The northern part of Costa Rica is where most people want to go. We decided to follow this trend in search of the best eco lodges with activities. Buena Vista Lodge is located in the foothills of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. This is the perfect choice to have it all. Find out more about the lodge, tours, and what to pack for your stay here from our recent visit.
Buena Vista Lodge
Buena Vista definitely looked like a ranch as we pulled up to the entrance. A typical one in fact you would never know it was an eco lodge and activity center.
There is definitely ample parking for it’s guests. From the parking lots you can see the coral filled with horses. I was amazed at just how many there were.
We entered the main building to check in at the reception area. There was a sitting area in the main reception as well as just outside the restaurant. We had a little bit of time to kill before our escorted tour of the property. Coffee was in high demand at this point.
The main restaurant we noticed was quite busy with guests as we sat down at a table close to the entrance. Breakfast is served buffet style including the beverages in the restaurant. Our coffee was very good and hit the spot.
Costa Rica is known for having great coffee. They only export about 1% to other countries. I’m always trying different brands in the country. All are excellent so far except one which I found to be bitter “Triangulo”. This brand you can find in the grocery store. If you try it let me know your opinion in the comments below.
We were greeted after coffee by one of the employees to take us on our tour of the property. First on the list was to see some of the cabins, take extensive notes and photographs.
Our guide led us down the cement pathway between two hotel style areas. The grounds looked beautiful and well-kept which is important to have a well maintained property. We are here at the end of April which is dry season doing our site inspection. The grounds were getting some water from a sprinkler system they use. Lots of natural rivers help with the water supply here.
One thing this country does well is use their resources wisely. Seriously they can make pretty much anything from nothing.
All the pathways were made of cement or paved with signs posted so you know where to go. This is a plus if you have people with mobility issues. No great big hills or stairs to climb.
The property has 2 buildings beside each other that are more like a hotel style with one level. The single cabins are located close by with comfortable furnishings. In each of the rooms is a coffee maker & mini frig. Since it’s a bit of a walk to the main restaurant I think it’s always important to have these amenities in your room.
On the front porch there is a bench if you like to sit with your morning coffee and enjoy the view. We had a chance to view a few of these cabins. What was really nice is each window had a screen on it, so you could leave the window open if you preferred a little fresh air and not worry so much about the mosquitos. However if you are in & out some are bound to get it.
What to do at Buena Vista
There’s lots of activities to do here from horseback riding, hiking on the trails & hanging bridges, zip lining, hot springs, take a ride on the waterslide, or take one of the cultural tours.
To the left off the parking lot you will see many horses in the coral. I’ve never seen a place with so many horses in Costa Rica besides a ranch. According to staff there are 200 of them here. That’s pretty impressive. What that means for you as a guest of the lodge you never have to wait for a horse. All the horses looked in great shape. Their manes were nicely brushed and not matted, and bodies not too skinny so they were definitely well looked after.
You can take a ride through the property or have this combined as part of your adventure day pass.
One of the most popular activities in Costa Rica is zip lining. If you have never tried it, it’s lots of fun. Costa Rica has many places in the country to experience this thrill.
Above is a photo of the harnesses which the staff will put on you. The only issue you may have is size. It’s not the weight that matters but making a harness to fit around your body. Everyone will be suited up with a helmet, 2 gloves, and a pulley which glides on the top of the cable at each platform. Staff are well trained and will follow along with the group throughout your tour.
If you own a GoPro this would be a great opportunity to do a video of your experience. I just bought one so I can’t wait to try it out on my next zip line tour.
If you have anyone who is afraid of heights I would not do this activity. Some places are very high off the ground in Costa Rica like Monteverde. It is super fun for those adventure seekers. I really love it now. My very first-time I was so scared. Now I think it’s amazing especially with all the gorgeous views.
At Buena Vista they have 2 different zip line tours. One with 12 platforms & 7 cables or 13 platforms and 10 cables. Both in my opinion are great especially if it’s your first-time or have younger children. Generally the age of children should be 8 or above to go on the zip lines.
I’m always amazed at how tired you get. My first-time zip lining in Costa Rica was in Miramar on 25 cables with 2 rappels. This I don’t recommend unless you have tons of energy and are a adrenaline junkie. You can watch it on YouTube.
The water slide at Buena Vista is 425 meters long taking you through the jungle forest. I think your kids would love doing this activity. Above are the tubes and helmets used for this part of the tour.
Hiking across the hanging bridges usually gives the opportunity for gorgeous views. There are 6 trails throughout the primary forest for you to experience. Keep your eyes out for wildlife during your hike. Depending on the time of year and location it’s possible to see different animals & birds. The bridges are not the highest in the country here that’s why is a wonderful experience for families. The maximum height is 20 meters, but this still gives you a great experience. If you have the chance to go to Monteverde then you will see some really high hanging bridges.
Sometimes these trails can lead you to amazing waterfalls. The best waterfalls are the ones you can swim in, but don’t be surprised the water is very cold.
Buena Vista has a lot of restaurants spread out on the property, but not all of them are used every day. Above is El Lago which can be used for a wedding or group event. The Jaguar restaurant is the main one serving local and international dishes. This you will see just off the reception area. La Montana is where we enjoyed our lunch. It can be used also for weddings or meetings. The Coati Bar & Restaurant looked more rustic of a ranch style. In here you’ll find a tv if you’re desperate to see what’s going on in the world.
Mirador Bar & Restaurant has got to be my favorite of them all. This is also perfect for a large group. If it’s a casual event, guests can have a game of pool. This is also the best spot to watch the spectacular sunsets.
Next to this building is the coral area which is set up for bull fighting events in the summer months. These events can be planned with notice for your group. In Costa Rica it’s more of a show for the guests and the bulls are not killed like in other countries.
If you plan on having a group trip I would definitely consider Buena Vista. You could combine it with a beach vacation staying at each location for 3 days. Building group activities into your vacation plans adds to your experience.
More about Buena Vista
This eco lodge opened in 1991 with 76 rooms. It’s set close to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Like most parks in Costa Rica they are closed on Mondays. Buena Vista provides a great example of what an eco-lodge should be from how they use their resources, support local communities, and help educate guests.
They grow lots of their own vegetables for the restaurant, however during the busy season purchase some local fruits and vegetables from local farmers. This is still a win win for each business. Hiring local people is also important giving opportunities to help the town.
Our tour guide took us to the garden area and showed an important biodigester building. In here it’s like a giant bag that processes waist and the methane gas can be used for cooking. One of these units I’m told is about $30,000. At Buena Vista they use this for fertilizer and the gas for cooking in the kitchen. TICO’s really are resourceful people.
On the farm they also have a lechuria. Groups can come see how to milk a cow with hands on experience. This helps supply the restaurants on the property with milk, cheese, and other dairy items. During our tour we saw a few birds and an iguana close to the lechuria.
There was another building we visited which is dedicated to education to sustainable use of natural resources. Here Buena Vista makes all the products from soap, oils, and cleaning products used on the farm. This building had work tables and a rack to displaying some of the finished products.
So you can see why we love this property and all the amazing activities they have.
Fresh water pool
Since Buena Vista is not close to the beach it’s important to have a pool for guests. Close to the reception office is the natural water pool with a Jacuzzi and bar area. I think I could sit here lounging by the pool for a few hours. How about you?
In early October of 2017 Buena Vista was struck by tropical storm Nate. This major storm demolished the hot springs area here. Since then it has been rebuilt however the forest surrounding the hot springs will take years to grow back. Buena Vista have done a marvelous job rebuilding this area so far.
You should first try lathering yourself with the volcanic mud it does wonders for you skin. Make sure you shower it off before dipping in one of the pools. This helps keep the pools clean. There is also a small sauna area and plenty of places to sit and relax. Because it’s away from your cabins we suggest you bring everything you need to spend time here.
There are 5 pools with different temperatures. One of the pools is private for guests. In the area are two rivers which help supply the water for the hot springs from the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. The area is still beautiful surrounded by primary forest which is tranquil for visitors.
Costa Rica culture
Coffee is a big part of Costa Rica culture. Below the gentleman was demonstrating how the machine roasts the coffee beans. Off to the side of the machine was an area set up for coffee sampling so make sure to try the different blends if you’re a coffee lover. The best coffee is grown at about 3500 ft on the hillsides.
This lovely lady is wearing a typical dress of Costa Rica. In this area at Buena Vista Lodge they make tortillas, bread, and delicious treats. We had a chance to sample some of the home baking. The bread was my favorite delicious with a little sweetness to it! The dome behind this lovely lady is an oven used for baking.
Because Costa Rica has many different eco systems it’s hard to know what to pack. We suggest some of the following items. If you plan on being by the beach your entire vacations pack more t-shirts, shorts, sundresses. If you plan on being in the mountains or a combination of both add a few more pants and longer sleeve shirts.
- long pants (horseback riding)
- towel & swim suit & hat
- small knapsack or day bag
- refillable water bottle
- hiking shoes
- mosquito repellant
- flip flops
- dry fit clothing
- poncho or rain jacket
- flashlight & batteries
- adapters for electronics
- cameras, Gopro
- tampons or pads (very limited especially at Buena Vista)
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Buena Vista is the perfect example of an eco lodge who provides all the right elements for guests to stay or to come on a day pass. This eco lodge is recommended by us and we wouldn’t hesitate to return or suggest to our family & friends.
Our thoughts are always our own. Our lunch was provided by Buena Vista Lodge.