La Carolina Lodge is a place where people of all ages can get off the grid – kids can lose their grip from their iPads and cell phones and parents / couples / workaholics can truly step away without feeling the guilt.
Only 2.5 hours away from the beaches of Playa Conchal and Playa Potrero – La Carolina Lodge is the ideal vacation for the people living their lives near / on the beach or alternatively if you are vacationing here – this is a completely different side of Costa Rica you probably have never experienced. The drive takes you through the main hub of Liberia, so ideal for either an early morning breakfast or late lunch for those who enjoy the fast food hubs located on these crossroads or again if your vacationing and heading from Liberia International Airport – La Carolina Lodge is roughly 1.5 hours drive away.
6km away from the lodge, you take your final turn and the whole rest of the way is a gravelly and stoney road – we were exceptionally glad we had our 4×4 with us!
Upon your arrival at the lodge, you are greeted by the hospitable staff and shown to the lodge where you sleep. Each lodge has a private bathroom, views of the jungle and scenery all around and for us we were lucky enough to have a private hot tub at the back of our property. The hot tubs are drained, cleaned and then refilled each day before being heated up with the woodfire stoves next to them. The lodges’ ethos is to immerse you in the beautiful nature around you, so at night your lodges and the walkways around are lit by candlelit and you have roughly two lamps per room. In the main lodge where meals are served, fireplaces are lit at night and you eat by candlelight if you are enjoying a later dinner.
As mentioned, the main lodge is where you eat and all meals are served family style at your table. With unlimited fresh squeezed juice, water, coffee and hot chocolate available all day as well a sumptuous and traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner – you will never go hungry! In fact the only time our kids needed extra snacks is when they arose early in the morning after the sun had just peeked through but early enough for the kitchen to not yet be open. With delicious gallo pinto at breakfast, homemade breads and jellies to BBQ ribs at dinner with creamy mashed potatoes you will really enjoy it all. If you are not a carne eater, do not fear, they make food for vegetarians and vegans alike and there was never a complaint when it came to mealtimes for anyone in our group. If a glass of wine or beer at dinner is your thing, you need to ensure you bring your own. We all bought our own adult beverages in our own coolers but the lodge has coolers you can borrow if required, everyday when servicing our rooms they would come and put fresh ice in our cooler – absolutely fantastic service. We also bought our own s’mores supplies, which the children (and adults!) absolutely enjoyed roasting around the fire after a delicious meal.
Activities – so many here!!! You will honestly be truly knackered and be thankful that there are no lights within the lodges so you can take advantage of the early 8pm bedtimes. We were lucky to enjoy the following within a 2-night, 2-day trip:
A 7am start and a short walk from the main lodge through the meadow brings you to the barn where you join Alejandro (the main guide of the lodge) to the farm to visit the animals. We milked cows, held baby chicks, saw calves and piglets. The farm is surrounded by fruit trees, so seeing the blossoms of passionfruit trees and the cocoa bean meant tasty treats along the way.
Tropical Forest Walk
We were fortunate enough to see a wild sloth within 5 minutes of the walk but when we asked our guide Alejandro he said even to him this was very rare! Also sighted was a poisonous frog, lots of colorful bugs, beetles and their exoskeletons and millions of leafcutter ants which made the floor look like it was moving when you get further into the jungle and closer to the river that runs alongside the property.
Children aged 10 and up are able to experience an advanced horse ride around the ranch, meadows, near the tropical forest and through the valleys and pastures. As we were with a group with children under the age of 10 – Alejandro saddled up the smaller ponies and walked our daughters around the inside of the perimeter of the garden – they were ecstatic to still be able to enjoy this.
Visiting the Garden
They truly provide a farm to table experience. Most of the food is grown or raised within the property. – from the chickens and pigs to the milk from the cow to the lettuce, peppers, onions, pineapples, stevia plants – you name it, they probably have it there. Our group toured the garden by the head gardener who let us all sample the fresh produce literally growing around us, cut up fresh pineapples, tasting edible flowers and then he ended the tour with the planting of the new seeds into the ground. Our daughters were taught how the worms in the manure were needed to be put in the ground and to our delight and shock and horror our oldest was then elbow deep digging them out of the bucket to pass to her friends! Also, amazingly, 40% of the produce grown is given back to the earth to enrich the soil and feed the animals to help keep them sustainable.
Alejandro once again, brings the group together along with worms and cheese, rods, reels and hooks and you can spend a blissful few hours perched on a dock trying to encourage the fish to bite – the older members of the group were successful further out in the river and with a catch and release method, it was a fun time for everyone.
La Carolina Lodge has honestly thought of everything. One of their latest developments on the property is a spa hut located next to the yoga deck. At the time we visited (May 2021), 1-hour massages were available for $45. With views of the river from your massage table and the sounds of the country all around – this was an extremely relaxing experience.
River and Main Hot Tub
With the river running alongside the lodge, there are lower rocks that allow you to edge your way into the fast-running river. Word of warning, it is an extremely fast running river, which is fairly shallow but with lots of small waterfalls, caution with children needs to be taken. The adults in the group loved seeing the fish swim right by you and while the children were kept safe in the hot tub right next door. The main wood fire heated hot tub is blissful and from the cold chilling river is just what the doctor ordered to help you with your achy body.
Our last activity we did before we departed the lodge was carpentry. Each child was set up with the wood pieces already cut out to make their own toolbox – with nails, a hammer and adult assistance each child was able to make their own toolbox.
So honestly what are you waiting for – make that booking today and visit La Carolina Lodge – it is a true jewel and we for one cannot wait to go back and experience it all over again! If none of the above sounds like your cup of tea, also located close to the lodge, is a chocolate farm, a volcano and the Rio Celeste for boat tours or white water rafting if you dare. All these activities would be an additional charge to your stay at the lodge, but the staff are more than willing to assist with your bookings. We paid for our stay at the lodge, and everything from the food to the soft drinks to all the activities (except for the massage) were included in the price.
So, to end this review, if you really need Wi-Fi there is one small area you can sit and get your fix, but trust me, enjoy your time there with your family and loved ones. You can update your status when you get home if you remember where you put your phone.