My husband and I just got back a few days ago from a three-week long holiday trip to Costa Rica. We stayed at three different lodges (Bosque del Cabo, Copa de Arbol, Tortuga Lodge and Gardens) and all three stays were incredible, although each of the experiences was unique.
We are both biologists and my husband has a long history with Costa Rica, having done his dissertation research there over 30 years ago. We spent six nights in Drake Bay in January of 2012, and absolutely loved it, and hoped to return to La Paloma for the December 2012 holidays. However, La Paloma was completely booked. We were crushed, but upon recommendation by friends in Drake Bay, we booked the not-yet-open Copa de Arbol. With no TripAdvisor reviews to help us out, and only the lodge’s website and our friends’ recommendation to go on, we were a little apprehensive. First of all, new places often seem to have to work out the kinks, and we weren’t sure that we wanted to spend our precious vacation time and dollars on someplace that had just opened. Additionally, the website showed absolutely gorgeous rooms with AIR CONDITIONING! Air conditioning in the jungle just seemed, so, out of place? We wondered who the target audience was for the lodge – would a couple of low maintenance, “let me out in the field so I can look for frogs and snakes” biologists be comfortable in this environment? But we really love Drake Bay and valued our friends’ recommendation, so decided, to give it a shot.
With some trepidation, after six nights at Bosque del Cabo, we hopped in the 4X4 taxi arranged for us by Summer at CdA and started the 2.5 hour drive to Drake Bay. The ride with Elias was quite entertaining, as we stopped to look at a number of birds and other critters along the way (as well as a newly born calf just learning to stand), forded a number of streams, and finally arrived in Drake Bay, where we were picked up by CdA staff for the quick boat ride to CdA (note – you will get your feet wet getting in and out of the boat – no dock, just the beach!)
When we arrived at the resort’s beach, we were met by the manager Johnny, and Keely, who took us up to the second floor open air restaurant for lunch. Immediately apparent were the lushness of the grounds and the beautiful design of the main building (reception and restaurant), wood floors (no shoes allowed in the restaurant or our cabina), and beautiful furnishings. Although we did not arrive until about 2:30, the restaurant staff (Mario, Ivan, Daniel) made sure we were fed, serving us a delicious chicken salad and fruit juice. This started our love affair with the food (Chef Miguel is a genius) and the restaurant staff. The food was routinely amazing, with dinner entrees including fresh tuna on angel hair in a tomato, olive and caper sauce; baked fish with mashed potatoes and green beans; beef tenderloin in a mushroom sauce; fresh snapper; pork loin. I think sushi was included as an appetizer maybe three of the six nights we were there. Lunches included pork fajitas, shredded beef tacos, chicken salad, grilled vegetable sandwiches. Every meal was absolutely delicious, well seasoned and with perfect accompaniments; portion sizes were huge. Seriously, the dinners rivaled that which we have been served at Restaurant Grano de Oro, often considered one of the best restaurants in San Jose. And at every meal Mario, Ivan or Daniel (or some combination of the above) made us feel welcome and at home and provided all around exemplary service.
The cabinas were incredible. We were in Sable, which I think was the second cabina from the beach. We did not feel the need to use the air conditioning; instead we kept our windows open and the ceiling fan on (when we were in the room), which gave us the benefit of the cooling breeze but also through the front window the sounds of the crashing ocean waves and through the side window the gurgling creek. How I miss those sounds now that I am back home! Not to mention the howler monkeys and the various birds (including chestnut-mandibled toucans). Back to the cabinas – shiny wood floors, beautiful and functional design, pristine bathrooms and lovely shower, many windows to let in the light and the breeze. The furnishings and bedspreads are gorgeous, with a subtle Asian theme. These cabinas are far and away the most beautiful accommodations we have ever had in Costa Rica.
We enjoyed our tours with Mauricio, who we were very happy to see again (he had taken us on our Cano Island tour last year when we were at La Paloma). Mauricio is a trained marine biologist, and there is no one that I would rather have in the water with us when we are snorkeling at Cano. He swims like a fish, is happy to dive down to get pictures of some of the sea life (lobsters, etc), and is very knowledgeable about the fish and other critters seen on this excursion. This year we had a close encounter with hawksbill sea turtle on the first snorkel, and after the third, Mauricio spied a spotted eagle ray that we were able to follow for a bit – so gorgeous! We also enjoyed our trip with Mauricio to La Sirena (the “second” ranger station at Corcovado), where we followed a troop of endangered squirrel monkeys for quite awhile, and saw a sleeping tapir, a trogon, and a number of other birds, lizards, and monkeys. We also did two night hikes – on the first Mauricio started us at the creek where we saw the only glass frogs of our three week trip. These frogs are amazing in that their bellies are clear and you can see their internal organs, as well as bones in their limbs. At the creek we also saw blue crayfish. Later in the hike we saw a number of other frog species and some really interesting insects. On the second night hike we were accompanied by another couple as well, and we saw many frog species, an opossum, a sleeping flycatcher, and a really incredible green mantis with red stripes. These night hikes were the real deal – walking through streams, trudging up hills and through leaf litter. Our final trip with Mauricio was an afternoon boat excursion to the mangroves of the Rio Sierpe, where we saw iguanas, numerous water birds, parrots, a pair of scarlet macaws, and our only sighting of fiery billed aracaris - colorful little toucans. The entry from the river back into the ocean, in a driving rainstorm with only a sliver of light left in the day was truly thrilling – thank you Captain Pinky! We also hiked a few times on our own, although with only five full days at the lodge we did not have as much time for this as we would have liked. We hiked once around the loop trail, which yielded some great lizard and tiny rain frog sightings, and one day took the Coastal Footpath back to Cocolito Beach. Next time we will need to stay longer so we can explore. And we had no time for the horseback riding or the paddle boards that we were contemplating before we left home.
There were so many times during our stay that we experienced Copa de Arbol’s exceptional commitment to personalized customer service. Meal hours were much more flexible and longer than in any of the lodges that we have enjoyed in CR. Occasionally our activities made us late or early for a meal, but we were always accommodated with a smile. We really enjoyed the fact that at ALL meals my husband and I were able to have a table just for the two of us; at most of the lodges we have visited guests are seated together with other parties at dinner. While such seating is not a deal breaker for us, being able to relax at dinner, just the two of us, really enhanced the dining experience and our vacation overall. Before our arrival the staff had scheduled us to go to La Sirena in Corcovado the very next day. We were so exhausted after six days of hiking at BdC and the night hike we took our first night at CdA, that we asked to have our first full day off with no tours. I know that with just one guide this probably wreaked havoc with scheduling, but Keely happily made it work for us. When we wanted to visit our friends’ house but were unsure of how to get there or how difficult the trip would be, owners Mike and Jay offered to have someone walk us or take us in a boat at least as far as the proper beach. We did not take them up on these offers, but really appreciated their willingness to help us out. When we wanted to take an afternoon mangrove tour that was not listed on the lodge website, Mauricio made it happen. We felt that no matter what we wanted to see or do, if it was possible, Cope de Arbol would make it happen for us. It was wonderful to deal with owners and staff who took our vacation as seriously as we did, and did everything they could to make our experience a very special one.
When we are in Costa Rica, there are three things that our lodge must deliver – close proximity to diverse and plentiful wildlife, a clean and physically comfortable room in which to rest after our exhausting days and nights in the field, and a low key/low maintenance environment. All three areas were so far exceeded by Copa de Arbol! The most beautiful and comfortable rooms in which we have ever stayed in Costa Rica, dinners that rivaled one of the best restaurants in San Jose, beautiful grounds and beach, management and staff (especially in the restaurant) that go above and beyond to make you feel as if you are at a beautiful home away from home, diverse excursions and hikes provided by Mauricio, and owners and management that have equal commitment to sustainability and customer-focused service. What’s more, the vibe was as super relaxed as we hoped for. We can’t wait for our next visit to Copa de Arbol.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.