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Tree House Lodge 3.0

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Province of Limon, Costa Rica

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Atmospheric tree-house-like guest houses with artistic woodwork built into the surrounding jungle
  • Spacious, family-sized accommodations with full kitchens, outdoor decks, and open-air hot tubs
  • Whimsical bathrooms individually decorated with undersea themes
  • Location within 10 acres of Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge
  • Private oceanfront access to Punta Uva beach, one of the region's best 
  • On-site green iguana habitat with iguana conservation tours (for a fee)
  • Yoga, Pilates, and Tae-Bo fitness classes
  • Massage services upon request
  • Laundry services available
  • Free Wi-Fi and parking
  • Free welcome breakfast (first day only)

Cons

  • No pool
  • No air-conditioning 
  • Tree-top rooms can get hot and stuffy
  • Fee for breakfast after the first day
  • Stony paths are difficult to navigate with luggage 
  • Interiors tend to be dimly lit

Bottom Line

An exceptional property, the Tree House Lodge gives guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature: either lolling on the beach, exploring the jungle habitat, or sleeping in tree-top rooms. The mid-range property takes up 10 acres inside the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Countless animals skitter through the jungle grounds -- there's even an iguana habitat on site. The eco-lodge has direct access to Punta Uva, a top beach in the area. The five spacious guest houses have full kitchens, backyard decks, and hot tubs, but it's their stunning construction, drawing on nature and folding around trees, that casts a spell. Rooms can get hot, and there's no air-conditioning, so guests will need to cool off with ocean breezes. Travelers determined to book accommodations with a pool could try the Lizard King Hotel Resort.

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Scene

A sprawling 10-acre wildlife refuge with guest houses scattered amongst the foliage by the ocean front 

The hand-lettered Spanish sign on the gate reads "Welcome to our Paradise," which perfectly conveys this intimate little oasis. Guests can either lounge in sun, surf and sand or disconnect from their everyday world in the solitude of the jungle -- or both. The eco-lodge provides private, direct access to one of the area's top beaches, Punta Uva, where the sands are clean, white, quiet and uninterrupted by other tourists. And with just a handful of houses scattered across 10 acres of lush jungle and separated by long, tree-shaded pathways, it's easy for guests to feel peaceful seclusion. The lodge provides a true nature lover's experience: Sloths, monkeys, agouti, exotic birds, lizards, and other animals are often seen crawling and scurrying about in the high palms, bamboo shoots, Sangrillo trees, and small water channels stemming throughout the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge locale. Additionally, the gated Green Iguana Foundation -- a mini natural reserve built to protect the species -- is located right in the center of the grounds. Small plaques throughout the grounds contain little educational facts about the surrounding flora and fauna (even the mosquitos!). The lobby -- an open-air, palapa-fringed hut strewn with lanterns -- looks straight out of Robinson Crusoe. And that tree-fort look pervades throughout the property and its guest houses. The combination of woodsy nature and ocean breezes attracts families or large groups of friends.

Location

Right along the famous Punta Uva beach, a little ways south of Puerto Viejo

While not in the heart of the action, Tree House Lodge is located about a 12-minute drive away from Puerto Viejo's busy town center. It's housed within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge with ocean front access to Punta Uva beach. Another beach option is Playa Chiquita, a nine-minute walk from Tree House Lodge. Other nearby attractions include the Parada Jaguar Center, Cahuita National Park, and the Sloth Sanctuary. The international airport is four hours away.

  • Four-minute drive to Parada Jaguar Center
  • 30-minute drive to Cahuita National Park
  • 41-minute drive to the Sloth Sanctuary
  • Four-hour drive to Juan Santamaria International Airport

Rooms

Individually decorated guest houses with artisanal woodwork, flame heated hot tubs, and enchanting bathrooms 

Every guest house at the lodge is individually decorated, but they all have marvelously artistic woodwork and imaginative ornamentation. Five houses -- the Beach Suite, the Tree House, the Beach House, the Garden House, and the Crystal House -- are spread out along stony pathways with huge chunks of vegetation between them for maximum privacy. Beds are admittedly bare bones, covered by mosquito nets and topped with an extra fleece blanket, but apart from that consistency, each house varies in construction. The Tree House, for example, is built around 100-year-old Sangrillo trees, with an open-air living room, bathroom, and full kitchen; a wooden bridge leads up to bedrooms higher up in the trees. Like every other house, there's a quaint terrace out back with couches, tables, chairs and benches, a barbecue area, and a flame-heated hot tub in the shape of a cooking pot with a lid. The open layout here can feel exposed, but it isn't within direct line of sight of any neighboring buildings. 

The Beach Front House is even more sophisticated in terms of interior design. It's spacious, airy, and built entirely from fallen Nispero trees. A winding wooden staircase takes you from the lower level -- with a living room, bathroom, a daybed, and full kitchen area -- to the small upstairs bedroom with a queen-size bed, a built-in set of drawers, low hanging wall hooks and a balcony view of the kitchen below. This room can get stuffy, due to its high location and the lack of air-conditioning. A cooler spot would be the front porch, with oblong-shaped wooden tables, bar stools, benches, and hammocks. 

The Beach Suite plays up the jungle-living fantasy to the hilt. The house's patchwork stone exterior is looped by bright yellow coral-like railings leading up to a gorgeous balcony with jungle views. The living room, kitchen, and top floor bedroom have a similar but slightly more spacious layout to the Beach Front House. A huge yellow dome holding the bathroom is attached to the side. 

Bathrooms within the homes of Tree House Lodge are a world unto themselves. In the Tree House, the bathroom is open-air, with toilets and a shower built into a tree trunk. The Beach House has a cavernous bathroom crafted entirely from stone with bright accent plants, a shower bench, two waterfall showerheads, and a translucent roof. But the real showstopper is the Beach Suite -- an arched stone bathroom perforated with circular colored-glass windows that light up like a disco ball. The tan stone floors and stairs are flanked by a cobalt-blue mosaic serpent on one side and a purple seahorse statue on the other. There's even a jetted stone tub to soak in the kaleidoscope colors. Note: There’s little privacy here; showers are doorless and even the bathroom entrance itself doesn't technically have a door.

Features

One of the area's top beaches, a nature preserve, and fitness classes

The lodge’s star feature is the Punta Uva beach, considered one of the top beaches in the area for white-sand lounging and safe swimming. Aside from being beautiful, it doesn't have strong rip tides like the others in the region. However, there’s no lifeguard on duty. The other major attraction is the jungle wildlife. Iguana Conservation Tours are offered twice a week, where guests can visit a micro-habitat to see and safely interact with the endangered Green Iguana.

Tree House Lodge also has a commitment to personal health. There is no actual gym, but guests can take yoga, Pilates, belly dancing, and Tae-Bo classes seven days a week. There's no spa either, but massage services are available upon request in the Rancho's back room. In terms of free features, Wi-Fi and parking is provided, but breakfast is only free on the first day. After that, morning meals cost a small fee per person.

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Address

200 meters south of primary school in Playa Chiquita, Punta Uvs, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca 7304, Costa Rica

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