Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tortuga Lodge, Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Our first stop in Costa Rica after flying into San Jose was Tortuguero. It's a village on the Caribbean side of the country that is known for the turtles who nest and hatch on its beaches. The village is only accessible by boat or plane. Our options were to rent a car, drive to a nearby village and take a boat, or we could take a 30-minute $90 flight (for both of us) to Tortuguero. We did have the option to take a guided tour with everything included, but we prefer to be on our own.

The Nature Air flight made getting to the lodge extremely easy. We called the lodge the day before we landed and told them we'd be arriving at 7 a.m. They said they'd have a boat waiting for us at the air strip. When our flight landed, we deboarded the plane to see a young man, who asked if I was Mrs. Flora. He was there to help us with our bags and escort us to the boat that was waiting. The boat took us on a two-minute ride across the river to the lodge. How convenient is that?!

We were early for check-in and our room wasn't ready yet, so we headed to the lodge's restaurant for breakfast. We ate al fresco while admiring the scenery. I opted for the gallo pinto breakfast.

After breakfast, we checked into our room, which was located in the building next to the office. On one side of our room we had a view of the river, and on the other we had a view of the grounds, which led to a nature preserve area that is part of the property. We received a map of the trails on the property; they allow you to hike on your own and see monkeys, birds, iguanas and tiny dart frogs. Guided nature walks are held every morning around 6 a.m. and you can also book private walks at any time. For your convenience, rain boots, walking sticks and maps are available at the start of the trail (behind the office). It was such a treat being able to hike whenever we wanted. The hikes allow you to see animals in their habitat, but the iguanas weren't shy about roaming the grounds.

We hiked every day we were there. It was so beautiful and serene. We could start our hikes right outside our door, and we roamed every trail on the property several times a day.

Each morning, we awoke to the sounds of howler monkeys, which the lodge called nature's alarm clock. You really have no choice but to adjust your schedule here because the lodge rooms have no windows, only screens. Every room has hammocks and chairs outside your door where you can sit with your coffee and watch the sunrise. You are open to nature, and this trip is about relaxing and exploring. You won't find a TV or A/C in the room; the lodge considers itself eco-friendly. We found that we were OK with the fans that were provided. At any time we could ask for ice from the bar or a wet towel.

Another nice perk is that free snacks are offered every night before dinner. You can lounge in the bar area and grub on hummus and chips or whatever they provide that night. Coffee and tea are always ready as well, along with cookies or crackers.

The property also has a pool and hammock area.  Boats wait at the dock and regularly take guests into town. You can also book a water taxi if the lodge boats aren't running. If at any time you want to go to the beach on the other side of the air strip, you can ask for a boat to take you and they will gladly do so. When you want to return to the lodge, you simply wave your arms in the air. People in the office will see you and send a boat to go get you.

Various tours are offered by the lodge. We booked a nature tour ($100 per person) on the rivers and canals and when we returned, we had lemonade and wet towels waiting for us. It was a much-needed treat on a hot, sunny day. 

The weather tends to be unpredictable. It might start off raining but turn into a gorgeous sunny day. Or vice versa. That's why those rain boots are necessary! The lodge has umbrellas and bug spray waiting outside the office for guests to use at any time. You can sit and watch the rain from chairs that are set up with a view of the river.

The service was excellent. When our transportation out of Tortuguero left us, one worker called multiple times to straighten out the situation, and another waited with us and tried to console me. I really appreciated their kindness. I would definitely stay at the Tortuga Lodge again.

Have you been to Costa Rica? What was your favorite thing to do?

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