Costa Rica – More PURA VIDA than ever! Just need to know where to look!

Join me on a journey to the more remote and special Costa Rica!

I lived in Costa Rica as a youngster in the 1970’s, my daughter took her first steps at Four Seasons Costa Rica, and I have returned many times on my own and with my family to this country that I adore.

On this trip, I wanted to go a bit off the beaten path to uncover a new places that have not been exploited by tourism. My trip took me to a relaxing and luxurious horse ranch resort in the Southern highlands, a raft-in and raft-out river lodge on the Pacuare river in the Caribbean region of Limon, to the authentic coffee lodge in the coffee zone of Naranjo outside of San Jose, and to the nature reserves of the Osa Pensinsula for two unique encounters with raw nature interpreted by local naturalists.

We love Costa Rica and our favorite thing to do is organize seamless trips for families, romantics and nature lovers to explore the “Pura Vida” in a comfortable and enriching way!

Pacuare Lodge

Our driver met us in San Jose and drove us up to Limon and to the Pacuare River where our luggage was packed into water-proofed bags and secured onto our raft.  The class 3 rapids were a wonderful and manageable way to ease into river life with our excellent and experienced guide.  (All of the guides have been working on the river their entire lives and are incredibly accomplished).

The more challenging rafting is on the way out and involves class 4 rapids and is incredibly scenic!

Our arrival to the Pacuare River Lodge – first sights of our home for the next days:

River Suite are on the river and lovely but for a real splurge go for the Linda Vista Suites with incredible views of the river below, lots of privacy, and their own spring fed plunge pools.

River side breakfast is breathtaking!  The food at Pacuare lodge is spectacular and all included. The grainy banana pancakes and strong Costa Rican coffee were a huge hit for me!

The naturalists on site do not miss a beat! Here, a Preying Mantus enjoying his breakfast, a cricket:

IMG_4738And a big hairy tarantula:


The four hour hike up to see a Cabecar Indian Village.

The Talamanca Mountains are host to the Cabecar Indians, the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica, and one that retains many of its traditional customs and beliefs. In contrast to many other indigenous groups, the Cabecar do not live in villages, but prefer small family units scattered throughout this isolated region that includes the Pacuare zone.

From the Pacuare Lodge it is possible to visit an isolated family group to learn about their way of life, as well as enjoying the alluring tropical rainforest. The experience to walk to these family clans is a challenge due to the difficult conditions of the trails; nevertheless, the trail offers a wonderful opportunity to discover many secrets of the forest, interact with the ecosystem, and hike the same trails the Cabecar Indians have for centuries.

After a day of activities, many guests like to organize a lunch or meal in the tree house at Pacuare.  Zip line into dinner!


Canyoneering is popular in Costa Rica! At Pacuare we rapelled on five different water falls. It was a gorgeous experience!

Lapa Rios

Lapa Rios has been famous for a long time, as it was one of the very first eco lodges in Costa Rica. Lapa means “Macaw” in Spanish, and the resort is named after the colorful, long-tailed natives of Central America which are so prevalent in the rain forest of the Osa Penisula.

Morning and afternoon tours are included in the price of your stay, as are meals. The food is quite good and the rooms are very comfortable, many with lovely views of the ocean.

Afternoon nature walk with our guide:

The walk to the beach here is quite far and can be arduous for some, but  you can opt for a shuttle pick up.

Morning bird watching walk with a naturalist:

Playa Cativo

Playa Cativo was a very special find!!  A tiny 7 room hotel can only be reached by boat either from Golfito or from Puerto Jimenez, both of which have very small airports.

We were met at the dock by the incredibly knowledgable and hospitable Gerardo and were taken for the 25 minute boat trip across the bay.  It sprinkled along the way, but there were ponchos and the the views were stunning and included  a school of dolphins who seemed to guide our boat.

First sights of Playa Cativo, and the gracious team waiting to receive us. We felt like VIPs!

The small hotel is completely charming and very well appointed. We were quickly on a first name basis with all of the team including Daniela who was our lovely waitress for all of our meals. As in all of the eco-lodges of Costa Rica, there is no air conditioning, bedrooms are screened, and the public spaces are very much open so you can enjoy the afternoon rains while you sip a coffee or a cocktail.


We love our room on the second floor with windows of the incredible gardens and water on two sides.

Third floor rooms are open on three sides so you can really enjoy the views and have even nicer air flow. The bathrooms are also very large and stunning! This is my pick for my clients!

The stand alone cottage is also a nice option for guests.

Playa Cativo has a calm bay, idea for paddle boarding.

The black sand beaches are beautiful and empty, so it very much feels like Playa Cativo is all yours!


Playa Cativo is located right on Piedras Blanca National Park and the highlight was walking through here with our expert and affable guide, Gerardo!

Playa Cativo has its own farm where much of the produce is grown for the resort. We loved stopping in for some fresh coconut milk!

Leaving Playa Cativo was not easy, we could have settled in here for a few more days! Boat, flight, and onward….

Chayote Lodge is a special new lodge opened just an hour outside of San Jose in the heart of the coffee zone of Naranjo.  This is a perfect option for guests that need an overnight in San Jose but don’t really want to waste a night of their holiday by staying in the city. A stay at Chayote is an experience and a way to immerse your self in the local culture. Activities include a coffee tour that will allow you to see and learn about the coffee production, as well as of course taste some amazing local organic coffees. Guests are encouraged to meet locals whether at a cooking class with a local woman in her home, or by going to the local dance hall on Saturday night–the experience curator sets it all up.  So while you may have your adventure activities, bio-diverse nature hikes in many locations, this is your chance to actually stay in a real local working town in a beautifully designed retreat where each element of the property including the rooms are a nod to Costa Rica’s coffee culture.

On this trip, I also had the immense please of staying at the Hacienda AltaGracia, which I devoted an entire blog post to here. Please check out these beautiful images and my previous blog post to read about the rest of my Costa Rican adventure and this amazing new property:

2 thoughts on “Costa Rica – More PURA VIDA than ever! Just need to know where to look!

  1. Catalina Bunn

    Wow Laura, now I see you really know your way around, you chose your destinations impeccably, thanks for sharing all these insights. It was great sharing some time together in ALTAGRACIA, now I want to explore Cativo and Pacuare!!!!

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