“Family, like branches in a tree we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” – unknown
After a delightful vegetarian lunch with our hosts Eric and Francesca at the Cascada Naguala Ecolodge, it was time to pack our bags once again and be off to our final destination of my week long adventure in the Osa Peninsula. We were staying at a tiny family-run ecolodge on the outskirts of Drake Bay where I’d be flying back home in two days.
If I had imagined that the fun and adventure were over, I was thankfully wrong. I had spent the past six days inside the thick of the jungle and now I would get my time of sun and fun at the beach. Finally, I’d get to dip my Minnesota toes in the warm, soft waters of the ocean and watch the sunset over the ocean’s horizon.
By this point in the trip, nothing about the road conditions phased me anymore. River crossings and bumpy, mountainous unpaved roads were all part of the experience. Not seeing a single road sign was also common nor any place to stop to use the bathroom or grab something to eat. Even seeing other cars was uncommon and there were definitely no tour buses on the roads we traveled.
Drake Bay is much smaller than Puerto Jimenez, where I first landed by small plane into the Osa Peninsula. Besides a few high-end ecolodges and a handful of middle of the range accommodations and restaurants, there isn’t much else there. The one thing I did see however for the first time since leaving Puerto Jimenez were tourists which felt like a little bit of a shock.
The rural tourism part of my trip was near the end and now I’d be lumped back together with the tourists. Thankfully, our lodging was locally and family-owned with not a single non-Costa Rican tourist except for us. I was getting spoiled by the complete immersion into Costa Rican life and culture. I didn’t want to let go of that feeling just quite yet.
By two o’clock it was time to pick up Eytan’s family who were arriving from mainland Costa Rica via boat at the beach in Drake Bay. Given the remoteness and lack of major roads within the Osa Peninsula, a lot of transportation around the Osa is via water taxi. Many of the luxury resorts are only accessible via boat as well which means to get to them, you first have to either fly or travel by long, unfriendly roads and then take a boat to reach your lodge. Many of these places are incredible however extremely expensive. I preferred the local accommodations for $50/night versus upwards of $500/night.
Excitement filled my veins as we approached the beach. I was delighted to see the crystal blue waters and hear the gentle waves hitting the shore. Although I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time in the jungle, I could hardly wait to go for a swim in the ocean and to feel the salt water kiss my skin.
I was introduced to Eytan’s mother and her boyfriend as well as his uncle who were all lovely, delightful people and spoke both fluent English and Spanish. It was fun to have some new additions to our group. We piled into the Land Cruiser and headed out to the Bella Vista Ecolodge. Once we arrived, I instantly understood where the hotel got its name. The view of the surrounding ocean, jungle and beach was incredibly beautiful.
The lodge is perched up high above the ocean, with a large open-air restaurant and dining area where you can watch the sunset. There are flowers everywhere and the smells of chef Willie Lopez’ cuisine was to die for. I immediately knew that I was going to really like this place. It even had a bar, another luxury after being in the remote jungle for the past six days.
The lodge has ten rooms which each accommodate up to four people. The rooms are basic but clean. Besides the view, the best part of the Bella Vista Lodge that made it so special and unique is the warm, friendly staff who are all one big family. Over the next two days, I got to know all the family members as well as their children and felt incredibly welcomed and at home. That is the beauty of local tourism. You are invited into people’s lives and homes and for that moment you feel as if you are part of one big family. It is an incredible experience.
We didn’t have too much time before we were off for our next adventure: A late afternoon horseback ride along the remote beach below the lodge, a sunset swim and delicious dinner cooked by Willie and his wife. I could hardly wait!