Fine, sustainable lodgings mixed with authentic experiences are in the DNA of Costa Rica, and Rico Tours president Leigh Ann Cloutier is excited about the country’s newest: Chayote Lodge (chayotelodge.com).
“Chayote took the ‘soul’ of the coffee region and transformed it into a unique experience for travelers,” she told me during our recent stay, and “for many clients, getting to know a country up-close and personal, particularly being able to interact with local folks, is essential to their travel priorities. Chayote provides this, and with close proximity to the San Jose International Airport, it fits in well at the beginning or the end of an itinerary.”
Located in the cool cloud forests of the Central Valley, perched hilltop at 5,800 ft., Chayote Lodge is surrounded by dairy farms and coffee plantations, inspiring the Inn’s fitting theme—coffee culture.
For starters, 12 really spacious bungalows architecturally replicate recibidores—receiving stations for coffee cherries on the way to the mill. All double-sink, bathroom and shower facilities are on the entry level, while two steps down are carved wood beds (with mattresses imported from the U.S.), and a sitting area with a table in the shape of a huge coffee bean. Beyond, there are glass doors, and big decks with spectacular views to Poas, Barva and Irazu volcanoes. Enjoying the same panorama is the main building hosting a
gather-round fireplace, bar, restaurant and terrace cafe.
Activities are designed to introduce guests to an authentic Costa Rican lifestyle and culture. Yes, you can hike to Toro Amarillo Waterfall, go birdwatching with the resident guide, look into the caldera of the Poas Volcano National Park, or go ziplining. Alternatively, they can take a Viva Naranjo excursion with a coffee tour, a local market visit and lunch, a private estate garden tour, or perhaps a cooking session with Dona Elida; on Sundays, join the locals at the big old disco in Sarchi for an afternoon of merengue and samba, with a timeout for a snack. On my first Chayote evening, the super-engaging hotel staff gathered up guests to walk down to the village (population 400) bar to catch the broadcast of the regional soccer match between Alajuela and Heredia (the winner). And an unexpected bonus: the next day the village celebrated the feast day of the patron saint of the farmers with a cattle auction and a procession of Costa Rica’s famous painted carts. Deluxe bungalows are priced from $250 for two, including breakfast. –Carla Hunt