I’m a high-end hotel aficionado. I love nothing more than turndown service; crisply starched high-thread-count sheets; frigid air-conditioning; and the way my room is magically transformed into pristine condition while I’m away from it. So, needless to say, camping is not my thing. Pitching a tent; sleeping in a bag on the ground… no, thanks. Let others romanticize sleeping under stars; I’d rather glimpse them from the comfort of my climate-controlled suite.
Which is why I had reservations about staying at Kinkara, an eco-friendly resort in the southern portion of Costa Rica, where tracts of tropical forest are encircled by imposing mountain peaks and punctuated with a clutch of—you guessed it—canvas tents.
Still, as the six-seater plane I’d boarded from San Jose International Airport touched down on Kinkara’s grass airstrip, I couldn’t help but be excited. Lush foliage rushed up to meet us as we landed, followed swiftly by my host, Edison, who offered a warm smile; a chilled towel (now we’re talking!); and an earthenware cup of refreshing hibiscus tea Costa Ricans call Jamaica.
As we walked through the resort’s handsome clubhouse, Casa Bulú, Edison briefed me on the activities I could do during my stay. Between swimming in the river and several waterfalls on the property; running and biking mountain trails and touring the resort’s farm, I wouldn’t be bored. I could reconnect with my inner self during a traditional sweat lodge ceremony in the on-site temazacal or get blissed out and bendy in yoga classes in the open-air pavilion, El Morén. “Here, everything is peaceful,” Edison said. “It’s easy to find yourself.”
Indeed, I thought. But first, let’s find my tent.
It was, as it turned out, a delightful surprise. One of 20 two-person tents in the Mandala Village (there are six more that sleep up to four in the Family Village), my “room” was simply but comfortably furnished, with a queen bed and bedside table, luggage rack, a hanging rack for clothing, and straw matting underfoot. Minus a TV and air-conditioning (which I didn’t miss since temps here, 3,000 feet above sea level, were pleasantly cool), it had all the comforts of a typical hotel room. Well, except for one thing.
“The bath houses are just nearby,” Edison said, as if sensing my apprehension. Truth be told, the bathroom was what I’d been most nervous about. When I’m out and about, I’ve been known to “hold it” for hours rather than answer the call of nature communally. But the facilities, about a four-minute walk through the garden, were models of contemporary convenience and scrupulously maintained. Instead of the rustic lavatory I’d been dreading, each light-filled bath house (one for each sex) had four toilets; a mirrored vanity with four vessel sinks; and an equal number of open-air showers with locally sourced organic body products. Hooray! Now I could eat!
And over the next few days I certainly did, feasting with abandon on the bounty from Kinkara’s organic farm, which supplies 80 percent of the food served. Days filled with activities—running the airfield, swimming in the creek, and traipsing over rugged, jungle-carpeted hills on a day trip to the magnificent cascade at Eco Chontales waterfall—stimulated my appetite.
At breakfast, I’d fuel up with a bountiful spread of tropical fruit; house-baked hemp and passionfruit muffins; tamales; and rice and beans, enjoyed family-style with fellow guests. When lunchtime rolled around, the farm-fresh offering of starfruit salad, roast chicken with polenta and vegetable ragout filled the gap. And at dinner under a marquee strung with glowing lights, the homegrown harvest on my plate (and a house-made cacao dessert) was a flavorful and nourishing reward. Perhaps I could get used to this …
But all too soon, it was time to fly home. And as the prop plane soared toward the Pacific coast, leaving Kinkara in the jet stream, I reflected on my brief stay. I’d seen majestic jungle waterfalls; discovered I loved golden milk (a soothing hot drink made with turmeric grown on site); and that I’d never love kombucha. Most important, I realized that camping isn’t so bad when you don’t have to pitch the tent yourself, sleep on the ground, or “go” in the woods. And, as for turndown … well, I was shocked to realize I hadn’t missed that at all.
(From $190 double occupancy in low season; $240 in high.)