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Reviewed 24 August 2006

So we stayed for 4 nights at the famed La Paloma Lodge in the heart of Osa's beautiful tropical rainforest along the coast of the peninsula. I'll start by saying that it really is a beautiful part of the world, and that monkeys are pretty darn cool - but, at the conclusion of our time there, I couldn't help but wonder if the ABSURD amount of money I'd shelled out was really worth it.

A bit about the lodge itself:

Run by ex-pats, I really do give them respect for what they've managed to do in such a totally remote and inaccessible part of the country. The lodges are very nice, with gorgeous views of the water/sunset/wilderness. Everything is clean, the service is great, etc etc.

BUT, you really need to ask yourself if, for the price you're paying, you truly feel like sleeping under a mosquito net at night and fending off bird-sized bugs throughout your stay. All the buildings are built without screens and with plenty of open windows (to allow for a much-needed cross breeze to keep you cool) - but this indeed means that the bugs can and will have a jolly good time in your room. Anyway, it's just something you should think about - realistically - when planning this very, very expensive vacation.

Second - I'd like to address the piles of rave reviews of the food that everyone seems to be writing on this board. Yes, the food was fine. Very fresh, cleanly prepared. And perhaps if you come from a landlocked state that has no fresh produce or fish, you'll find La Paloma's cuisine to be new and exciting. But trust me - if you come from ANY major city that has a decent restaurant scene, the food here comes up pretty short. I'm sure it is far better than you'd get at any of the other lodges in the area, but it still isn't anything to rave about.

As far as the included activities go, the tour of the national park was pretty great. Our guide was indeed fantastic, and (thankfully) our group was really small. Definitely a highlight of the trip. The boat trip out to Canoe Island, however, was a complete and total waste of a (very expensive) day. We did get to see some dolphins and whales on our trip out there (which was fun, despite the screams and squeals from the family of bratty kids that were on the boat), but then they dropped us off on this rather dirty beach along with about 50 other tourists from all the other lodges. Now, call me crazy, but when I'm given the option of spending the day at La Paloma's own beautiful, secluded, clean, private beach versus this noisy crowded stretch of sand that's covered with empty bottles and candy wrappers, I think I'll opt for the former - and I really can't for the life of me see why the folks at La Paloma would think that we'd prefer to do otherwise. I imagine most people head to Osa specifically because they DON'T want to be surrounded by fat, ugly tourists - so to drop us off on a beach full of them for an afternoon was indeed not very fun.

We opted to do the canopy zip-line tour on our last day, not included in the price (an additional $60 per person). Fun, but not life changing. Again, if you're stuck with a group of small children, I imagine it would be rather tedious.

I realize that I'm coming off here sounding like a hater of kids, but I have to say, I do wish that I knew beforehand that La Paloma attracted so many families. If you're looking for a romantic or peaceful vacation, or even worse, a honeymoon spot, I'd have to suggest you look elsewhere. At dinner, you eat "family style", i.e. are forced to share a table and conversation with the other visitors. Again, fun for families, not so fun for those of us looking for some peace and solitude.

Again, this really is the best and nicest place to stay in the area, but given that, for 2 people, you're looking at spending nearly $500 a night, you really may want to think about whether or not this is how you wish to spend your hard-earned vacation money. In the future, I think I'll opt for some super-luxe hotel in the south of France.....but then again, that's just me.

  • Stayed: August 2006, travelled as a couple
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21  Thank LowerEastSide
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 August 2006

We really enjoyed our time at La Paloma; it was the highlight of our trip to Costa Rica. We stayed in a “sunset rancho” (#3) which had two floors, each with a double bed, sitting area and a bathroom. The cabin overlooked the ocean and jungle and you could imagine that you were actually alone on the Osa, esp. on the porch which had an additional seating area and a hammock. The cabins are made of beautiful woods and are basically open to the outside (no screens or AC), the bathrooms are open on one side and overlook the ocean. There are mosquito nets to hang over the beds. My son used his, but ours was really too small for two people and we didn’t like the feel of it, so we didn’t use it. The whole time I don’t think we got any bites except a couple of ant bites. The rooms were made up twice a day; the hotel provided purified water in jugs in the rooms and soap (no shampoo).

On arrival (a trip involving a small plane a cool bumpy jeep ride and a quick boat ride), we hiked up the hill to the hotel. There we were greeted at the lodge with fresh fruit, juice and cake while they explained the layout of the lodge and the tours included in our four-night package. After checking out our cabin, we went down to an empty beach (5 min hike down hill). The beach is a bit small, but fine for my 8 year old – the surf can be very rough so we made sure to stay close to shore. That afternoon after lunch we went kayaking up the bay/river from the lodge. Kayaks, snorkeling equipment and boogie boards are provided by the hotel as well as sarongs which substitute for beach towels (they’ll exchange these as needed). Each night, dinner was a group meal, they started serving appetizers around 6 each night (nice view of the sunset from the porch) and many people had wine or cocktails (not included in package price). At dinner we had a soup and salad as well as a choice of two entrees (fish or chicken/beef) and side dishes (rice and beans were also avail), followed by dessert. We thought the food was excellent and they were happy to offer an alternative to our son if he wanted one, although he was happy to eat the regular food the whole time. The service was excellent and organized throughout - everyone we encountered was more than pleased to accommodate our requests or questions. The next day we went on the Cano Island boat trip, starting out at 7:30, with a group of 9 guests, we traveled by boat for about 1 hour then anchored to snorkel. Most of us enjoyed the snorkeling although there was apparently not a lot of fish that day. We then traveled another 30 min to the island where we anchored and had 2-3 hours for beach time and lunch. In the guidebooks it states that there are pre-Columbian artifacts (spheres) on the island but these have been removed, so there was no reason to leave the beach. We then stopped for some more snorkeling on the way home. The next day we left at 6:30 for the Corcovado jungle tour. Our group was split in two so we only had 5 people and a guide on our hike which really allowed us to go at our own pace. Saw monkeys, birds and bugs, and hiked up to a waterfall. This trip was really fun! The final full day, I got a massage while my husband and son hiked a bit and hung out at the pool; then we visited the beach once more and finally did the “Bug Lady” night tour (not included in our package) which was great, but not for the squeamish.

Overall, I can really recommend the hotel for the location, service, tours and food. The one caution – this area is not for the “bug phobic” as there are plenty of lizards and bugs outside and occasionally in the rooms (we had to chase away some big grasshoppers and a huge moth). As far as child friendliness, there are not a lot of areas where your child can run “free”, as you are supposed to stay on the paths to avoid biting ants and snakes. There were no other small children the week we were there, so my son had to make do with grown up company and books/games, but the hotel staff was happy to answer his questions and the tour guides made a point of talking to him and helping him on the hikes and snorkeling. I think 8-year olds or older will enjoy the place, but I wouldn’t bring smaller kids, as the day trips might be too hard for them.

  • Stayed: July 2006, travelled with family
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6  Thank S_S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 April 2006

Just got back from three weeks in Costa Rica and La Paloma might have been the highlight of the trip. My girlfriend and I spent four nights at the Lodge and were blown away. I'd been to Drake Bay a few years earlier and stayed at a lower budget lodge. That area of the country made such a strong impression on me I knew I wanted to go back, though I also knew I wanted to stay at a more upscale lodge. I was a little worried that at such a high price I might be disappointed, but that wasn't the case at all.

I think the key to La Paloma is the staff. They run the lodge like clockwork and were eager to satisfy any request we had: food, daytrips, room, medical (my girlfriend got stung by a jellyfish), etc. The Lodge itself is incredible. It has a beautiful pool that overlooks the Pacific, and is perfect for cooling off after a long day in the heat. The beach is a short hike down an easy path and is great for boogie boarding or just floating around. One of my favorite aspects of the lodge was that they do a family dining style. Every one eats together at huge tables. After being there several nights, we knew pretty much everyone at the lodge and it was a great opportunity to chat it up with people from around the world.

The daytrips included in the package are the hike through Corcovado National Park and the snorkeling trip to Isla de Cano. The snorkeling was mediocre at best. The only reason I say this is because the water just isn't that clear in Costa Rica compared to some places in the Carribean or elsewhere. However, the marine life inside the water was outstanding (if you could see it): sharks, sea turtles, rays, etc. The day trip to Corcovado was incredible. You have two options: boat ride to the first ranger station (20 minutes) or boat ride to the second ranger station (1hr & 20 minutes). I'd been to the first ranger station before, so we beared the long boat ride to the second ranger station which is much more empty and secluded. Well worth it. We saw pretty much every animal you could see, save for jungle cats which I wasn't necessarily eager to run into. Javier was our guide and he was outstanding. On top of being knowledgeble and affable, what I loved about Javier was that even though he probably led this hike 100 times a year, he was more excited to find animals than any of the guests were.

I'll stop here because I just realized this review is getting ridiculously long which is indicative of how much I loved this place. I really have nothing bad to say about this lodge except for it is not five star four season's style vacationing. It is definitely for the adventure traveler: no air conditioning, lots of bugs, wild animals, HOT. For people who enjoy something off the beaten path than this place is for you.

  • Stayed: April 2006
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6  Thank chicago6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 April 2006

We just came back from a 5 night package at La Paloma. We travelled all the way from the UK but it was worth it. Other reviews mention how great this place is and my wife, daughter and I all agree. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff. Accomodation was great, fantastic views (Sunset on the beach is good but remember to take a torch to find your way back as funnily enough it gets dark after sunset - I forgot and spooked myself!), Food was good (Salad dressing the best I've ever had and how they managed to create the omlettes and pancakes so quickly in a morning will remain a mystery). Bugs? You're going to the rainforest so yes, they are there but not as bad as expected, we've had more problems in Cyprus/Greece. Just get the brave person to walk first, that normally scares the lizards away for the squeamish behind. We had no bugs in the room but we did still use the mosquito nets that they supplied. This was one of those rare holidays that far exceeded my expectations and Yes, I had read all the reviews on this site before I booked. I'd definitely go again but combine it with seeing more of Costa Rica next time.

Hints and tips....

Park Hike was great (Not a trek but an easy stroll so long as you've decent shoes, a hat and plenty of water
Cano Island is a definite not to be missed, try the snorkeling, even if it's not your thing and you'll be converted but take plenty of sunscreen, we pale english folk still managed to burn with factor 25.
Cayak up the river, it's not that long but if you time it just right, you drift back down the river with the tide and can just chill listening to the noises and watching the monkeys.
Don't be afraid to just walk off down to Drake Bay or towards the reserve, there are 10's of secluded, empty beaches.
Careful swimming, either go in the middle of the bay\cove or go where everyone else is, the currents are sometimes quite strong.

  • Stayed: April 2006
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7  Thank jodola
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 April 2006

Our group of 6 friends spent wonderful 5 nights at La Paloma. We took two trips to Corcovado, a trip to Cano Island and a several mile hike on the beach topped off by snorkeling.

The staff was super. They were friendly, helpful, making sure we enjoyed ourselves and that everything was done to make our stay perfect. Two things happened that showed what a great staff La Paloma has. My cousin hurt her foot the 2nd day and the staff worked out a schedule so she could continue to enjoy herself and take part in activities as much as possible. In addition, my husband has a special diet and the cooks made wonderful little dishes especially for him.

The guides made a huge difference in our learning so much about the Park and all we were seeing. We especially liked Carlos. I think we added about 40 new birds to our list and saw 3 kinds of monkeys, agouti, anteater, crocodiles,...

Also great: the food, the Bug Lady, our lovely room.

I'd recommend La Paloma if you want to see Corcavado Park and take advantage of all there is to see and do at the Lodge.

  • Stayed: March 2006
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3  Thank Beth_Joe_VA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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