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“Enchanting La Carolina” 5 of 5 stars
Review of La Carolina Lodge

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La Carolina Lodge
San Miguel | Bijagua, Bijagua de Upala, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel amenities
St. Paul
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Enchanting La Carolina”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 22, 2008

The word I would use to describe our stay at La Carolina is enchanting. The main lodge and cabins are tucked right into the forest next to a river, with several small waterfalls and pools where you can swim. At night, because they use very little electricity, everything is illuminated with lanterns and candles - it’s like a fairyland with the bubbling of the river, the sounds of insects and monkeys, and the soft lighting! Their huge handmade stone hot tub is fed by the river and heated by the water circulating around a cauldron where a fire burns all day. The meals were great and are served homestyle with the rice, beans and vegetables prepared on a wood burning stove (pretty much the same with every meal), and the meat cooked on a huge stone grill (rotated between ribs, pork, fish, etc.). In the morning, fruit is placed in a feeder just beyond the dining area to attract wildlife - we saw parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, trogons, Blue Morpho butterflies, and a nearby sloth. The rooms in the lodge are really small and close together (good for a group). The cabins are lovely, and more private. We highly recommend the sidetrip to Volcan Tenorio National Park and the Rio Celeste waterfall. We didn't try the horseback riding. Due to the smallness of the facility we really got to know some of the other travelers and staff, and there was always enough room in the hot tub. There were also times when we had the porch fireplace, hiking trail, hammocks, and hot tub to ourselves, and they will set a private table for two for dinner if you want. We were able to make the drive in a regular car (very slow the last few kilometers), but that’s dependent on recent rainfall – we got information via email right before we made the drive (late February). We have been to Costa Rica 7 times and this is the most special place we have stayed!

  • Liked — Ambience and staff
  • Disliked — Rooms in the lodge are small (cabins are great)
  • Stayed February 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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186 people have reviewed this hotel

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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 (35)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Carlsbad, California
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 2, 2008

A highlight of my just-ended 9 days in Costa Rica. I loved this place, The drive is a bit long, but not overly daunting. It's not the far off the Pan American highway, and most of the road up to Bijuaga (the closest town) is well paved and maintained. It's true that you should have a 4x4 in the rainy season, but the dirt road from Bijuaga to La Carolina was no big deal. Just take it easy, slow down, and don't try it at night.

I would agree with another guest that the cabins are preferable to the main lodge rooms (I stayed one night in both). When you first arrive, DON'T PANIC if the room is hot and stuffy. Don't worry, at least in the rainy season (I stayed in late August), the evening's quickly cool off and I found myself reaching for the blanket by 10:00PM. In any event, you won't spend a lot of time in your room anyway--the lovely rustic lodge has some great hammocks, the nearby refreshing river in which to swim, and crowning feature at La Carolina: the wood stove-heated hot tub that is fed by the fresh water of the river.

Also, the half-day trip to the Rio Celeste and the hot springs is amazing and beautiful. It's a nice hike, but not a cake walk. Don't swim under the waterfall - a gentleman drowned there last year, due to the strong undercurrent. But don't worry, just a little ways past the waterfall are the natural hot springs, sitting right next to cool water pools of the Rio Celeste. Take your pick!

Allejandro, their Spanish-speaking guide, will take you in. I know only a little Spanish, but I was able to follow along and catch most of Allejandro's expansive knowledge of the local flora and fauna. In our three hour excursion, we saw white-faced Capuchin monkeys, multiple species of birds, and the kicker, a green tree viper. Allejandro knew the exact tree where it lived, and we were able to see and observe from a safe distance.

Bravo La Carolina- a great inn that does Costa Rica's outback proud.

  • Liked — Seclusion and down-home Costa Rican ambiance.
  • Disliked — None of the staff speak English--though everyone was very helpful and polite.
  • Stayed August 2008, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Barcelona
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 15, 2008

We loved La Carolina Lodge!!! Very rural and authentic!!!
No light at night, candles, a very original jacuzzi by the river heated with a fireplace, a real tico ambiance, the wood cabins, the open kitchen,... no luxury, a countryside style.

ROOMS AND CABINS
I would recommend the cabins better than the rooms in the main house (the doble rooms are too small, shared bathroom, lack of light during the day, no privacy, at some rooms the sound of the river is maybe too loud at night sice the main lodge is very close to the river). The cabin for two persons by the river is very romantic.

MEALS
Do not expect sophisticated meals (arroz, frijoles, and either fish, chiken or meat at each meal...). Family style meals, one big table for everybody.

MOSQUITOS
We had no mosquitos at all.

We enjoyed talking around the fireplace at night.

LAUNDRY
They did the laundry of all our clothes. It was very useful since we had a lot of wet clothes. They turned every thing clean and dry.

HORSERIDE
We did the horseride included in the price with Alejandro. Great! It was easy and we had the chance to discover the area.

RIVER CELESTE
The River Celeste is a special natural sightseeing, hard to find somewhere else. Worth the visit. Moreover the area is not turistic, what is very pleasant. From the lodge you need a 20-30 minutes, at the most, car ride to get to the beginning of Rio Celeste hike.

VERY IMPORTANT: the best time to go to see the River Celeste is during the dry season (Desember to April), since if it rains, the river turns brown!!!! Also it's better if you go in a sunny day, to admire a brillant blue.

+++ALERT+++: Watch out with the candles is you are going with kids. I would recommend you to turn them off before going to sleep.

A great experience!

ENJOY IT!

  • Liked — The countrystyle of the lodge, the jacuzzi, the wood cabins, the candles at night,...
  • Disliked — The lack of light in the rooms in the main lodge, the lack of variety of the food.
  • Stayed August 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
USA
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 4, 2008

Although the drive in is long, bumpy, and makes you wonder if a word other than "road" might be a more accurate descriptor of your route, La Carolina is more than worth the effort. Set on the banks of a crystal clear river, La Carolina consists of several cabins and a main lodge. The rooms are simple but clean and candle-lit. The food is simple but flavorful. The entertainment is similarly simple but unbeatable -- a stream for swimming, a fire-heated hotub for lounging, a horseback ride for exploring the farm, and easy-going guides for hiking in nearby Volcan Tenerio. If you are looking for televisions, drop ceilings, and AC, this is not for you. But if you are looking for simple pleasures and relaxation, it really can't be beat.

  • Stayed July 2008
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 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.
Montreal, Canada
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 5, 2008

We spent a week in Costa Rica and my favourite part was the three days we spent at La Carolina Lodge. My husband, my 17-year-old son and I had a large, four-bed room in the main house with a door to the main bathroom in the house and an exterior one just outside our door out to the verandah. The road in was our first clue that this would be a rustic adventure and we weren't disappointed. We arrived just as dinner was being served and joined the rest of the guests around the large, communal table for a simple but satisfying, typically Costa Rican meal. It was a good way to begin our stay as we got to know our fellow guests who filled us in on meal times, the hike in the local national park and the opportunity to ride the lodge's horses. Once the sun sets, the staff put out candles both in- and outside and the effect is wonderful. Alejandro took us on an amazing hike the first morning; we swam in the river and lazed in the hot pool heated by thermal springs and climbed all over the park to see the incredibly rich flora and fauna. The next morning he took a bunch of us on a horseback ride around the property and showed us bananas, pineapple and coconuts growing as well as a tree with baby parrots in it.
The accommodations are simple but well adequate. My teenage son suffered in the absence of a telephone but there is one a short drive (or a longer walk) away in the town. The meals are a bit repetitive and we would have liked more fruit but there was plenty offered and the cooking staff were more than accommodating when we asked them for anything.
I would gladly return to La Carolina and now want to learn Spanish so that I can talk more to the staff and find out more about the area.

  • Liked — Community, hot tub, setting
  • Disliked — Road in
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 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.
Ottawa, Canada
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
47 hotel reviews
Reviews in 42 cities Reviews in 42 cities
37 helpful votes 37 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 29, 2008

My husband and I first found La Carolina Lodge in February 2005. We spent a fabulous 5 days at the lodge hiking, horseback riding, swimming in the river, relaxing in the wood-heated hot tub/pool and enjoying the delicious meals prepared by the friendly and helpful staff.

We had the cabin by the river and woke every day to the sounds of birds and the rushing water. It was magical at night too with candles lighting our path to the dining area on the porch of the main lodge.

In January of 2006 our 14 year old granddaughter and I went backpacking in Costa Rica for 2 weeks. We spent 5 days at La Carolina Lodge. Our granddaughter loves horses and we were out riding every day - the lodge has a huge property with lots of places to explore. Birds such as toucans, lorikeets and orupendula, as well as monkeys, sloths, frogs, etc. abound on the property. We also hiked in the national park of Tenorio Volcano with a guide from the Lodge.

This year my husband and I returned to the Lodge for another 5 days. The owners, Bill and Karien Harwell, are an outgoing and friendly couple who make everyone who arrives feel welcome. It's very interesting to chat with the other guests during meals at the long dining table or when sitting around the glowing fireplace at the lodge in the evening.

Whether you just want to relax in a hammock and read during the day, or really exert yourself on a long exploratory hike or horseback ride, this is a lovely place to spend a few days. If you love riding, a longer stay is in order - they have more than 30 horses lovingly cared for.

My husband and I would unreservedly recommend La Carolina Lodge to anyone who loves nature and country living.

Hanne and Bruce Lawrence,
Ontario, Canada

  • Liked — Location, romantic cabin by the river, hikiing and horseback riding opportunities
  • Disliked — N/A
  • Stayed February 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jayhawk1977
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 12, 2007

My boyfriend and I stayed at the lodge for two nights in December. I came across it while searching this website and knew we would love it. We were not dissapointed! The area was beautiful and the cabin was just what we were looking for. We both enjoyed showering and reading by candelight and were dissapointed to see that they are beginning to wire the cabins for electricity. Please Don't!!! We always had hot water. The folks working the ranch were very kind and hospitable, I do not speak spanish and my boyfriend knows very little (we are both learning) but the staff really went out of thier way to communice with us. The food was delicous and the horseback riding and hiking were like no other. if you are looking for an off the beaten path experience than look no further! The only criticisim I can give is that we arrived after dinner and were starving and could not get anything to eat. If you are arriving after dinner make sure you have already eaten becuase there is no way to get anything once they have 'closed up' the kitchen. Which is around 7ish.

  • Liked — location, rustic accomodations
  • Disliked — no complaints
  • Stayed December 2006, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about La Carolina Lodge

Address: San Miguel | Bijagua, Bijagua de Upala, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Bijagua de Upala
Amenities:
Free Parking
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 5 hotels in Bijagua de Upala
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Also Known As:
La Carolina Hotel Province Of Guanacaste
Hotel La Carolina
La Carolina Lodge Costa Rica/Bijagua De Upala

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