My husband and I spent six nights at La Paloma Lodge in January, overlapping with reviewers lisak12 and I think TLJ_12, and we could not agree more with their assessments - we highly recommend La Paloma. This was honestly one of the most relaxing (yet exhausting, in a great way!) vacations that we have ever taken.
Although it is tempting to write a review describing every wonderful detail of our six days and nights, previous reviewers have done a great job describing the hospitaility, wonderful food and rooms, and nature that make up a La Paloma vacation. We concur! Nicole, Sue, Jamaica and Daniela all went out of their way to make our vacation fantastic and to make us feel very much at home. Guides Gustavo, Randall, and Mauricio were all excellent and provided us with great adventures. (We also heard great things about Sergio but he was away while we were at the lodge).The food was very good, especially considering we were in the jungle - our favorites were the gallo pinto, arroz con pollo, tuna salad nicoise, fajitas, fresh fruit and juices, and freshly baked cinnamon rolls and bread. The rooms were great - we left our doors open everynight and slept under the mosquito net - pure heaven to be awakened by the birds and howler monkeys! The $8.00/load laundry was absoutely great - very essential (you get dirty when you are out in the field all day!) and so reasonably priced. All of those aspects of the Lodge were exemplary, but for us the absolute best part of the trip was the ability to see so much wildlife.
My husband I are both biologists and he spent two summers doing field research in Costa Rica over 30 years ago, and we really came to this lovely country to see the wildlife. We were not disappointed in the Osa and at La Paloma. Although we were usually out in the field during the daytime, we still managed to see numerous bird species (scarlet macaws, chestnut mandibled toucans, motmots, trogons, lineated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, tanagers) from our balcony, as well as seeing a resident sloth coming down from a tree to eat almost every day and capuchin monkeys using our rooftop as a corridor from one side of the property to the other. In our nightly walks on property and the road to the beach, we were able to see several species of frogs, including the red-eyed leaf frog and a gladiator frog. Upon arrival wIthin a few minutes of first getting to the property upon we saw a racer (species of harmless snake).
The excursions were even better. We saw the most wildlife on the mangrove tour - it was incredible. The tour travels up and down the Rio Sierpe and into side canals. We saw all four species of monkey that live in the Osa, including three separate troops of endangered squirrel monkeys! We also saw a tree full of toucans, a pair of scarlet macaws, a sloth, two boa constrictors, river snapping turtles, green iguanas, black iguanas, caiman, six basilisk lizards, crocodiles, and several birds that I had never seen before - a boat-billed heron, a pootoo, a yellow-billed cotinga, and two yellow headed caracaras. Also many birds that we have here in Florida (various ibises, herons, egrets, pelicans, frigate birds, an osprey). But the coolest birds for me were the red-footed boobies that we saw before entering the Rio Sierpe. Although they are best known in the Galapagos, we had not seen these boobies at all when there in 2007, as the tour we were on did not go to Tower Island. Had no idea we would see them in Costa Rica but there they were! Randall was our guide for this trip and he was very knowledgable about the flora and the fauna, and was armed with excellent field guides that he was happy to pass around so everyone could get as much out of the trip as possible.
We skipped the included trip to the "first" Corcovado ranger station (San Pedrillo) as we had just visited there the week before on an excursion from the Windstar. Instead we opted for the trip to the "second" station - La Sirena - and this turned out to be an excellent hike. From La Paloma it was about an hour and 15 minute boat ride, with the group departing at 6:00 a.m. Absolutely worth the 4:30 a.m. wake up knock! On the way there we saw an Olive Ridley sea turtle, and that was just the first of many "firsts" for me. Although the station was more crowded than I expected it to be, Gustavo took us into the park through a different route that meant that we saw few people until we had almost completed our hike for the day. We saw three of four species of monkeys (with Gustavo having a "conversation" with an alpha male howler monkey), as well as a tapir, a fer de lance, bull sharks, and many interesting frogs, toads, and insects. What a great day!
We also took the Cano Island snorkeling tour with Mauricio and again had a great time, with the snorkeling better than we expected. We saw schools of jack, several blue fish and surgeon fish, one species of angelfish, a couple of species of butterfly fish, a hawksbill sea turtle, a scorpion fish, lobster, two eels, two color forms of puffer fish and numerous fish we have not yet identified from our photos. There was also a school of barracuda that we somehow missed, and a white tipped reef shark as well. As other reviewers have indicated, the coral is not too impressive but there are A LOT of fish. And the water was much warmer than I expected in the Pacific (we are terribly spoiled with our warm water in the gulf and keys in Florida). Mauricio was happy to dive down and take pictures of the fauna on the bottom (at least 15 feet) and kept an eye on the weaker swimmers in the group. All in all a great day!
The Bug Lady tour was excellent, and we will be adding a review for that tour under that listing in Trip Advisor.
One of the things that I really liked about La Paloma was that Nicole and Jamaica very much wanted to know what we wanted to do and see, as well as our general approach to those activites, and then worked to find touring partners that would be compatible to our interests AND approach. We REALLY wanted to see the wildlife, and were serious about doing so. That means lots of hiking, patience, and quiet, so as to not scare away the animals and so that we could hear the animals to better locate them. We were very lucky that like minded people were at the lodge, and we were able to pair up with them on the tours.
We also liked that if La Paloma did not offer a particular tour, they were happy to try to find someone who did. We were very interested in seeing poison dart frogs, and the lodge is not necessaily the best place to see them. Jamaica (via Gustavo, I believe) located a tour for us with Martin, a local property owner who has posion dart frogs on his property. For $30.00/person (or maybe $35.00, can't quite remember), Martin met us at La Paloma, walked us into Drake Bay and then to his property, and then took us on 2.5 hours of hunting for these lovely frogs. For some reason we sort of had the notion that we'd be going to Martin's house and walking through a pasture or some such to see a few frogs and then be on our way back to the lodge. But instead this was a difficult (hot, sweaty, hilly) walk through a very natural,uneven, narrow, leaf-strewn trail to a lovely creek, which we were able to walk and look for the frogs. We saw 5 individuals of Dendrobates granuliferus and one Phyllobates vittatus - awesome! And I can't thank Martin enough for all of the help he gave me in the hilly, difficult terrain. Such a gentleman! I highly recommend this tour, but only for people who are serious about seeing the frogs, and who are wiling and able to deal with a difficult and exhausting hike (and take enough water! We drank every single drop we took with us and when we returned to La Paloma my husband and I drank one pitcher of raspberry juice and one pitcher of water in 10 minutes between the two of us!)
My husband very much wanted to take a night walk through a stream to look for frogs and snakes. Although we loved the Bug Lady tour, he wanted something a little more intense, since he used to do nightly stream walks as a grad student. Although La Paloma did not offer such walks, Gustavo does offer one through another lodge and we were able to join that trip. Again this was a hike through primary forest on a leafy trail, and then through a stream. Gustavo picked us up at La Paloma around 4:00 pm, walked us into Drake Bay (on the way we saw a scorpion-eating snake) and then drove us to the other lodge. On the night walk we saw numerous species of frogs, including two species of glass frogs (amazing creatures - if you look at their undersides it is like looking through glass - you can see their organs and in some species you can see their bones; in some species the bones are blue!). Finally, after the walk Gustavo found a massive tarantula, and we had some fun getting it to come out of its home.
Every excursion we took, whether offered by La Paloma or facilitated by them, was excellent. And the small number of people on the excursions made wildlife viewing more likely and more enjoyable. Including the guide and us, there were 5 for the La Sirena trip, 4 for the posion dart frogs with Martin, 6 for Cano Island, and 6 for the night hike at the other lodge. There were 9 altogether I think for the mangrove tour, but since we were in a boat on a river having such a large group was no problem at all.
When my husband and I were in Drake Bay the week before (shore excursion from Windstar), he asked me "what will we do here for SIX days?" By the time we left La Paloma, we realized that six days is not nearly enough time to experience the place. We would have loved to have taken a second trip to La Sirena and perhaps to Cano; we didn't have time to horse back ride, zip line or go on one of the bird watching tours (all of which had been on our list before we left home). We only went to the beach once! And we never really got in a rest day (would have been great!) until the last day when we just stayed on property to rest up before our night tour with Gustavo. We are already planning our return, with the hope that we can stay longer the next time.
For all of the reasons described by previous positive reviews, we agree that La Paloma is a must stay. For my husband and me, the ability to see so much wildlife in a six day trip made this our best trip ever!