The Affordable Caribbean!

 February 21st, 2011 |    Tine and René

by Tom Keller & Zoe Courtier, Geckoes Lodge, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Most of us equate the Caribbean with breathtaking beaches, tropical cocktails at sunset and dinner on a balmy veranda with a hibiscus tucked behind one ear.

It’s a glamorous destination and who hasn’t dreamed of being there? But most of us think we can’t afford it and carry on dreaming.

However, here is the good news. There is a Caribbean which has it all without the hefty price tag.

The east coast of Costa Rica, or the ‘rich coast’ as coined by Columbus, is your affordable Caribbean.

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, with Puerto Viejo village as its centre, remains untouched by the larger developers, a bonus if you value originality and personal service. While the tourist majority flock to the resorts on the west coast, small scale development on this coast means more rainforest and beach to yourself.

And oh, what rainforest… this is the Caribbean experience gone wild. Imagine the archetypal image of the Garden of Eden and you’re coming close. We’re not talking a few tropical plants and trees with manicured lawns. This is a cornucopia of botany with metre-long flowers and trees that drip Tarzan vines, running parallel to the coast and at points even dipping into the ocean.

A stunning backdrop to any beach even without adding the inhabitants. But there they are to complete your picture… the howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots and the magnificent Blue Morpho butterfly are just a few frequently seen from a beach towel.

A strip of coastline stretching to the border of Panama, Costa Rica’s east coast also has everything you expect from the traditional Caribbean experience: palm-fringed white sandy beaches with azure seas to snorkel, dive or just laze around in, restaurants with a variety of cuisines for seaside dining and eclectic villages to stroll around, each with their own characters and tropical colours.

If such hedonism begins to pall there is an array of activities on offer … horseback riding along rainforest trails or the ocean, dolphin watching followed by a Snapper fish supper, a canopy tour to view the rainforest at monkey level, white-water rafting the Rio Pacuare for an adrenaline rush, or learning to surf the world-famous Salsa Brava … and that’s all just for starters.

If you’re feeling less energetic try Jaguar Rescue Centre to ‘get up close and personal’ with baby howlers and sloths, an Organic Chocolate tour (with tasting of course), being dazzled with tropical flowers at the Botanical garden, or being pampered completely at the ‘Pure Jungle’ spa.

And of course there’s always the option of just lying in your hammock watching the toucans over the top of your book.

Whatever you choose to do on whatever day of the year you can be sure that you won’t be one of the masses. What you won’t find on this coast are crowds, tour buses and large groups. Even many renowned guidebooks and websites concentrate exclusively on the other coast so that most have no idea that the Caribbean coast has its own micro climate. With no distinct dry or wet season and hurricane-free, this coast has an average temperature of 27 degrees C and the sun shines most days of the year. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is still a secret to many and maybe that’s the best news of all.

Puerto Viejo and the hamlets of Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo are dotted within a few minutes of each other along this coast and offer numerous accommodation options. Whether you fancy a hammock at Rocking J’s, a thatched cabana at Costa de Papito, a wood house at Finca Chica, a beach suite at Tree House or a luxurious house with your own private plunge pool at Geckoes Lodge, there are choices to suit your style and budget.

So the next time you dream Caribbean, Dream Costa Rica Caribbean.

Tom Keller & Zoe Courtier own, manage and live at Geckoes Lodge in Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Practising the principles of sustainable development, we spent two years creating ‘Geckoes’ which has 2 luxury holiday houses with private plunge pools set in two hectares of beautiful rainforest. Geckoes is a place to ‘get away from it all’ but have spectacular beaches and all amenities close by.

Keeping our business small enables Geckoes to offer privacy and personal service in stunning surroundings. The houses are designed around the landscape rather than vice versa, minimising the environmental impact and as a consequence, there is plenty of bird and animal life for the visitor to enjoy.

Feel Free: Holiday in Barefoot Luxury at Geckoes Lodge.