Sarapiqui - Selva Verde
We chose the Selva Verde lodge because it sounded fab; a jungle lodge right in the middle of the jungle with pathways into the jungle itself. Worldwide Trips added a disclaimer to their itinerary, "booked at clients request - in our opinion getting a little tired". Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps they have renovated since our tour operator's last visit but this was stunning. (Now if that disclaimer had been added to the Tortuguero hotel, Laguna Lodge, I could be more sympathetic...)
The enormous lodge is built on a 500-acre plot in the jungle with covered walkways to all the rooms, which themselves are built on stilts high up in the forest. Their web site give plenty of pictures. They have a bar (hurray!) and a restaurant for which you can buy vouchers if you haven't included it as part of your package. The meals are not exactly cheap by Costa Rican prices, about $10 for dinner (in the town you pay about half this) but the food is wholesome, the fans are spinning and you don't have to worry about getting home after dark (6pm in Costa Rica).
The front desk people are very friendly (especially if you at least attempt some pidgin Spanish) and even arranged a stop at a local dentist for emergency treatment for my wife (she cracked a tooth and it needed immediate treatment). And this on a Saturday too.
We had prearranged a boat trip ($25 pp) with Holbrook Travel, the American owners of the lodge, via the Internet but the driver never showed. The front desk arranged for a taxi (for which they paid) and he took us to the boat trip people. We had a boat all to ourselves with a driver not more than 12 years old (OK he was probably about 16) but he had eyes like an eagle with binoculars, and spotted all manner of creatures hidden from us city folk. Watch out for the bats!
There's no getting away from the fact that we liked this lodge. It get's my wife's vote as the top place we stayed in (albeit somewhat reluctantly, because they were all so different and good). I hope Trips Worldwide put it back on their preferred list, because I think you'll like it too.
One thing to remember about our trip is that we went during their "green" (= rainy) season, which is low season. The same trip during their "summer" (December to March) would have been full of our American cousins, much higher room prices and more traffic on the roads. It's a trade off between the rain and high prices mainly. The rain just was not that much of an issue so my recommendation is to go low season. I think you get to see more.
Hints and Tips and stuff
1. Visit the butterfly garden in the secondary forest across the road; it's not great but introduces you to some of them (and the extraordinary high humidity of the place).
2. Drink plenty of water. This is a rain forest. High temperatures. High humidity. Lots of sweating (if you come from the UK. If you're a resident of Texas this will be just like home, I guess). So drink lots to avoid getting dehydrated.
3. Do the River Boat tour. Every trip we did (and on paper it seemed like we had duplicated the same trip in different locations) we always saw something different. After all, that's why you went to Costa Rica, right?
4. Bring hiking boots. You'll need them anyway, but especially for the trails into the jungle which can get a bit squelchy at times (it is the RAIN forest, after all).
5. Put a rolled up towel in front of your room door to stop the creepy crawlies getting in. Put it on the inside when you are in the room (e.g. at night). This applies to all the hotels anywhere in Costa Rica!
Next: Arenal Volcano (if you ever get to see it, that is)
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