La Leona Eco Lodge is set among true wilderness and home to amazing wildlife and scenery. This is a place of no power, phones or internet – just you and the wilderness.
The lodge is a little piece of paradise on Costa Rica’s wild and isolated Osa Peninsula, the closest place you can stay to the south eastern boundary of the famous Corcovado National Park. It’s a fairly remote lodge and getting here reminds you of that – in fact it ensures that your experience of the lodge begins before you even arrive.
The journey really starts after arriving in Puerto Jimenez. Here we stocked up on water and fuel before following a dirt road to Carate, a sleepy little place literally at the end of the road. The road to Carate was fairly poor and it took about one and a half hours to do the 25km but it set the tone for the next few days – we’d be moving at a slow pace. Leaving the car in Carate we walked the final 3.5km to the lodge, following a trail through the bush to start with before coming out onto the beach for the last bit, feet sinking into the sand and with no relief from the hot sun. On the return trip we followed the bush trail the entire way – it’s easier to walk on and the shade provides some respite from the intense sun.
The wildlife was looking promising as we set out from Carate, with a pair of Scarlet Macaws making all sorts of noise in the trees above us. These huge birds are endangered and Corcovado National Park one of the best places to see them. During our time here we saw them each day.
A stay at La Leona was a backup plan after we were unable to get permits to stay within Corcovado National Park itself. The idea had been to hike in to the heart of the park one day, stay a couple of nights at the basic ranger station in the park and then hike out. Yet soon after arriving at La Leona I began to think we were lucky not to get permits and to experience this lodge instead (or perhaps it’s just further reason to return). Permits to stay overnight in the national park are scarce and can only be booked one month in advance. With only around 30 permits available each day, we were unable to get a spot despite having a local company assisting us with the reservation. We were also there in the lead up to Easter so it was a busier time of year for the park.
La Leona Eco Lodge consists of a series of tents set up along a lawn overlooking the ocean. The lodge never felt busy and this was part of its appeal. The noise of the waves crashing on the beach was so close and loud, and the tents were nicely spaced which meant while you are conscious other people are around, it is never intrusive. There’s a bar and dining area, and heaps of hammocks hung between the palm trees overlooking the ocean so you can enjoy just being away from it all. With nothing else around, you will need to eat at the lodge. There’s no menu as such but each meal we had was fresh, homely and varied.
The tents are simple but cleverly set up – certainly a world away from traditional camping. There’s a nice balcony where you can sit and watch the waves and the bedroom leads through to an outdoor bathroom. I spotted monkeys up in the treetops from the shower most afternoons.
There’s no power in any of the tents, and only for a few hours at different times of the day at the lodge (handy if you want to charge things) which means it makes sense to get up with the sun and make the most of the day. Being so close to the equator, the sun is down by around 6pm each night and there’s not a real lot to do once it’s dark and you’ve had dinner. The lodge is lit by candlelight after dark.
The first night I wondered how I was going to sleep at all over the next three nights as it was so hot and humid. But you do adjust and if you just get up and have a cold shower from time to time it is easy then to get off to sleep. After the first night, I think I was so tired it didn’t matter.
The staff are lovely and very passionate about the lodge and the setting. A family business, the lodge is run by Adrian, who remembers camping on the property as a child before the lodge was built.
There are a number of activities on offer from the lodge including treks into Corcovado National Park, night hikes, bird watching and horse riding. We had a great day exploring Corcovado National Park from the lodge with one of their guides (you must have a guide when inside the park). Highlights included watching an anteater with a baby on her back searching for ants on the forest floor before climbing up a nearby tree to continue her search, being surrounded by a group of noisy cotis and quietly watching a resting Baird’s tapir as it cooled off in a mud puddle. The tapir is a bizarre animal, another endangered species that calls Corcovado home. There were always lots of different groups of monkeys around.
There are also some self-guided trails on the property which are a great way to go in search of wildlife and see things on your own. If you take your time, you never know what you’ll come across and that’s the thing I really loved most about being here – you just always feel like there’s wildlife around. We saw a big group of spider monkeys, some howler monkeys, lots of poison dart frogs, weasels and countess birds on a walk along the self-guided trail one morning. I’m sure there were plenty of other animals around too that we just couldn’t spot ourselves.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as appreciative of my surroundings as I was at La Leona. There were a couple of lounge chairs on the edge of the lawn overlooking the beach that seemed to catch the best breeze and were a great place to sit after a swim in the ocean. We spent most afternoons here with a beer and when I think about it now, I can’t believe I was still for so long. I like to keep busy and moving but the beauty of this part of the world (and the heat) forces you to slow down. It’s a good thing. A few days here will allow you to disconnect and then reconnect with what’s most important.