San Gerardo de Dota is arguably one of the few remaining Costa Rican tourism hot spots that has not skewed the entirety of its image to cater to tourists. It does, however, have quite a few hotels, lodges, cabinas and quasi-resorts that work very hard to bring in those in search of the elusive quetzal, some good trout fishing or lush hiking trails.
Located in southern Costa Rica’s Los Santos region, San Gerardo is nestled at the bottom of a deeply carved valley in the Talamanca Mountains. The town itself is scattered up and down a gorgeous stretch of the Savegre River, a crystal-clear haven for fishing enthusiasts.
San Gerardo has remained full of the unique brand of Tico charm that lies in its people, specifically, the typical Costa Rican families that live here. One such family, the Arayas, runs Suria Mountain Lodge, one of the several places to stay in town. The lodge offers everything the other places in town do; what sets it apart is the Araya family’s personalized service and charm. Doña Hilda, the matriarch, sincerely wants her guests to have an enjoyable and memorable experience in her lodge and town, and will work hard to see they do just that.
The lodge has five spacious cabinas, each offering comfy beds, tall ceilings, thick blankets and storage shelves. The private bathrooms come with hot water, and everything is immaculate. Outside, a rambling garden sprawls in between the cabinas, complete with vivid floral assortments and a calming fountain as a centerpiece.
Suria doesn’t feel like a place you are just crashing at for a night – it feels like home.
This is primarily thanks to the hard work of doña Hilda and her family. When the soft spoken doña Hilda welcomes you, you feel immediately and genuinely welcome. You can expect to feel like part of the Araya family during a stay at Suria.
This welcomed feeling is a product of the personalized service offered here. Small group quetzal-watching expeditions are available (if you are with doña Hilda, chances are you will see a quetzal), as well as horseback riding to area waterfalls and nature hikes, on which a member of the Araya family (aka the staff) will point out the intricate details of the animal and plant life around you, such as tanagers, woodpeckers and hummingbirds fluttering about the local flora. The family members don’t act as guides, but rather as people who are just eager to show you what they know. And as a visitor to this gorgeous area, you’ll want to pay attention.
Rates are $40-50 per person, per night, including three meals a day.Meals are typical of the region,meaning delicious and large. A choice of fresh trout or chicken is offered at most meals, along with a variety of choices of beverages, salads, fruits and vegetables.
My personal recommendation is the trout, fresh out of one of the trout ponds found throughout the valley. Considering the generous portions and quality of the food, the included meals are a good value.
Many tour packages are offered in San Gerardo de Dota, based mainly out of the Savegre Mountain Hotel. These range from coffee-picking excursions to birdwatching hikes and flyfishing trips. Suria offers many of the same trips, tours and excursions, such as guided hikes to the summit of Cerro de la Muerte and to the Savegre River waterfalls.
Also recommended are the tours of the local apple orchards and, of course, the quetzal spotting expeditions.
San Gerardo de Dota is a great place to enjoy nature. It boasts beautiful forests, rambling brooks, cascading waterfalls, pleasant horseback rides, exciting quetzal watching, and world-class trout fishing. Suria Mountain Lodge takes what San Gerardo has to offer and gives it to you the way it is mean to be enjoyed: via a caring Costa Rican family.