Tree-shrouded Balinese-style villas perch above the sparkling Pacific waters at Oxygen Jungle Villas in Uvita, a fine base for visiting the marine preserve that is a haven for humpback whales seven months of the year. The minimalist estate is set on a large plot of protected rainforest, with plenty of nooks where guests can soak up Costa Rica’s natural splendour.
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Welcome drinks and a daily breakfast with your choice of coffee or tea and a natural juice
Double rooms from £110.37 ($136), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per booking prior to arrival.
Rates include a full breakfast of homemade bread and marmalade, seasonal fruit, coffee and orange juice.
The hotel looks down on the Whale’s Tail, a long sandbar that indeed looks like a tail. At low tide, the bar is an ideal spot for swimming, snorkelling and spotting marine life.
At the hotel
Spa, yoga pavilion, free WiFi in the Clubhouse. In rooms: iPod dock, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Villa 3 is close to the main clubhouse, but set apart with a stunning panorama of the Pacific Ocean and thick vegetation that lures brightly coloured toucans. The remote Villa 12 is the most private,close to the yoga pavilion and the path that leads to the property’s small waterfall.
Surrounded by teak decking, rattan sunloungers and a few large Buddha statues, the unheated, stone-lined infinity pool faces the Pacific.
Binoculars will help you catch a glimpse of the humpback whales that mate in the coves below. Surf wax and a rash shirt are essential for conquering the world-famous waves at nearby Dominical. The bathrooms have minimal bath products, so bring your own stash.
Take a table near to the mountain in the mornings for shade. At dinner, tables by the pool have the best ambience.
Sundresses, shorts and sandals. The sun is strong by mid-morning, so wear swimsuits underneath your breakfast attire, for a post-breakfast dip in the pool.
O2 Restaurant serves a five-course surprise menu each night in its an open-air dining room, overlooking the pool. Those who have tired of Costa Rica’s fruit- and vegetable-rich cuisine will appreciate the break: the kitchen focuses on more international-style dishes with a focus on local produce. There's a simple breakfast included, but it's worth splashing out for some top local day-starters, such as pulled-pork pupusas, strawberry pancakes with spiced butter or house banana bread with loquat jelly.
You'll find the bar staff happliy mixing tropical cocktails at the breezy poolside bar with fine views over the Pacific. The welcome drink, a blended papaya cocktail, is not to be missed.
1,5 km Noroeste del Catarata Uvita, Camino de Sueños
Uvita de Osa
Oxygen Jungle Villas is located in Uvita on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Palmar Sur, a 30-minute drive, is the nearest airport. Sansa (www.flysansa.com) operates a flight from San Jose International Airport. Nature Air (www.natureair.com) flies from San Jose Municipal Airport.
Confident drivers can navigate the roads, though a 4x4 is mandatory. The scenic drive from San Jose takes about four hours – once you're in Uvita, take the road past the BCR Bank in town and follow the signs saying 'O2.' Palmar Sur airport has rental cars available, and there’s parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hike 10 minutes down the trail to the local waterfall, which is also a natural swimming hole. Dominical is a renowned surfing spot; pick up boards from South Wave Surf Shop (+506 2787 0260; www.southwave-surfshop.com); they’re available for multiday rental, then surf the robust swells. Newer surfers can enroll in classes through Domincal Surf Adventures (+506 2787 0431; www.dominicalsurfadventures.com). The nearby Rancho la Merced Wildlife Refuge (www.rancholamerced.com) offers horseback riding, birdwatching tours and ‘cowboy for a day’ excursions, where visitors learn ranching skills, including roping cattle.
Neighbouring town Ojochal, a 20-minute drive, is known for its excellent dining. Citrus (+506 2786 5175) is an upscale restaurant with great seafood and cocktails. Under a thatched roof, Exotica (+506 2786 5050) takes advantage of the local produce to serve French-Canadian fare, brightened with tropical fruits.
On the road to Dominical, Sushi Dominical (+506 8826 7946), across from South Wave Surf Shop, serves exceptionally fresh fish, often with tropical accoutrements. It is open for lunch and dinner. An isthmus location with Pacific views on two sides make La Parcella (+506 2787 0016) – on the main road from the hotel to Dominical – the best place in the region for sunset cocktails. Order an ice-cold beer and a pescado entero, a whole fried fish.
Just north of Uvita, the ceviche stands along Hermoso Beach serve lime-marinated fish (pescado), shrimp (camarones) or a mix of the two. The inexpensive, refreshing snack comes with soda crackers. Order a whole coconut (or pipa fria) if you want to wash down your fish with fresh coconut water.
I first fell for Costa Rica five years ago, and finally returned this year for one whole health-focused month to learn more about raw food, practice yoga and immerse myself in nature. I'd also made certain that there'd be plenty of relaxation on the agenda, too. In particular, a weekend spent at Oxygen Jungle Villas – a boutique hotel hidden deep within a protected swath of rainforest – with my Mr Smith.
Hopeless romantics take note: there was no Mr Smith on the scene when I left my hometown of London for Costa Rica. We met on the first day of a raw food and yoga retreat, and our friendship quickly blossomed into something more (we blame all the raw chocolate), taking us both by surprise. The chance to steal away to a romance-revving retreat before Mr Smith was due to fly home to Berlin, seemed like the ideal way to end our time together in the jungle. Perhaps this was another sign that fate was on our side…
We left the sleepy beach town of Uvita and embarked on a short, uphill ride through the dense rainforest to our treetop-skimming hotel. It was a bumpy jaunt at points, but any tensions quickly disappeared when we were greeted with a soothing papaya cocktail (delicious, alcohol-free ones made just for us) upon arrival.
We were treated to a quick spin through the tranquil grounds on the way to our villas, taking a peek at the breezy bar and restaurant, awash in white with natural slate and limestone accents. The infinity pool and deck, with its straight-shot view of the turquoise ocean through the parted palm trees, was tempting, but we couldn't wait to see our room.
A winding path dense with flora led to Villa 12, the last and most secluded of the dozen Balinese-style bungalows – and it was all ours. We instantly felt hundreds of miles from civilization – well, unless you consider the darting geckos underfoot or the small monkeys bouncing playfully between the thick trees overhead.
Being an interior designer I can’t help but scrutinize over every detail. The villas were light and airy, a mix of natural materials – responsibly sourced timber, glossy marble floors, natural stone, glass – all in harmony with the surroundings. In the ensuite, glass partitions separated the shower and WC, and the washbasins were carved from large hunks of basaltina. The villa as set with dark, Indonesian-style furniture – the stand-out piece being an inviting four-poster bed draped with cool white netting.
Linen and cotton drapes, in soft shades of chalk and taupe, rustled in the breeze, and the clever use of glass blurred the boundaries between the interior space and the tropical forest outside. Stepping out onto the private terrace, we collapesed on the long white sofa, which was the perfect perch for zoning out to the natural jungle soundtrack. I was impressed.
Being raw foodists, Mr Smith and I are considered fussy eaters by most. During our time at the retreat, we’d existed solely on leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, cacao and all manner of super foods – from maca to mushroom extracts – making us unusual diners.
We’d been completely inspired by raw living and the enormous benefits we’d experienced (abundant energy, amazing digestion, heightened mental clarity and glowing skin), so we were determined to maintain our raw diet as much as possible. Thankfully, the hotel was more than willing to accommodate us.
We feasted on leafy salads, creamy guacamole and deep-green juices. They didn't even bat an eyelash as we heaped spoonfuls of berries, cacao and high-nutrition powders into our juices, smoothies and on top of salads. By the way, spirulina powder turns most any drink the darkest shade of jungle green. Sure, we aspire to being raw vegans eventually, but the fresh ceviche was so gorgeous that we discovered couldn’t quite let go of fish just yet. Not here, anyway.
One way we exerted our newfound energy was by making treks to the waterfalls on the hotel’s property, which are not to be missed. Following a path thick with vegetation, we reached a clearing with a series of spilling waterfalls. Completely immersed in the rainforest, we shed our layers and took the plunge into the natural pool formed by these cascading fountains. Romantic and relaxing, this spot was a true slice of heaven.
Could Mr Smith and I have been placed anywhere better than this secluded retreat to spend our last weekend together? We think not – Oxygen Jungle Villas is the textbook definition of paradise. Sure, he lives in Berlin and I live in London, but we knew this wasn’t the end (plane tickets for a visit have already been booked). We’re pretty certain that our whirlwind weekend in the jungle was just the first chapter in our story…