Rustic Elegance on Tortuguero’s Lost Coast – Costa Rica

Rustic Elegance on Tortuguero’s Lost Coast – Costa Rica

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A cool, tropical breeze gently rocks me in my hammock as I overlook the Tortuguero Canal, listening to the hush of the stormy Caribbean in the distance. It's overcast and mildly humid in this part of Costa Rica, almost chilly; linen pants and a shirt keep me just warm enough when the breeze stirs the air. Chirps and squeaks and whistles fill the air of the lush green jungle all around me. A bottle of Imperial sweats on the table next to me, a napkin wrapped around its neck. Tired from the day's journey, I lean my head back and close my eyes. I'm asleep in an instant.

Flashback - 7:45 am.

Rude awakening to say the least. With traces of Imperial lingering in my mouth, I board the small shuttle headed for Tortuga Lodge on the northern Caribbean coast and meet the half-dozen others already on board: a pair of quiet Swiss girls, an older English couple and an American couple from California. We drive through San Jose in a drizzly morning and before long we are climbing through a misty cloud forest in Turrialba National Park, one of the many volcanoes found in Costa Rica. It is exactly as I would imagine it: wispy white clouds shrouding steep green mountainsides. Prehistoric ferns lining small waterfalls cascading off sheer cliffs. The air is warm, a little stiicky, but by no means uncomfortable. The cool tingling rain on my skin keeps it fresh.

We eventually turn off the paved road onto a dirt road through the jungle which makes me regret the last round of tequila last night. Miguel, our guide, intermittently points out various birds and wildlife lurking in the trees, a howler monkey, an egret, a caiman. One particular sloth hunkered down against the drizzle, it's fur matted and green with moss, is not nearly as excited to see us as we it. We pass through banana plantations and several small towns, villages only in the sense that the scattered collection of small, faded houses are the only signs of civilization in the otherwise uninhabited jungle.

After we have sufficiently bumped and rattled our way down the road, we reach the landing where we adventure the last leg by boat (Tortuga Lodge is accessible by land and air only). The boat to Tortuga Lodge departs from near Limon, in the Caribbean lowlands; it's a small outboard motor boat with a capacity of roughly 10 -12 with a canopy roof. The trip takes 2-4 hours including a stop for lunch on the way up. Our river guide, Fernando, proves to have an excellent eye for spotting birds and reptiles, even while zooming along at 20 knots. He abruptly stops the boat from time to time and gazes intently into the dense foliage that lines the river; we follow suit, unsure of what we're looking for. Then Fernando shares his secret with us:

"Look down from that tree with the broken top to the bushes in front. That brown patch. Iguana."

"See the top of that tree with the big leaves? Sloth. (He whistles.) See?"

Second tree behind the big palm. Lower branch off main trunk. Spider monkey."

I'm not totally convinced that these aren't in fact props, house pets borrowed for the weekend to entertain tourists. But regardless, it is still a surreal experience to be immersed in such a lush, vibrant setting.

The Cabanas

Tortuga Lodge, named after the Atlantic green sea turtles which nest nearby. Set on 20 hectares of elegantly landscaped grounds amid the Tortuguero rain forest in the Caribbean lowlands, the lodge offers a relaxing, rustic retreat ideal for nature enthusiasts. The 24 river front rooms are screened, cross-ventilated, and feature cool ceiling fans and hot, private showers. While rates are offered on a nightly basis, some of the more popular packages are for one and two nights, which includes roundtrip hotel-airport transfers, roundtrip airfare, and all meals.

Despite it's success as one of the major lodges in Tortuguero and its recent expansion, Tortuga Lodge prides itself in keeping with Costa Rica's ecological conservation efforts. A number of measures were installed to preserve its eco-friendliness, including a solar energy system, water saving fixtures, and an environmentally friendly purification system for the pools. Even the small motor boats which ferry visitors around the local canals feature electric motors (unless a swift current requires the use of a gas-powered motor). Such measures earned Tortuga Lodge an honorable mention in Conde Nast Traveler's Ecotourism Award in both 1995 and 1996.

Extensive remodeling in 1996 included a new pool, upgraded bar and riverfront dining hall, where visitors can share a summer-camp like atmosphere with other guests, or dine alone while gazing out over the tranquil Tortuguero canal. Savory meals feature traditional Costa Rican dishes, including fresh seafood, fruit and the staple of every Tico meal, rice and beans. The servings are generous, which is an impressive feat considering most food is flown in to Tortuga Lodge.

Tortuga Lodge, named after the Atlantic green sea turtles that nest nearby, prides itself on being an eco-friendly resort. Rustic architecture and construction of natural

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Misha Troyan, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent – Read Jetsetters Magazine at To book travel visit at and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at

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Misha Troyan, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at Leave Your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter.

Misha Troyan