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Stay & Play – Costa Rica

Chayote Lodge

by Jennifer Merrick

With its lush rainforests, Caribbean and Pacific beaches, towering mountains and exotic wildlife, Costa Rica is an exceptionally beautiful destination wherever you go. But Chayote Lodge raises the bar even higher. Located in the outskirts of the mountainous central valley, less than an hour away from the San Jose Airport, this small resort features twelve bungalows on the edge of a cloud forest almost 5000 feet above sea level. Each spacious accommodation has a private patio with a panoramic view of the valley, volcanic mountains and on a clear day, the ocean.

Perched high above, you can hear the sounds of nature: the high-pitch clattering of the toucans, the bugle-like hum of the insects and even the howling of the monkeys and coyotes. Large blooms cover the grounds; a small trail leads you into the forest, and a yoga platform with a built-in water centerpiece beckons those inclined to meditate.

The décor is inspired by the surrounding nature and the coffee culture of the region, especially the tradition Recibidores, coffee receiving stations. Whimsical but tasteful coffee-themed touches include coffee sticks hanging from the ceiling, coffee sacks on the walls and even a hand-crafted coffee table that’s shaped like a coffee bean.

Though you’d be forgiven if you just want to stay on the property, activity options encourage guests to experience the authentic culture of the region. A genuine connection to this off-the-beaten-track region was owner Rolando Campos’ dream when he opened the lodge four years ago. “I wanted to show people how beautiful it was here,” says Campos. “But I didn’t want the place or people who visited to be separate from the community.”

And so, the lodge’s restaurant caters as much to locals as to visitors, and highlights typical Costa Rican food, including the traditional breakfast, Gallo Pinto. The soft cheese served with the eggs, rice and beans is particularly good, and I’m told that it’s a speciality of the region and is from the farm up the road. For guests who want to further immerse themselves in the country’s culinary heritage, Chayote Lodge offers a unique opportunity for a hands-on cooking class with a local.

“Welcome to my house,” says Eldida, a proud abuela (grandmother) who leads us to her kitchen. The large brick oven is the focal point and the homey décor, like the embroidered curtains and table cloth shows the care and love of the owner. Elida demonstrates how to prepare some Costa Rican staples, including fried plantain, potatoes, chicken, rice and beans. Our favourite dish though is the Coliflor Envuelto en Huevo (cauliflower in egg batter). Like most Costa Rican food, it isn’t particularly spicy, but comforting and tasty.

An excursion to the Toro Waterfall is another experience the resort offers, and this 270-foot waterfall inside an old volcano crater, surrounded by rainforest vegetation and bright flowers is truly a sight to behold. Costa Rica’s ubiquitous beauty is an onslaught of colours, lushness and grandness. This is especially true at Chayote Lodge.