Centro Neotrópico Sarapiquís

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: Water World

    Photo: Corel

Access & Resources

Doubles, $72-$85 per night; 011-506-761-1004, www.sarapiquis.org The outfitter Aventuras del Sarapiquí offers rafting and kayaking for $45 per half-day. 011-506-766-6768, www.sarapiqui.com

DEPRIVED OF WATER AT HOME in the Southwest, my boyfriend and I arrived in Costa Rica craving days on a river and nights soothed by the drumbeat of tropical raindrops on a thatch roof. At the Centro Neotrópico Sarapiquís, a newly opened lodge an hour and a half north of San José on the Sarapiquí River, we won the liquid lottery. Here was a jungle retreat of elegant huts that came with a rambunctious río out the back door.
The Sarapiquí, which leaps and twists from Costa Rica's Cordillera Central north to Nicaragua, flows between the nonprofit lodge and a 750-acre nature reserve, Tirimbina, full of poison-arrow frogs and oddly mobile walking palms. Overshadowed by the better-known Pacuare River, the 20-mile stretch of the Sarapiquí near the lodge is perfect when you're a parched paddler who doesn't want to share.
During our three-day stay we soaked up Class III rapids like Confusion and Gringo Hole in an inflatable two-person rubber duckie. Quiet stretches allowed us to watch three-toed sloths and howler monkeys in trees on the banks.
At each day's end we drained Imperial cervezas in the breezy bar at Neotrópico, which opened in 2000 on 25 acres with nearly as many shades of green. Orchards, gardens, palms, and grass surround four buildings—each a circular, pointy, thatch-roofed, 60-foot-tall palenque. The 24 guest rooms clustered in three of the huts have limestone floors and terraces furnished with carved hardwood chairs. Meals, such as stewed pork with vegetables, are served buffet style in the main palenque. Run by a Belgian foundation, the lodge this fall will have a museum filled with Voto Indian artifacts up to 800 years old and found on-site.
But in the end, the water remained the greatest draw. Days after leaving, my shoes were still damp—the best souvenir of all.

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