Nestled in the last remaining tropical lowland rainforest in Central America, the Lapa Rios Lodge is an ecotourism haven. By Shrimayee Thakur
While nature grapples with urban development for survival, the call to protect our planet and its natural environment grows louder and urgent. This new awareness has led to the creation of the concept of ecotourism, which suggests the concept of human constructions coexisting with natural surroundings instead of destroying them. One such eco-friendly structure is the Lapa Rios Lodge in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.
The Lapa Rios Lodge preserves 1000 acres of the rainforest it is located in. Its name comes from the Costa Rican word for Scarlet Macaws, Lapa. Inspired by the sight of numerous macaws flying like a red river over the would-be site for their hotel when they visited it, owners John and Karen Lewis named it Lapa Rios, or river of scarlet macaws. The hotel was established in 1993, as a pioneer in ecotourism in Latin America.
Adjacent to the famous Corcovado National Park, which is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, the Lapa Rios Lodge has 17 open-air bungalows with thatched roof and no air conditioning, built on natural ridges in the rainforest. It is constructed out of renewable materials, for low-impact, non-destructive construction. The bungalows are cooled with the salty ocean breeze, and provide an immersive experience surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest. The rainforest itself is home to several endangered species such as the scarlet macaw the lodge is named after, jaguar, baird’s tapir, white-lipped peccaries and harpy eagles, which guests can look for while sipping coffee made from local beans delivered to their rooms. The ocean-view bungalows can accommodate up to five guests.
The lodge has something to offer to every kind of traveller. For adventure and nature enthusiasts, the lodge offers expeditions into the rainforest, led by local guides, as well as ocean activities. Guests seeking tranquility can enjoy the lush natural surroundings, relax on secluded beaches and indulge in al fresco meals. With WiFi connectivity only to a small area near the main Lodge and no television, guests can take a break from the bustle of daily life and rekindle their relationship with nature.
The lodge also supports the local community with initiatives such as building the Carbonera School next to the nature reserve, to provide both formal and environmental education to the community. Since schools such as Carbonera are isolated and have limited resources, the lodge also partners with the non-profit organisation, Earth Equilibrium, which advocates sustainable living in Costa Rica, to provide much-needed school supplies through two programmes: ‘Building for the Future’ and ‘Learning is Change’. Both programmes are funded by guests, who are also invited to visit the school during their stay.
An in-house guide at Lapa Rios, Danilo, also helped establish the Lapa Rios Guide School in 2016 to train guides from within the community itself, to encourage a self-sustaining community, in lieu of hiring guides from outside the community. Attended by Lapa Rios staff as well as local tourism students, Danilo’s classes also perpetuate the need to preserve the surrounding rainforest.