San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lagunas de Mombacho Offers Rustic Tourism

NANDAIME – Some places in the world are so enchanting the way Mother Nature made them, the less humans try to do to “improve” it, the better.

Lagunas de Mombacho, a private forest reserve on the skirts of Mombacho Volcano, is one of those unique, unspoiled places that tourists who are lucky enough to discover don’t want to share with others.And Roberto Mejía, owner of the sprawling finca, is wise enough to know that what he’s got doesn’t need to be fiddled with.

“This is rustic tourism,”Mejía says, swinging from a hammock tied to a tree on the banks of the idyllic Laguna Juan Tayo, one of five untouched lagoons on his 1,200-acre property.

Mejía said it was his son and daughter who, upon returning several years ago from universities in the United States and Europe, urged him to turn the family finca into a rustic type of agro-tourism destination.

“But then they left and got other jobs and left me with the project,” he says with a laugh.

Mejía, however, got it right on his own. He realized that for rural tourism, less is more.

So he set up a couple of thatched roofed palapas on the edge of Juan Tayo Lagoon, tied up a few hammocks, installed a small grill and let nature take care of the rest.

The trip to Laguna Juan Tayo is a 30-minute ride on horseback along a shaded dirt road that winds up and down through teak plantations, virgin forest and cattle fields. Along the way, visitors can see an array of colorful birds, butterflies and – if really lucky – a deer or even a tigrillo, or wild cat.

For those uncomfortable around horses, the roughly 4 kilometer road can also be hiked, and an alternative route is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Once at the lagoon, those who arrived on horse are rewarded with a dip in the clean and soothing waters lined by trees filled with barking howler monkeys and exotic birds.

Lagunas de Mombacho also offers a package deal that includes a typical – and extremely delicious – campesino lunch of grilled chicken, plantain, beans, cheese and salad.

Those who want to do it on their own can bring their own picnic lunch and eat on the wooden tables set up under the palapas on the lagoon’s shore.

Really adventurous travelers can stake a tent on the shore of the lagoon for a rustic night of camping under the stars, for no additional cost.

“We aren’t offering much infrastructure, so we don’t charge people extra if they want to spend the night,”Mejía said.

How to Get There

The turnoff to Lagunas de Mombacho is at Kilometer 71 of the Carretera Nandaime-Rivas, located 35 kilometers south of Granada. After the turnoff, follow the dirt road for another 6 kilometers until you get to the sign for Lagunas de Mombacho.

Lagunas de Mombacho also offers transportation from Granada. A full-package tour (transportation from Granada, horses for the day and a big lunch at the lagoon) costs $30 per person. Those who arrive to the farm on their own can rent horses for the day for $20. Prices are flexible for groups, but reservations should be made at least 24 hours in advance for groups planning to have lunch there.

For reservations, call don Roberto at his home office in Granada 552-4845, or at the Laguna on his cell phone 886-5626.




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