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“Strictly for the birds” 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
Bournemouth
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“Strictly for the birds”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2013

Wonderful hotel located in a fabulously scenic area. Rancho Naturalista is an amazing place perched high above Turrialba overlooking two volcanoes. Rancho is a place mostly for birders and photographers of wildlife and there is probably no better place to be. Hummingbird feeders are hung up on the balcony enabling us to see and photograph many different species. Bird tables are loaded with food for all the other many, many species of birds, squirrels, butterflies, lizards and the odd coati to feed from. There are many trails on the property and excellent guides to show where the more secretive birds and other animals are. Guides can be hired for very reasonable rates to take guests out for a morning or whole day. Accommodation here is fairly basic but comfortable and very clean. There is also beautiful luxury accommodation in the main house down the road below the Rancho. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the rates are exceptional and all menus are catered for. Free coffee all day too served by the most friendly helpful staff you could ever meet. An absolute must for all birdy folks. We came home to the UK with over 100 new species and a great love for Costa Rica and it's people. We will return.

  • Stayed March 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
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95 reviews from our community

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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 (25)
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Washington
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
24 hotel reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2013

This has got to be one of the most expensive hotels in Costa Rica. Is it worth it? Probably, but that will depend on your budget. The high quality rooms are either in the lodge building or in one of 3 duplex bungalows; a pair of rooms joined but set apart in the lodge gardens to provide privacy. We stayed in Room 10 (joined to room 11) which had a forest “view” and good access to trails. Other bungalows seemed to have views of the garden, though we didn’t visit any. If you are looking for quiet, the bungalows are probably the better choice since the lodge is largely taken up by the kitchen and dining areas, and shared areas such as the veranda and living room. Birders tend to go out on the lodge veranda at day break, so noise early in the morning could be a problem for non-birders. Room #1 is directly above the kitchen, but has its own private balcony and hummingbird feeder, so may be quieter. Our bungalow room was large and well lit with one entire wall of glass, high ceilings, and two double beds. The elevation of the lodge made air conditioning unnecessary, and indeed, it is not available. In late March, evenings were pleasantly cool, but not cold.

The lodge is a lovely building with dramatic arches outside, and gorgeous hardwood construction inside. The public veranda sports 5 extremely active hummingbird feeders, and looks down on several fruit tables and a small water feature. Bird activity in and around the lodge garden is high and the variety good. The family that owns the lodge also protect about 125 hectares of jungle and pasture with well groomed, though steep, trails. Birding here was quite good with many nesting birds and mixed flocks encountered. We hired a guide named Harry B. for a morning bird walk around the property and he was able to show us several difficult to find species. The evening hummingbird bathing at the pools is not to be missed and is worth the climb. Do bring binoculars to fully appreciate these belly flopping balls of glitter.

The hosts, Ramon and Lisa were often present and took dinner with the guests, giving the lodge their personal touch. Their generous hospitality extended to allowing guests to visit the gardens at their personal home where one of the trickier bird species visits. It is these personal touches that make the difference and why I say that, yes, the price is worth it.

Food was good and fresh, served family style. Beer and wine were available. Free wifi was available in the lodge building. Access to the lodge is via a 3 km dirt road that was passable in a small two-wheel drive car when dry, but may be quite tricky in the wet season.

The only complaint we had was that the sheets on one of our beds was so rough and “pilly”, that it was like sleeping on sand paper. We had them replaced for our second night. Also, the plumbing workings were a bit off, and if the user didn’t push the flush lever back beyond the up position, it would gurgle, all night long. In fairness, just about every hotel we stayed in had issues with toilet mechanics requiring some adjustments to stop them leaking, running, or gurgling. What is it about toilets in Central America?

Something the lodge could really benefit from would be to place some of their hummingbird feeders in the garden, away from the veranda so photographers could take advantage of the natural light. The feeders now, though at close range, aren’t placed to maximize their photographic potential. Just a thought. Would I stay here again, yes, but due to the expense, probably not often.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Redruth, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
39 reviews 39 reviews
31 hotel reviews
Reviews in 37 cities Reviews in 37 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 4, 2013

We really enjoyed our stay at Rancho Naturalista. It has a very relaxed rhythm. The food is good though as with everywhere in Costa Rica, vegetarian is a new and somewhat misunderstood concept, the chef did though cook to specific requests, which is frankly great given the broad audience he was serving. On arrival we sat on the balcony and just enjoyed the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders. You can't help but smile. The views are great and the other guests were fun and interesting. There's plenty of birding to do from the site and within the locale and it was the best place we stayed in Costa Rica by a distance. The guides are young but expert, seeing stuff we'd never have got by ourselves, definitely worth a visit! They could do a bit more maintenance and our room allocation was unfortunate given the circumstances but these were minor inconveniences given the really very pleasant and relaxing stay we had.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 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
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Milton, Massachusetts
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 3, 2013

I was there March 2013 with a Road Scholar group of birders. Terrific accommodations and food, gracious hosts, fascinating woodland trails and sunny pastures and cows and guava groves and mountain streams - and BIRDS! With several sharp guides from daybreak till dark, we saw over a hundred beautiful species in just two days! My new most favorite Costa Rican place to stay (in seven visits!)
(But located at the top of a very long rough road, so I think 4-wheel drive would be a must in the rain.)

Room Tip: All guests can access the hummingbird porch in the main lodge.
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  • Stayed March 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
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Oakland, California
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 14, 2013

I discovered Rancho Naturalista through an Internet search for a good place to shoot Costa Rican hummingbirds. Well, Rancho did not disappoint AT ALL! It's a great place to go if you want to see White-necked Jacobins, Green-breasted Mangos, Snowcaps, Black-crested Coquettes, Violet headed Woodnymphs, I may be leaving some out but those were the standouts for me.

It has a nice homey atmosphere with family style meals. Let me tell you, I don't know who is doing the cooking but he/she deserves a raise, a nice one. Every meal was top notch AND they are very accommodating. I don't eat beef or pork so they always prepared something different for me, either perfectly seasoned fish or chicken, wonderful.

They have birder/guides who live there and eat with the guests which was nice, not just because of the great stories they shared but they're there to answer questions too. We worked with Harry, a wonderful young man who has been birding since he was 18 months old so he really knew his stuff and was just a joy to bird with. He took us to a place where were able to see a Sunbittern and who opened his wings, TWICE. That was so awesome to see!!

I feel comfortable recommending this place to anyone who loves birding, great food and very warm and welcoming owners.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 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
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rocket City, Alabama
1 review
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...
See more room tips
  • 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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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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.
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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): $$
Number of rooms: 14
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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