Carara, Costa Rica
This rain forest ecolodge rests in an utterly secluded setting on a 264-acre reserve in the Turrubares Mountains southwest of San Jose. Opened in 2011, the family-owned and run lodge is a center for ecotourism, research and conservation. Its roots lie in a government-sponsored forestry investment program designed to reverse damage done by overplanting of monotonous agricultural crops. In the 1980s, the owners of Macaw Lodge purchased the farm that is now home to the lodge and Macaw Private Forest Reserve. In the decades since, they have created a model of sustainability, restoring the health of the forest and fostering the return of many animal, plant, insect and bird species, including the scarlet macaw. The lodge facilities are constructed of reclaimed or sustainably grown local hardwood and incorporate extensive use of stone and natural materials. Totally off the grid, the lodge produces electricity and heats water through solar panels on site.
The spacious, open ground floor of the hexagonal main building houses the restaurant, lounge area with Wi-Fi, lending library and electronics charging center. Serene views of the surrounding ponds, gardens, forest and wildlife open out in every direction. Up to 24 guests are accommodated in second-floor lodge rooms ensconced by a dramatic balcony, and in adjacent private bungalows set within the forest. Lodge rooms have two full beds with therapeutic mattresses and bedspreads woven by the Maya of Guatemala's Atitlan area, and a private bathroom built with local marble. Towels and sheets are made from sustainable bamboo fiber. Cool off naturally using the ceiling fan and by opening the screened windows to welcome the breeze. Private cabins accommodate two people, with a double bed, en suite bathroom and deck with rocking chairs. The largest cabin has two double beds to accommodate up to four people.
True farm-to-table cuisine incorporate vegetables, lettuce, herbs and fruits from the lodge's organic garden and hydroponic greenhouse, along with homemade breads and tortillas, jams and salsas, and fresh meats, eggs and other foods from the local region. From the dining room, watch birds and butterflies as you enjoy your meals.
Within the surrounding nature reserve, a slate of enticing activities awaits. Wander trails through the tall, dense canopy as you look for native wildlife. Cool off in rushing mountain streams, waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes. Take a night walk in search of percussive frogs. Enjoy open-air yoga, and learn how chocolate is produced from the cacao plantation. Birding on the reserve is outstanding, given its location between two ecological zones—the humid tropical forest and the high-humidity pre-montane forest. More than 350 species of migratory and resident species are found on the premises. You can also make a 45-minute excursion to the coast for swimming and snorkeling at Playa Blanca.