OVER THE RIVERS AND THROUGH THE WOODS.....
October 28, 2021
For about two years I’ve been seeing ads on Facebook for this place called “La Carolina Lodge”. I’ve wanted to go to check it out for some time now. As with everything else, Covid put a stop to that visit. When I started seeing everyone, and I mean everyone, posting about their recent visits and just how relaxing and magical a place it is, I made a plan to go before years end. Only tough part, who would go with me? Then last week, friends messaged me to say they were going and asked me to join. Sunday to Tuesday. I would need to close on a Sunday, my busiest day of the week, but I was NOT missing this chance to not only go, but to go with friends I know I would have a great time with AND I didn’t have to plan or drive. Trifecta of last minute trips I say!
For the first time in YEARS I was going away without planning every step of the trip and knowing what time to leave, what to pack, where to go. It was so invigorating knowing all I needed to do was…. Oh wait, I now have a Momma Dog and her 4 puppies, and FIVE CATS to worry about. Oops.. Time to make some phone calls. Within minutes I had lined up the two new young boys that have moved in across the street and my sweet friend Kat who will stay with her family here to be sure the puppies don’t get lonely. WIN WIN!
I set off to clean my entire property, house, restaurant, cabinas, while waiting on restaurant customers as well. Similar thinking to what my mother always taught me, “Always wear clean undies in case of an accident”. I like to be sure EVERYTHING is clean and in order in case something happens and people come to my property. There will be no “boy she was messy, sloppy unorganized.” Or “this crazy cat lady, this place stinks like cats”. LOL No sirree Bob. Not the legacy I want to leave. Now I had puppies on my porch to clean up after as well. I am POOPED. Oh wait, I need to pack. Needless to say, I packed in intervals while I had a minute. Couldn’t figure out why my bag wouldn’t zip until I got to the lodge. I packed TWO pairs of slippers, yes two, 3 raincoats, 2 fleece sweatshirts, 3 pairs of pj’s, 3 bathing suits, jeans, 2 pairs of sneakers.. You get the picture. WAY more than I needed for a 2.5 day trip. But, you can’t say I wasn’t prepared.
We set off at 6am from Guiones. Wine, snacks, my stuffed bags. I still have no idea how we get to this place. Doesn’t matter, I’m NOT driving. Woohoo We stop at the first place we could find open at 9am on a Sunday for breakfast. Quick fuel up and on our way.
La Carolina Lodge is owned by Bill and Karien Harwell. I find out later, while reading the guest book that Bill is from Charleston, SC. He purchased the property in 1997 after visiting and falling in love with CR. He splits his time between Charleston where he builds Pango boats in Mt. Pleasant, SC. These boats are very popular with local fisherman here in CR and evidently his are sought after in SC and beyond. He and his wife and 2 kids spend the other months at the lodge which is located in the mountain of San Miguel, Bijuaga, Alejuela Province, very close to Rio Celeste Waterfall and park.
The trip is about 4 hours from Nosara and quite beautiful. Be sure you have a comfy 4x4 as the turn to the lodge and subsequent 3km road in is quite rough. I’m used to rough roads living in Nosara, but his one is ROUGH. Worth every minute though. As soon as you pull into the lodge you feel relaxed and “unplugged”. John, the manager immediately greets us and shows us to the main lodge. There are four of us and only one had been before.
The lodge as well as all of the buildings is very rustic, not old so to speak, but rustic. VERY well build with local wood and lots of stone. The main lodge has a large kitchen with wood stoves and butcher blocks and dining area for the staff. There are several guest rooms and a dining area for guests with another large fireplace, rocking chairs and high top tables for dining. Everywhere you look you see natural wood furniture, stone fireplaces, gardens, flowers, plants. Nature unspoiled. John shows us around and then to our rooms. We had two cabins on either side of the main lodge. Mine had a king sized bed and twin bed, large bath with HOT water shower.. ahhhh and a front porch with rockers, a bar with stools and a wood stove, all just feet above the babbling, mostly gushing river. “A River Runs Through It” goes through my mind. We move on to the boy’s cabin and theirs has a Queen bed, HUGE bathroom and front porch with rockers, hammock and very large stone fireplace. Every room has a fireplace and the staff is sure to light each night while guests are at dinner. Rustic, with all of the comforts of home. What I really love about this place….. NO WIFI, NO TV’s, NO “noise”. (I did find out the next morning there is a WIFI spot near the reception desk to check your emails etc. if absolutely necessary. I will not lie, I did go in the morning and in late afternoon to check in with Kat just to be sure all was well in Puppy land).
John shows us where the horse stables are in case we want to go horseback riding, and the HOT SPRING, which is what I was DREAMING about all week. It sits right next to the river, using the river water to fill each day. They’ve built a heating system with coils which are heated by wood, which the staff fills constantly all day. Of course that was the first thing I wanted to do.
We then go down to the little “fishing dock” where fishing poles are supplied and kids can fish for ours, cooking whatever they catch if they’d like. While there we see a couple from Nosara and their two daughters who were just heading out. They tell us there are a Momma sloth and her baby up in the tree. My VERY FIRST sloth sighting in 5 years of living in CR. So exciting. We grab the binoculars and take a look. I see her bum and the little baby playing a bit. Hey, it’s a sloth, that’s all that matters. J
Your stay at La Carolina Lodge includes 3 meals per day. We arrived just in time for lunch so we decided to eat before doing anything else. Most of the food and beverages are taken from the farm. Fruits, vegetables, Eggs, Milk, Cheese, Butter, Meats, Fish. Our lunch was fresh caught fish, Gallo Pinto (traditional Rice and beans), fruit, homemade breads, jam, cheese, butter, Fresh squeezed juice which changes with each meal. Hot Chocolate and coffee are always available as well. If you know me, you can guess what I chose. J I finished my delicious lunch and immediately grabbed my bathing suit and headed for the hot spring. Nothing quite like being outdoors, in the middle of a mountain, almost on top of a flowing river, sitting in a hot spring. I didn’t want to get out.
While everyone else took naps or read a book I took a walk. There are 175 acres with this property and a nice marked trail to walk and explore. I walked a bit up the hill and found horses and cows grazing. The view of the mountain behind it was covered in a bit of clouds and mist. Just beautiful. I walked just enough to see a bit but not too far in case klutzy Magee (as I now refer to myself) had some type of mishap and no one knew where I was. I headed back to the main area and jumped right back into that hot spring. My friends joined for a bit and soon it was time for dinner.
We all join for dinner, lit by candlelight and roaring firing in the fireplace. Sound of the River in the background. We meet the only other couple staying, Bill and Judy. Originally from the Northeast now living in upstate SC near Clemson University. Small World I say. Especially when they say they are going to Nosara when they leave this lodge. We chat for quite a while and decide to join them on the horseback ride the next day. Dinner was BBQ Pork, Coleslaw, Galo Pinto, Bread, etc. Again, simple yet delicious. We are all a bit tired from the drive and “nature” but we decide to do the hot spring and wine to end our night. What a great day.
Day 2 starts at 5am with a cup of tea, a book on kindle next to the already roaring fireplace in the dining area. Birds are chirping, the staff is lighting fires, getting the kitchen ready to serve breakfast. The boys and B wake and go to the Wi-Fi area to check messages. We meet for breakfast at 7am. The boys and I are going to the beautiful Rio Celeste Waterfall I’ve also been seeing pics of for 5 years. The lodge offers several tours in the area for an additional fee and Alejandro was our guide. Alejandro is a “jack of all trades” at the lodge. He’s a local who has been there forever and from the looks of things, is one of the main people who keep it running smoothly. We head out in our truck for the short ride to the park. It’s $12 US to enter for us and only 800 colones (less than $2) for Alejandro. It is about a 1.5 km walk to the steps that take you down to the Waterfall. Alejandro was sure to show us paw tracks and different plants. He pulled off seeds on a few to allow me to plant at my house.
We arrive at the steps to the Waterfall. HOLY MOLY, that’s a lot of steps. Beautiful, carved Concrete railings and 250 steps down the steep hill to the bottom. The waterfall is 150’ high and the bluest water at the bottom. Breathtaking. As someone who walks a million steps a day here at the restaurant, I was quite a bit out of breath and my thighs were burning after about step 50 going back uphill. Good to know if you or someone who wants to go has breathing or heart issues. I stopped quite a bit to catch my breath but made it to the top and was so glad I did it. The walk back to the main entrance was a piece of cake after that.
We arrived back in time for lunch and horseback riding tour at 2pm. Alejandro was our guide for this as well and we are pleasantly surprised to learn he is a champion “lassoer”. He has won championships all over CR and showed us a bit of his skills when one free roaming horse was trying to distract our horses. So exciting. It wasn’t your typical horse riding tour, on a small trail through trees. We were able to go through rivers and fields and under large mango trees. One spot all of the cows and horses and 3 foals were all grazing together and not at all phased by our visit. Our tour lasted around 1.5 hours, just enough time to go back, sit around the fire chatting with our new friends, sipping wine and reliving our ride with Y who decided to pass on the tour. Next stop, the hot spring before dinner. I definitely needed that after our ride. Dinner was BBQ chicken, Gallo Pinto, Salad, Fruit, Fruit juice. No alcohol is served at the lodge so bring your own wine or beer if you like to enjoy with meals. No fridge in the rooms either so they will be happy to put your stash in their kitchen fridge.
We linger at our last night dinner for a bit, then some head back to hot tub while some head to bed. Arising at 5am the next morning I grab my tea and kindle and head to the fireplace again. No staff is around but hot water in a kettle on the wood stove so I help myself. I’ve only been here 2 days and it feels like home. I read for a bit, breakfast with everyone at 7 and head out at 9am. We’ve got shoppin in Liberia to do, lots and lots of shopping J
After 5 years I am so glad I was able to visit this truly beautiful, magical place and with the people I went with I say THANK you so much for inviting me and letting me do absolutely nothing but relax for 2.5 days. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The staff is amazing, Friendly, attentive, sweet people. To those of you interested in going, I’m attaching the link and a few tips.
1. Bring bathing suits, water shoes, hiking boots, jeans, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and raincoat. Pajamas. Water bottle. Wine and/or beer if you like with dinner.
2. Don’t go if you want to be on your cell phone or laptop the entire time. Yes there is a Wi-Fi spot but it is in a separate area. Embrace the sights and sounds of nature.
3. GREAT place for families with kids. So much to do and learn and to get them off of THEIR cellphones.
4. No coffee pots in the rooms so if you are a coffee junkie that needs it before 6 am you may want to bring your own.
5. RELAX and ENJOY all it has to offer.
Enjoy the pics and until my next trip…. Slainte’.