We have had quite a few friends visit Costa Rica in the past couple of years, so we decided it was our turn to explore this tropical Central American realm. Crystal initially was exploring the idea of staying in a tree house, but instead found Rancho Pacifico, an amazing eco luxury hotel in Uvita that came pretty close to a tree house.
Rancho Pacifico is located in a canopy-covered mountain in a private jungle reserve with a stunning view of the famous Whale's Tail. It's a really intimate property with a total of ten villas and suites which accommodates a total occupancy of only twenty-four guests.
There are 3 ways to get to this resort: local airlines, private driver or rental car. We opted to rent a car. At first, we thought it might have been better to hire a driver since we heard that driving in Costa Rica was madness, but in the end, we were glad we rented a car for a number of reasons: cost, freedom, and feeling like a badass. Driving in Costa Rica isn't all that bad either. Yes, you will be driving up mountains on gravel roads, but as long as you have a 4x4 like we did, you will be fine.
The drive from the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) to Rancho Pacifico took is about 4 hours. We made a couple of restroom stops, took a wrong exit and hit some traffic, so it took us a little bit longer than expected. We had to stop and pay for a few tolls along the way. You can pay in US Dollars (change will be given back in the local currency) or in Colones. However, make sure you practice calculating the currency to avoid getting cheated. Each toll booth fee was around 700 Colones. We made a mistake on our first toll booth and handed the attendant 7000 Colones (about $13) and the toll booth operator quickly gave us a few cents in change. We realized the mistake immediately after driving off, but it was impossible to turn around. The attendant was quick to give change so that we didn't have time to think about our mistake, so we highly recommend knowing the currency conversion.
For the most part, the drive was simple and straight forward. The difficult part of the drive came at the very end when we were driving up the steep mountain on unpaved roads. This was the last two miles of our journey. This is why renting the 4x4 was necessary.
When we finally arrived (around 7:30PM), we were greeted by the welcoming staff members and manager. We were then escorted to our villa and got a quick tour of the rooms and amenities. Although we weren't able to stay in a treehouse, this was definitely close to it. The sounds of the insects and animals outside were very audible and both the room and bathrooms had huge windows with amazing views.
The villa had three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, balconies, and a private pool. All of the amenities provided were organic and there was daily room service. Each room had a fan (no AC), but it was fairly cool at night and temperatures during the day were in the 70s and 80s (°F), so the fans weren't necessary during our stay. The staff was also very responsive and if we ever needed anything, we were able to text the front desk for help or inquires.
The lobby was an open outdoor space with views just as gorgeous as the ones from our villa. There are several different paths that you can walk along if you want to explore further. It's a fairly small area, but we never saw more than ten people at a time, so there were always plenty of chairs and tables for everyone. In fact, the only time we saw other guests were in the mornings during the complimentary breakfast.
The Swimming Pools
There were plenty of swimming pools, so if you get tired of one there was another one nearby to enjoy. The views of the jungle and ocean while enjoying the pool was so relaxing and breathtaking. We also had a private pool at our villa, but we preferred the pools in the lounge area.
We enjoyed a complimentary breakfast every morning and had a variety of choices to pick from. We ordered items like a traditional meat and eggs breakfast, pancakes, yogurt & granola fruit bowls, etc. Our favorite items were the daily freshly squeezed juice (watermelon, pineapple, papaya, etc.) and mini coconut muffins.
We also opted to dine a couple of nights for their dinner courses. The presentation was lovely; however, the menus were pre-set. Every night there was a pre-set themed dinner menu and they were very accommodating if you needed to make substitutions (example: no seafood or vegetarian). We enjoyed all our meals, but our favorite meal was lunch. They had a handful of items on the menu and our favorites were the tacos and chicken salads. We really enjoyed our tacos and wished they served it for dinner as well.
Since we were in the middle of the jungle, there were opportunities to see some wildlife. Every morning, right around 5:30AM, we were awakened by the howler monkeys. They made some really interesting sounds! We were really hoping to be able to see tons of wildlife, but it was surprisingly hard. Crystal spotted a few monkeys one morning during her morning hike and we also spotted a sloth once. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see the sloth's face, but were happy that we at least got a glimpse of one in its natural habitat.
There were a ton of nearby activities from hiking, kayaking, horseback riding to National Geographic boat tours. We were considering ATV or zip lining, but due to the weather, we opted to hike and drive to a nearby waterfall. The drive there was quite the adventure in itself. When we drove up to our first river to cross, we were a bit scared since it was something we had never experienced. Crystal was such a pro and made it across rivers, muddy hills, and unpaved narrow roads. I was so impressed with Crystal's unbeknownst driving skills!
When we finally arrived at the waterfall, it was beautiful and we got to have it all to ourselves. It's not one of the common waterfalls in Costa Rica, so it was nice to enjoy it without any other tourists around. We swam to the waterfall, took some pictures and relaxed for a bit. We wanted to stay longer, but it started raining, so we had to head back.
Since we were close to Uvita Beach, we visited Marino Ballena National Park, where the Whale's Tail is located. It was about a twenty minute drive and parking was four dollars. The entrance fee to the park was six dollars; however, we arrived there an hour prior to closing, so the attendant let us in for free.
Since we only had an hour, we simply walked around the beach and people watched. We saw some locals fishing and a number of families hanging out or playing in the sand. The beach wasn't busy at all, so we walked around the beach and took silly photos. Make sure to check the tide charts and visit at low tide so that you can walk out onto the Whale's Tail.
We absolutely loved staying at Rancho Pacifico. All of the staff members were friendly and helpful, which we really appreciated since we were in a remote location. We really enjoyed being surrounded by nature and the views were simply breathtaking.