Heading to Lapa Rios

I first heard of Lapa Rios during the very first session I attended at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference back in 2011. Karen Lewis, one of the pioneers behind the place, was giving a presentation on how she and her husband John had created one of the most renowned ecolodges in the world.

It was so inspiring to hear that they too had decided to change their lives and enter a completely new field. Back in 1990, John gave up his job as a lawyer (sound familiar?) and Karen decided to stop teaching music. They sold all of their assets and purchased a 1000 acre reserve of primary rainforest in the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. To help provide for the maintenance of the reserve and to support the local community, they decided to build a small luxury ecolodge – Lapa Rios.

I still remember sitting in that conference room surrounded by industry experts. I felt a bit clueless to be honest. But when Karen came up to me at the end and congratulated me on taking that leap of faith, I knew I had made the right decision.

A few months later, I was getting on a plane to experience Lapa Rios for myself. As a (rather generous) thank you for calculating the carbon footprints of two of their hotels, Cayuga treated me to a 2 night stay (with all the perks of a guest!) at Lapa Rios. I couldn’t believe it. I hopped on another small plane, owned by operated by Nature Air, the world’s first carbon neutral airline,

Nature Air Aeroplane Costa Rica

and flew from Nosara, over the Harmony Hotel (in the centre of the image next to the road), where I was working at the time, and the beautiful Playa Guiones bay

Playa Guiones and Harmony Hotel Nosara Costa Rica

and then back around towards the capital San Jose. It was great to see all the little villages dispersed amongst the trees below:

Costa Rica Village Aeroplane

And really special to fly so low over the houses as we dropped down to Tobias Bolanos airport:

San Jose Costa Rica From Above

Lower, lower…almost there…

Multicoloured roofs in San Jose Costa Rica

The different colours of the tin-roofed houses made for some great photos:

San Jose Costa Rica Aeroplane View

After a quick stop at the tiny airport terminal:

Tobias Bolanos Airport San Jose

We were back in the air. But this time the weather was awful. As we climbed into the clouds it started raining heavily. In such a tiny plane you get to see straight out of the cockpit window. But all I could see was driving rain and whiteness. The plane was being thrown all over the place by the turbulence and, I have to admit, it got pretty scary…

Clouds Costa Rica Nature Air

But luckily I lived to tell this tale, and, more importantly, I got to go to Lapa Rios! As we started nearing our destination, past huge oil palm plantations

Palm Oil Plantation Costa Rica

the landscape started to become more and more jungle-like

Rivers Costa Rica Aeroplane View

As we descended into Puerto Jimenez the trees started to change colour

Trees Costa Rica Yellow Blossoms

and we took a quick flight over the water as we headed towards the Osa Peninsula.

Costa Rica Islands Rainforest Coastline

And that’s when it started to get bumpy again (cue sweaty hands and racing heart rate again). To give you a better idea of what the landing was like, check this video out:

Ahh, we made it. After a welcome drink at the airport (where Lapa Rios has an office and welcome area) we were loaded into 4x4s and taken the last 20 or so km up to the lodge. Down the bumpy unpaved road, past farms,

Osa Peninsula Costa Rica Farm

through rivers

River Crossing Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

and up windy hills, until…

Lapa Rios Entrance Osa Peninsula

I’d finally made it.

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