Say ‘Om’: Luna Lodge, a Tropical Nirvana on the Osa Peninsula
Luna Lodge, a lofty ecolodge at the remote southwestern tip of the Osa Peninsula, on the southern Pacific coast, has built up an enviable international reputation over the past five years as a soothing haven for both body and soul. High above Carate, where the bumpy road from the town of Puerto Jiménez ends and the beach hike into Corcovado National Park begins, the lodge has been a nirvana for yoga enthusiasts who stretch and meditate on aerie-like platforms with eagle-eye views of rain forest and ocean. Now, with a sybaritic new spa, a cool new pool and an exciting new menu, Luna Lodge has risen to even greater heights.
Upbeat owner Lana Wedmore is the genius loci of this Osa Shangri-la. A native of the U.S. state of Colorado,Wedmore learned her hospitality skills and rain-forest ropes as a guide and then manager of nearby Corcovado Lodge Tent Camp in the 1990s. Luna Lodge captures the same back-to-nature attitude as the beachfront tent camp, but with a lot more altitude – and style.
The lodge’s conical-roofed, round bungalows are strung along a steep stone path that climbs ultimately to a yoga platform with an unbeatable view. Each bungalow has a spacious bathroom with hot-water shower and round bathtub, open to a private garden, and a terrace with two Costa Rican wood-and leather rocking chairs looking out onto a glorious garden backed by pristine rain forest.
The view from No. 1 famously appeared in Condé Nast Traveller magazine in its back page “Room with a View” photo feature.
Each bungalow has two double beds draped with colorful cotton spreads. The bungalow windows are screened and each bed has mosquito nets. But the reading lamps are bound to attract the occasional winged creature, or a watchful gecko poised on a bedpost, ready to lunge at an unfortunate moth. And you may find a harmless beetle bobbing in your bath. It’s all part of the Osa experience.
For some guests, despite their wish to be at one with the world, being this close to nature can be a little disquieting and not quite the awakening they were anticipating. During a recent yoga retreat, one of the Boston-based visitors I met was too overwhelmed by the openness of the bungalows and the unfamiliar night sounds to fall asleep.
With less adventurous guests in mind, Wedmore has built three new “hacienda” rooms that share a wide veranda with a forested, sunset view. The comfortable, high ceilinged rooms have closed-in, elegantly tiled ceramic bathrooms, screened windows and ceiling fans. Each has a queen, double or two single beds and dark, rustic furniture.
The new rooms are also just steps away from the restaurant and more suited to guests who find the steep climb to the upper bungalows too physically challenging.
In the past, the food here, included in the room rates, could be kindly described as “ascetic,” suitable for the many vegetarians and dieters among the guests. But this season, the kitchen has had an epiphany, and the food is delicious, even when it’s completely vegetarian.
Most dinners are served buffet-style to accommodate groups, but there are no boring buffet fillers. One night we feasted on spicy, tender chicken in a cashew sauce; crisp and tasty fried tofu; a Parmesan-cheese-flavored mélange of carrots and zucchini; a crunchy Asian slaw; and a mixed salad with creamy avocado dressing. There was rice, but it was a flavorful pilaf, and just-baked spice bread also graced the table. The next night we enjoyed perfectly fried mahi-mahi with a cold mango sauce and roasted rosemary-flavored potatoes. Desserts have improved, too, with tiramisu one night and a chocolate cake the next. Unlike the main courses, though, dessert portions are still tiny.
If you get more pleasure from massages than sweets, you’ve come to the right place.
The new open-sided spa bungalow nestles under the huge yoga platform, with the same glorious view. The decor is eastern, with beautiful painted tiles, carved wooden screens, a floral rug, potted plants and a trickling fountain.
It’s a unique experience to stretch out on the massage table and gaze out at lush, greenery stretching for miles. New-age music plays in the background, augmented by extempore songs of toucans and short-billed pigeons calling “Who cooks for you?”
The massage therapists, trained at the Gaia school in San José, are intense, and tell you at the outset that the massage is part of their own spiritual transformation. Whether or not you’re into the spirituality, you’ll definitely benefit from the physical experience.
For guests who crave activity, the new Vuelta de Oro loop trail was created by a group of visiting students who wrote a trail guide with information on the numbered trees and plants along the short but pleasant trail.
Resident guide Oscar Cordero can keep birders and nature lovers happily occupied for hours. The close-in trail downhill from the new hacienda rooms is bursting with birds. An immature harpy eagle was spotted in the upper garden and captured on camera a couple of years ago, so birders will want to check out the garden.
Hikers can set off with a boxed lunch for a day of vigorous hiking in Corcovado, just a half-hour walk away along the beach. But it’s a steep descent to the beach, preferably done in the lodge’s truck. There’s also a thrilling hike down a steep slope to a waterfall with a swimming hole, right on the Luna property.
But you don’t have to scrabble down a slope or go all the way down to the beach to cool off anymore. The new Luna Lodge swimming pool is an oasis of freshness, shaded by old-growth trees and studded with Zen-inspired pebble patterns. A solar pump and salt system keep it clean and ecological.
It’s the perfect place to cool off after a vigorous hike or yoga practice. Then you can let both body and spirit float, soaking in the sounds and sights of this tropical nirvana, as toucans and monkeys hop around in the trees and the sun sets over the ocean below. Om shanti (“peace and harmony,” más o menos).
Location, Rates and Info
Luna Lodge (380-5036, www.lunalodge.com) is located two kilometers up a very steep, partially paved road from the pulpería in Carate, on the southwestern side of the Osa Peninsula. The per-person rate, double occupancy in a bungalow, is $125, including meals, taxes and waterfall tour; hacienda rooms are $100 per person. Tent accommodations are also available, for $75 per person. For special resident rates, contact Lana at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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