Sustainable luxury on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, at one of the most nature-immersed ecolodge experiences in the world
Lapa Rios was built by pioneering founders John and Karen Lewis, more than 20 years ago when eco-tourism existed in few travellers’ minds. Named after the ‘River of Scarlet Macaws’: Lapa (meaning scarlet macaw) Rios (river), it bears witness to the beautiful birds that stream across the rainforest canopy between the lodge and the ocean, affording stunning views.
Lapa Rios is a 930 acre private nature reserve located at the southern-most tip of the Osa Peninsula, Central America's last remaining lowland dense tropical rainforest. On the western Pacific coast of Costa Rica, it acts as a wildlife corridor to Corcovado National Park. It is home to 2.5% of the biodiversity of the whole world, probably - it is not even known exactly how many unknown species there may be, the primary forest being so dense. Costa Rica is certainly known for its living laboratory of nature with its 850 species of birds (319 in Lapa Rios!), 200 mammal species, reptiles, trees and plants.
The Lapa Rios Reserve (all primary forest) is exclusive to registered guests, with amazing wildlife-watching from its bungalow balconies, restaurant terrace and incredible canopy rooftop look-out gallery, even the paths, where you might spot monkeys, toucans and sloths.
Kick back and relax in a hammock, the natural spa or swimming pool, take a yoga class or massage, or choose an active experience that supports Lapa Rios’ original and ongoing vision of education and exploration, with a hike on the miles of trails, taking in spectacular waterfalls, or an expert staff naturalist-led interpretive guided tour, showcasing not just rainforest species but also the interrelatedness of all the biodiversity, or a visit to the local community.
Be an Earth Changer:
Visit Lapa Rios to support Osa Peninsula conservation and local culture
At Lapa Rios, you’re not just a visiting tourist. You become an integrated part of the ecotourism experience. It’s perfect for wildlife, relaxation and romantic honeymoons. More details below.
A stay of a minimum of four to five nights is recommended to enjoy all Lapa Rios has to offer.
Lapa Rios Ecolodge is Sustainable Luxury, and was the first ecolodge to gain the coveted 5 Leaf Rating of Costa Rica’s Sustainable Tourism Certification scheme.
Unusually, the lodge takes pride in transparently showing guests the ‘back of the house’ systems and operations to demonstrate and teach about their sustainability, with suggestions how guests’ own ways of living could be enhanced.
Accommodation: The luxurious 17 private bungalows and shared areas are all designed in harmony with surrounding forest and beaches, built with locally harvested materials and are open-air with screens that allow you to experience the sounds, sights and smells of the rainforest and the ocean.
Each bungalow has a king or 2 queen beds, ceiling fans (no air-conditioning), inside and outside showers, balcony deck with incredible privacy and beautiful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean or Golfo Dulce, even from your bed!
Due to the fragile eco-system, Lapa Rios ask that you use the biodegradable, locally-made products provided, or bring your own biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner.
Meals: All meals are included and an incredible local culinary gourmet experience is on offer. Community and staff plant and promote Central American endemic fruits and vegetables, and recipes are developed based on cultural tastes and local and home grown produce. Complimentary local coffee is even delivered to your bungalow in the morning, and an evening turndown service that will make you smile.
To retain tranquillity and responsible resource management, please note, bungalows do not include phones, TV, radios, hair dryers, air conditioning or offer room service. Wifi is provided in a small shared area.
NB. With limited capacity, bungalows tend to be booked up 2-6 months in advance – please book or register interest as soon as possible.
Tours & Experiences
On-property tours are all included in a stay, help support ongoing maintenance and land preservation of the Osa Peninsula biodiversity and local community employment. Four full-time experienced naturalist guides give authentic local interpretation of the natural beauty of the rainforest reserve making sure you get the most out of your experience and learn about the rainforest interconnectedness. Lapa Rios provides:
• Walking sticks
• Stainless steel water bottles
• Rubber Wellington boots
Activities & Wildlife:
With easy to challenging guided hikes, you can immerse yourself in the hidden treasures of pristine primary and secondary forest, get breath-taking views of the coast, enjoy three stunning beaches and experience the magic of the rainforest at night uncovering nocturnal creatures and habitats. Alternatively, go at your own pace following the marked trail accompanied by a biologist’s guide book.
Osa is the only place in Costa Rica where you’ll find four species of monkeys—squirrel, spider, white-face capuccin and howler monkey—and one of Central America’s best locations for bird watching. As well as the scarlet macaws which flash over the lodge canopy view, spot rare and exotic birds in early morning and sunset tours. Learn about the marine biology of the Golfo Dulce, one of only four tropical fjords in the world, see land crabs, starfish and sea cucumbers. You can even plant a Tree & contribute to Lapa Rios reforestation, and - not to be missed - see Twigs, Pigs and Garbage - a tour of the lodge premises to witness the commitment to a more sustainable way of life, a unique experience highly praised by guests. Finally, visit the local primary school built and sponsored by Lapa Rios Eco lodge, an excellent opportunity to share and learn with the local community.
Off-Property, explore the Golfo Dulce. On dolphin tours you may see any of the three species of dolphins (common, bottled-nosed or spotted), whales and turtles. Snorkel, go sea and mangrove kayaking, horse riding, take surf lessons, waterfall rapel and tour the rainforest canopy zip-lining! Further afield, explore the Corcovado National Park by plane or by land!
Lapa Rios has always been about the local people and community from its start, as stewards of their land. Authentic, cultural experiences are popular with guests, as tourism is about people.
Lapa Rios always promotes opportunities for guests to participate within the community, such as visits to an employee’s farm, being taught typical local dancing, supporting the school, beach cleaning and meeting local artisans selling crafts and other products. When travellers encounter the local community their experience becomes real.
At Lapa Rios, more than 90% of the 60+ employees are from the nearby communities, and are hired for personable guest interaction being part of the job.
As a result of Lapa Rios' sustainability purpose and actions, locals are beginning to value their pristine land and materials. They know how to use best practices, providing ongoing sustainability to the region.
In 2010, a study conducted by Stanford University published in the Journal of Ecotourism, confirmed that Lapa Rios not only fulfills its promise of ecotourism, delivering social, economic and environmental benefits in the region, but makes a substantial contribution to local livelihoods and environmental conservation, including the highest rates of reforestation of all areas studied in the Osa Peninsula.
With the wider community, Lapa Rios helps raise awareness and support for positive social and cultural impacts and empowerment of local people, such as:
- Organising anti-drug programmes.
- Environmental education and skills training on best practices and certified distributors
- Construction of suspension (walking) bridge to cross the Carbonera River
- Organising Osa Peninsula recycling centre & dump.
- Advocates and provides tools for community beach clean ups
- Road maintenance and repair (5km) from erosion, landslides, potholes, tree falls, river crossings, etc.
- Environmental, construction and job training has given confidence to people to imagine a better future in the remote area where there were few skilled tradesmen but where ranching, subsistence farming and mining were the only opportunities in 1990.
As a result of the work at Lapa Rios, on 2nd November, 2005, American founder Karen Lewis was presented with The 2005 Secretary of State's Awards for Corporate Excellence by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the State Department in Washington D.C.
The Award is designed to recognize the important role that US businesses play in advancing good corporate governance and democratic principles worldwide.
Lapa Rios’ mission intends to help decision-making:
“A tree left standing is worth more than one cut down”
To Lapa Rios, being sustainable, and certified for it, equates to honouring the earth by enabling people.
Ultimately it is experiences and insights which create sustainability and prove the mission real, doable and accomplished, with certification adding a 3rd party authenticating voice to facilitating measurement, monitoring and improvement against standards. In this respect, Lapa Rios undertakes numerous initiatives to raise awareness of and support positive social and environmental impacts in the reserve and the broader community, build cultural awareness and respect, create funds for conservation, support for human and workers’ rights, plus financial benefits and empowerment for local people, all the while providing incredible experiences for visitors and hosts. Such initiatives include, on the reserve:
- Architecture and construction honours place, using local and renewable materials such as bamboo, wood and local vines.
- Erosion channels and retention walls are constructed with stacked flat rocks instead of rebar and concrete blocks.
- Solar for all water heating and lighting needs.
- Wind and breezes used to cool buildings, pump water and produce power.
- Locally sourced food reduces the need to transport common ingredients and creates the opportunity for guest education on cultural difference and acceptance.
- Buying fresh produce rather than canned, avoiding non-recyclables.
- Food scraps fed to pigs creates methane gas to fuel the staff kitchen stove.
- Better use of plants controlling erosion, improved humus from compost production.
- Dedicated support to local suppliers of regional culture: food, renewable plant/tree growers, indigenous artists and tour operators.
- Education for staff on sustainability issues, teaching best practices for the workplace and home.
With the wider community, Lapa Rios:
- Search, endorse and promote certified organic produce, chicken, eggs, and biodegradable products.
- Provide and invite guests to greater staff and community involvement, eg. beach cleaning, endemic tree species planting for reforestation (over 10,000 to date), helping collect data for Osa Conservation’s Wild Cats program by installing and reviewing camera traps, visiting the sea turtle project, village walking tours, interactive farm visits, fish shoring, woven palm ornament making etc.
- Support community-based hiking/boating/kayaking/surfing tour providers, who share environmental stewardship and travellers’ philanthropic efforts.
- Construction, donation & maintenance of 4-building primary school complex since the lodge’s beginnings in 1991. Plus ongoing maintenance of other primary schools in the Osa, as well as equipping most regional schools with student supplies and books, all funded through guest donations of time, talent, materials and financial gifts.
- Support a national network of certified sustainable businesses, sharing hospitality knowledge for: Better pool ionization, Costa Rican-made solar water heating, alternative energy sources, certified wood products, harvest-certified renewable materials, locally manufactured or harvest-certified products, certified biodegradable products, organic produce and Osa-endemic plants.
- Verify supply chain distributors for environmental standards such as no plastic wrap, packaging and willing to use recyclable containers and cooperate with single stop delivery: In 2005 Lapa Rios encouraged Osa businesses to consider alternatives to only plastics when a beverage supplier refused to transport refillable bottles.
- Local renewable building materials harvesters know Lapa Rios only purchases legally permitted materials.
Options & Rates
Once in Costa Rica, to reach Lapa Rios, fly Sansa or Nature Air to Puerto Jimenez (1 hour).
Lapa Rios staff will welcome you and take you to the office, next to the airstrip, for a cool beverage, restrooms and wifi should you require. To Lapa Rios it's then a —albeit bumpy! —50 minute trip in a comfortable 4×4 vehicle - the drivers will point out birds, monkeys and other wildlife along the way.
- Lodging in an ocean-view bungalow sited atop a forest ridge with housekeeping service twice/day
- 3 served meals per day plus non-alcoholic & non-mixed drinks
- Arrival and departure day transfers: Puerto Jimenez - Lapa Rios - Puerto Jimenez
- Selection of on-site guided tours such as: Early & Sunset Bird tours, Wild Waterfall, Local Medicine hike, Rain Forest Ridge Walk, Osa Trail, Matapalo Tour, Night Walk, and “Twigs, Pigs and Garbage”
Rates are per person, per night, based on double occupancy:
High Season: 1 Nov – 19 Dec 2016 from $490
Holiday Season: 20 Dec 2016 – 5 Jan 2017 from $780
High Season: 6 Jan – 30 Apr 2017 from $490
Green Season: 1 May – 31 Oct 2017 from $360
For honeymoon, family or 4 days/5 nights special packages, please enquire for details.
Awards & Accreditations
2014 Conde Nast Traveler Gold List
2014 Conde Nast Traveler – Readers’ Choice Awards:
Best Hotels in the World
2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence
2011 1000 Places to See Before You Die
2008 National Geographic – Top 50 Ecolodges
2007 Rainforest Alliance - Corporate Sustainable Standard-Setters
2005 USA Secretary of State Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE)
2003 5 Leaf Rating Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST)
(the first lodge to attain the Costa Rica programme distinction)
2000 4 Leaf Rating Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST)
Terms & Conditions:
- Rates are available for single occupancy or additional guests (4 adults max per bungalow)
- Child rate applies for children 6-11 years old; children 12 years and older pay the adult rate.
- Tours not taken may not be exchanged nor reimbursed.
- Above rates do not include government taxes (13%)
- Rates do not include international flights to Costa Rica or onwards domestic travel to Puerto Jimenez.
Reservations must be paid in advance unless other conditions are specified. Cancellations accepted up to 60 days before arrival (90 days before arrival in holiday season) without penalty. Thereafter Lapa Rios will attempt to re-sell the space; if sold, there is no charge and a full refund given. If not sold, space cancellation charges may apply.
Lapa Rios welcome children aged 6 years old and above for safety reasons.
Bungalows require stair and path walking, so please provide advanced notification at time of booking if you have any medical conditions or inability to climb steps.