Violet-Crowned Woodnymph, and others bathing in the pools, about forty feet below us at the overlook.

The lodge has on-site guides (the number varies with time of year, since the number of guests varies). There were four present while we were there (one local guide, two from Canada, and one from England; all had resided there from one to four years and knew the area and its birds extremely well). All speak English and all are excellent spotters and guides. We hired two different guides and enjoyed the skills of both. Some of the guides also know their butterflies very well, and some know the plants well.

Overall, if there is a negative, it was that the birds along the several miles of trails were not as active as we had expected. While we did an extensive see Stripe-Throated (Little) Hermit lek and three species of manakins, we simply did not see as many birds as we expected. That could have been because the weather was warmed than usual and a little drier than usual.

We recommend RN. We saw a few guests that did not seem to be having fun, but they tended to sit on the balcony all day, drinking coffee (or wine or beer) and didn't avail themselves of the trails or on-site guides. While this is a beautiful place to relax, sometimes having fun requires you to be active in the beautiful surrounding that nature offers.

Room Tip: Having been there, we recommend the rooms in the lodge over the separate cabins, even though the cab...
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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88 people have reviewed this hotel

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (21)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Portland, Maine
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 27, 2013

My husband and I stayed at Rancho Naturalista for two nights on February 14th and 15th before joining a Caravan tour for a ten day trip around the country. These two days at Rancho Naturalista were the best two days of our trip. We are birders and immediately upon arrival got about 20 life birds, even though we had not yet gone on any walks. These were birds we saw from their lovely balcony. The two expert bird guides we used in the two days were the best bird guides we have ever had. We got over 100 life birds in two morning walks. Our guides were personable, exceedingly knowledgeable about the birds in the area. They could identify every single bird, not just by sight, but more importantly by sound. The lodging itself was nicely situated and beautifully appointed. The rooms were super clean, the staff was just amazingly friendly, and helpful. We LOVE Lisa and Mario, the owners of the place. Very attentive to the needs of their guests, but really relaxed, and warm and responsive to our requests. The food at Rancho was fine dining caliber food. In the ten days we were in the country, travelling to four separate locations with high end lodging, nothing compared to the amazing food provided by the chef at Rancho Naturalista. I will never ever forget the pork ribs they served, and only regret that I didn’t scarf up more than I did. The food was fresh, locally grown and cooked so deliciously. Very, very yummy. I think I would return to Rancho for the food alone. But, then, I would also return to Rancho for the birding alone, too. Come to think of it, I would return to Rancho for the staff alone, and for the lodging alone! Very, very nice. My husband and I are also whitewater kayakers. Rancho is very close to Turrialba, which as any whitewater boater will tell you is the launch point for many rivers in the area, including the Pacuara. Word needs to get out that Rancho Naturalista would be a fantastic base of operations for boaters who wish to boat in the area. Why not relax with a beer on the deck of their lodge after an exciting day rafting, kayaking or open boating the rivers! Thanks Lisa, Mario, and all the staff. We truly loved our visit with you and expect to return just as soon as we can.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Manchester, United Kingdom
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2013

We stayed at this delightful Lodge as part of a group tour and it was my favourite of the trip We were met on arrival by everyone at the property which was nice. Our room opened directly onto the balcony and the feeders there are wonderful to watch especially early morning and evening. The room was furnished with a beautiful rustic theme. The food during our stay was excellent home made and fresh.The birding there was great with trails etc to discover.
This is a relaxed and extremely friendly lodging, although we had our own excellent guide and tour leader Harry accompanied us and helped with information and advice on spotting the birds.
A wonderful oasis which we would certainly visit again without hesitation.

Room Tip: We loved the room with french doors that opened right onto the side of the balcony so we could watch...
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Maribel, Wi, Usa
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 6, 2013

We spent three days here and it was one of our favorites of the trip. They have a very nice setup with hummingbird and platform feeders which attract a good variety of very nice birds, including some of the more uncommon hummingbirds. We found everything as noted by others, and have a hard time time saying anything bad about the managers, guides and staff -and as noted by others, the food is excellent. Several small items may be important to some visitors, though - like the fact that the trails are steep and can be muddy - of course, that is the price to pay for birding in this setting. The one thing that did bother us was that when we were settling our bill upon departure, we were told that they do not take credit cards. We would have preferred to know that ahead of time when deciding on whether to purchase extra drinks and tours.

Room Tip: Room 1 has it's own balcony and private entrance
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wayne, Pennsylvania
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 17, 2013

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.

Room Tip: If noise really bothers you, one of the rooms outside the main lodge might be your best choice. I...
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge, United Kingdom
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 20, 2012

We were privileged to stay at Rancho Naturalista for two weeks in October 2012.

The birdwatching opportunities are brilliant with well maintained feeding stations, an excellent network of forest trails and remarkable natural pools where hummingbirds bathe. It was also easy to arrange birding half or full day trips to different habitats.

The birding experience was further enhanced by our local bird guide, Cali, who is extremely helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He is also very patient!

Our upstairs room was large, comfortable and stylish with patio doors opening out onto the balcony with its superb views. The owners are very friendly, helpful and accessible; going out of their way to ensure that we were happy and had everything we needed. This welcoming attitude was also true of all the staff who worked at the Lodge who provided excellent personal service. Meals were served family style and home-cooked by the chef, Vinicio. They were professionally presented and tasted delicious.

Rancho Naturalista is a wonderful Lodge and we certainly hope to make a return visit.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Berlin
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 15, 2012

My second visit here everywhere birds and with mountains surroundings great time 2013 I will visit again..no doubt.... And also the hiking was good for me not too hard so I really hope more travelers will find this almost secret spot and the service was excellent too bad no swimming pool. But who needs one. When they have super qhot showers for after a long walk..

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Rancho Naturalista

Address: 1 Km este de Tuis de Turrialba | Tayutic, Turrialba 7150, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Cartago > Turrialba
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 11 hotels in Turrialba
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The premier birding lodge in Costa Rica, Rancho Naturalista is among the finest in Central America. There are plentiful hummingbirds on the large, open upstairs balcony where you can view the distant smoking volcano. Over 430 species of birds have been recorded in the area. You can hike and bird the trails on your own, and excellent guides are available as well. At Rancho Naturalista the atmosphere is warm and relaxed, and the staff are friendly and welcoming. This comfortable lodge is famous for its excellent food, well prepared, and made with the best fresh local ingredients. (All meals are included.) The weather is almost perfect, not too hot and not too cold. Rancho Naturalista is a wonderful getaway for bird watchers, hikers, and nature lovers! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Rancho Naturalista Turrialba
Rancho Naturalista Hotel Turrialba
Rancho Naturalista Costa Rica/Turrialba

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