Sustainability on Stilts at Rio Perdido, Costa Rica

Sustainability on Stilts at Rio Perdido, Costa Rica

By Claudia Laroye

Costa Rica has done a masterful job of attracting savvy travellers seeking to minimize their environmental footprint and enjoy unique getaways in this popular destination.

The Rio Perdido resort meets the stringent sustainability certification criteria within its home country, as well as achieving international recognition and awards (the hotel is a Trip Advisor Green Leaders Platinum property), for its efforts to minimize human impacts through sustainable construction techniques and reduce consumption of natural resources.

Rio Perdido, Costa Rica. Photo by Claudia Laroye.

Rio Perdido, Costa Rica. Photo by Claudia Laroye.

Rio Perdido is situated on a 600-acre private reserve near Bagaces, accessible from Liberia by an adventurous, if bumpy, roadway. The resort sits on a raised volcanic peninsula, at the confluence of two canyons carved over centuries by the cool Rio Blanco and the thermal waters of Rio Perdido. The dwarf jungle canopy is so thick that for years this area was little known outside of the local region.

The resort owners have paid close attention to sustainability, with an eye towards maintaining as much of the natural jungle setting as possible. Rio Perdido uses previously existing circulation paths made by animals as access routes to allow guests to reach the thermal mineral pools of the river and the resort amenities. This prevented the extensive clearing of the forest, and those trees that were removed were replanted with native flora species. By the time all development phases are complete, the resort will comprise less than 5% of the total land area.

The result is a remarkably intact jungle forest filled with birds, monkeys, and native flora, an enticing prospect for visitors seeking something more from their holiday experience than manicured pathways and palm trees.

The hotel consists of twenty individual resort bungalows resting on stilts, perched above the forest floor to minimize impacts on the lush jungle surroundings. Each bungalow maintains a cosy, private feeling, hidden in the trees from walking paths and other guests. The rooms have two twin beds that can be joined to form a king-sized bed, as well as a functional but well-appointed bathroom, seating and closet area, air conditioning, television, and high-speed internet. The outdoor terrace is equipped with a brightly-coloured hammock for quiet reading, bird-watching or enjoyment of the surroundings. An alarm is redundant, as the howler monkeys will ensure a daily 5:30 AM wake-up call.

The main hotel building houses the lobby, open-air restaurant, spa and outdoor pool facilities. The dining area looks out onto the jungle canopy, with views that permit storm-watching when dark clouds release torrential rains, which finish as quickly as they begin.

In addition to the resort’s own kitchen garden, Rio Perdido employs local suppliers for its fresh and authentic meal preparation, in keeping with its sustainable food and beverage practices. The emphasis is on healthy, locally flavoured meals that feature fruit, eggs, gallo pinto (rice and beans, the national dish of Costa Rica), plantains, chicken and meat dishes.

Rio Perdido offers a wide variety of adventure activities for outdoor thrill seekers. The extensive mountain biking circuit attracts pro riders from around the world. But novices are welcome and encouraged to seek out André to guide them through the 8 or 20 km trails of rocky climbs and steep downhills. André’s passion and knowledge of the local flora and fauna is demonstrated in short stops to learn about local natural springs or the dwarf forest ecology.

The Canyon Adventure is a thrilling 15-course system of zip lines. Professional guides Felipe and Christian escort visitors through tarzan swings, a challenge bridge and via ferratas that soar through the jungle and over the Rio Blanco and Rio Perdido.

The resort’s White Water Tubing tour takes visitors deep into the canyon carved by Rio Blanco. The slow float of the river allows one to enjoy the surroundings before some of the more intense rapids elicit yahoos that echo along the canyon walls. The final big set of rapids, dubbed the “Delivery Room” by guide Ariel, is a narrow series of chutes that deposits one safely on-shore before the Rio Blanco meets the thermal Perdido.

White Water Tubing, Rio Perdido, Costa Rica. Photo by Claudia Laroye.

White Water Tubing, Rio Perdido, Costa Rica. Photo by Claudia Laroye.

Not all of the activities at Rio Perdido involve helmets and adrenalin. Exploring the jungle along the accessible and extensive hiking trails is best attempted in early morning, before the heat and humidity of the day make walking uncomfortable.

Immersion in the thermal canyon springs during the day or in the evening is a magical experience. The thermal springs pour hot mineral water into the Rio Perdido, mixing with cooler water that allow guests to sit and soak in bathing pools, or paint themselves with volcanic mud in a unique, outdoor spa treatment. Listening to the nocturnal jungle come alive while sitting in a barely-illuminated thermal spring is an exceptional moment. Pura vida!

Disclosure: The writer was a guest of the Rio Perdido. All opinions are honest and her own.

Published: 2/10/2016

Claudia Laroye is an adventurous traveller and writer based in Vancouver, Canada. Claudia has written for a variety of online and print publications, with a focus on family and wellness travel. In addition to travelling with her family, she enjoys pineapple margaritas, guacamole and chocolate. Her future travel goals include Botswana, Japan and Peru. Read more of Claudia’s work here.