San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pure Jungle Spa, Where the Jungle Gets Under

CALYPSO Facial, Banana Rapture and Ultimate Chocolate Decadence are a few of the treatments offered at Pure Jungle Spa, the latest attraction at La Costa de Papito, across from Playa Cocles on the southern Caribbean coast.


Set in the luxuriant gardens of this unique retreat, the spa was inaugurated in August. Its architecture and design exude a rustic elegance, including artisan woodwork by indigenous craftsmen and local carpenters.


From the palm-thatched roof to hand-hammered copper basins for aromatic foot soaks, everything harmonizes with the surrounding natural environment. The building hosts a lavishly furnished lobby, two separate rooms for treatments and a bathroom with a shower that mimics a rocky cave.


Special body, face and foot treatments are available, as well as massages of various styles applied by professional therapists.


“Our approach is very gentle, using all freshly mixed, natural products and hands rather than machines,” says Denise Gervais, 37, an aesthetician from Oregon, who owned and operated her own business in the United States. “In contrast to a clinical approach, we offer a good balance of skin treatment with relaxation, opening the senses of our clients to the bounty of the jungle.”


AFTER learning from Afro-Caribbean and indigenous herbalists and healers of the Talamanca region for eight months, Gervais developed a peerless product line based on clay, honey and organically grown fruits and seeds, which she purchases directly from local communities.


She uses cocoa, coconut, coffee, banana, papaya and pineapple to clean, hydrate, detoxify and soften the skin.


Two years ago, Gervais came to Puerto Viejo as a guest. After her second visit, she decided to live in Costa Rica as a resident. She became friends with Eddie Ryan, owner of La Costa de Papito, and his family. Together they developed the idea of the spa, which is, according to Ryan, original on the Caribbean coast.


“We do not work with a blueprint here,” says Ryan, 57, from New York City, who has been operating La Costa de Papito for 11 years. “The construction of the building was based on the input of Denise, our craftsmen and myself. What makes this spa unique is that it is personalized by Denise, who has a very special eye and hand for the services and the clients.”


Treatment prices are $50 per hour; therapeutic massages range from $60-100, depending on length. For reservations at the spa, call 750-0536 or e-mail,

or visit for more information.


ATTENTION to the guest is a concept noticeable throughout the family-oriented hotel. On the tranquil, five-acre property, 11 individually designed bungalows are positioned in a way to guarantee maximum privacy. They have large, well lit porches furnished with hammocks and hardwood tables and benches. Inside, the spacious cabins provide excellent air circulation and are outfitted with comfortable beds, overhead fans, mosquito nets, reading lamps and individual bathrooms with hot-water showers.


The bungalows accommodate three to six occupants. One specially designed cabin is wheelchair-accessible. Room rates depend on the style of the bungalow and the season, and range from $34-59. For $6 per person, guests can choose from four delicious breakfast options, served on their veranda or in the dining area of the reception building.


Other amenities include safety deposit boxes, laundry, a hairstylist and free Internet access. Surf and boogie boards and bikes for children and adults are available for rent. The inviting reception building houses the “Sloth Society Bar,” where natural fruit juices, cocktails, beer, wine and snacks are offered.


The location of the retreat and its attentive staff make La Costa de Papito an ideal headquarters from which to explore the southern Caribbean coast. Enjoyable activities range from birding at Finca La Isla Botanical Gardens to dolphin or turtle- watching tours and guided hikes in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. Excellent restaurants are nearby, and the nightlife in the lively town of Puerto Viejo is just a kilometer and a half away.


WITH the safety of tourists and community members in mind, Ryan spearheaded a lifeguard program for Playa Cocles in 2003 (TT, Oct. 31, 2003). Strong currents endanger the lives of swimmers and surfers at this popular beach.


“With the program working continuously, fewer drownings are taking place,” says Ryan, who explains that in the beginning he had a hard time finding and financing dedicated lifeguards qualified to handle the strong riptides. As support from the government is nonexistent, the program is based on private funding.


“Puerto Viejo is the only beach community in Costa Rica that finances a lifeguard project completely with money from business owners,” Ryan says. “To keep it going is a struggle, because we have to raise half a million colones every month in donations. It is like operating a business. But how much is one life worth?”


For more information, call La Costa de Papito at 750-0080, e-mail or visit


Comments are closed.