La Patita de Manzanillo
Two friends and I were staying in a holiday house in the middle of jungle, yet near the beach, in Manzanillo, a small village that locals refer to as ‘the end of the road’, and it quite literally is. It’s right down the bottom of Costa Rica, on the Caribbean coast, nearing the border with Panama.
Having endured some hard days of travel – my friends had come up from Panama, and I had spent about two days travelling from the UK – we were thrilled to arrive at La Patita, a beautiful house sensitively designed and built with native hardwood, situated amongst the coastal jungle, with very little other construction for company.
We couldn’t wait to explore inside and choose whose bedroom would be whose. The wooden kitchen and living area were open-fronted like a veranda, fronted with a sun deck with hammocks and chairs. At the back were a large and a small bedroom with an inter-joining terrace. A staircase with log banisters wound up to a yoga or wildlife-viewing platform under the gables, and another bedroom. The house can sleep a total of nine in the three simply furnished but perfectly comfortable bedrooms, although there’s only one shower, so prepare for battles after a sticky day at the beach.
After we had all agreed to sleep in the large top-floor bedroom – by far the best, with windows on all sides to view the jungle, and a handy en suite toilet – we eagerly grabbed the bikes provided at the house and headed off down the track to the beach. Soon we were greeted with the glimmer of the Caribbean through the trees ahead of us, and we abandoned the bikes and ran straight down to the sea.
Our days were spent cycling and walking around the local area, including a longer ride to Puerto Viejo – the nearest town, with a bigger choice of restaurants, shops and internet access – although we managed perfectly to pick up all our supplies from the supermarket in Manzanillo.
The nature reserve of Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo was a mere 10-minute bike ride away and we trekked through the lush forest for an hour to reach the deserted sweep of Punta Mona beach, spotting sloths, pelicans, monkeys and Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs along the way. Another day, we went to the Buttercup Sloth Sanctuary at Cahuita and cooed at rescued baby sloths. But really, we saw the most fauna when we were just sitting still in La Patita. There was a regular background soundtrack from the howler monkeys, while toucans, woodpeckers and tanagers were active in the tree branches around the house, a sloth hung around in a tree down the road, hummingbirds flitted above our dining table, and in the evening we were visited by crickets and other curious beasties, but best of all were the fireflies. We would lie in the hammocks, gazing up at the night sky, not sure whether we were looking at shooting stars or illuminated bugs as they darted around.
We cooked most nights, simply enjoying the novelty of an almost outdoors, yet fully equipped kitchen – “It’s like luxury camping!” Craig remarked as he made us tropical-fruit smoothies. One night we cycled along the pitch-black road, with torches precariously clutched in one hand, to the reputed Maxi’s restaurant in Manzanillo, where we ate tasty red snapper and supped Pina Coladas to reggae beats.
The highlight of the whole stay for me came on our last day, when we rode horses along the beach – something I’d always dreamt of doing, and a cinch to organise thanks to the extremely friendly and helpful caretaker of the house – William. He accompanied us on the ride and even stopped to provide us with refreshment – he lopped down a coconut for each of us, making drinking holes with his machete.
We found it hard to leave La Patita de Manzanillo, our own little wildlife refuge.
The rate for La Patita de Manzanillo is US$1,100/week. Rachel and her friends stayed courtesy of HomeAway, the vacation rental website with over 185,000 holiday homes to choose from. See www.homeaway.com.
Author: Rachel Ricks