We chose Hotel de Campo as our base for exploring Refugio Caño Negro.
Caño Negro in the Northern part of Province Alajuela is not where the average tourist goes after he arrives by plane in San José, Costa Rica. Animal and bird watching was our reason or just a keen interest in the landscape and the way of life in the border zone to Nicaragua. Other travelers come here for the fishing season. Don’t let you be deterred by the distance or by the relatively difficult access. The best access is from Highway 35, turning left on a dirt road a few miles south of Los Chiles. The unpaved road from Upala is much more painful. An all-wheel drive car is better.
Our first impression of the Refugio was a sleepy woman closing the park one hour before the official closing time. Yes, May is definitely the touristic low season! We already had heard that at the beginning of the rain season the water level is low, and even very low due to the lasting drought this year, but we still were surprised of how much smaller the remaining lakes (“lagunas”) were than what is shown on the map.
After carrying the baggage in one of the nice casitas of Hotel de Campo (bungalows with two rooms each) facing the swimming pool, we decided to go for a walk to explore the hotel grounds. There was a horse feeding in the foreground, a lake in the background. Romantic! We approached the water outside the hotel grounds. Waterfowl and a multitude of other birds invited us to continue close to the water. And … we almost stepped on a caiman, about 4 feet long. Despite the scare we continued along the lake, but now with more caution. Later we were told that these giant lizards don’t attack.
Back in the garden of the hotel we watched colorful birds and then tried the swimming pool. The shower installed on the outside wall of our casita came handy. Our room had all what was needed. AC worked fine, but we had to keep the door closed also because of mosquitos. No WiFi in the room; it worked in the reception area.
In the evening we enjoyed dinner in the restaurant with its heavy timber furniture. The European kind of food was quite good, but not exceptional. From the nearby hotel entrance there was the relaxing sound of a water fountain running over one of the mystic stone sculptures decorating the hotel grounds.
All staff was very friendly and helpful. We had a chance to practice our Spanish, but later we spoke with the owner who happens to be Swiss-Italian. He speaks several languages, and provided us with a lot of information on the region, the wildlife and also agricultural aspects (Large forest areas destroyed to plant pineapples in monoculture. Costa Rica, you are not always very eco-friendly!).
The absolute highlight of our stay was the morning boat tour booked at the hotel. We were surprised to see our tour guide being the waiter at our dinner the night before. But he did an excellent job also in this new role, pointing out so many species of birds, lizards and river turtles on Rio Frio. In one of the lagunas we encountered about a hundred caimans, white egrets and herons. Together with the guide we were only three persons on the boat. The price was all right for us. Two recommendations: Make it a private tour. In a group on a larger boat it is harder to move around to take pictures. And bring a good zoom or telephoto camera. You will bring back some of the best wildlife shots of your life.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel de Campo is situated in a beautiful property of 50.000 Sq mtrs completely dedicated to conservation with 80 species of tropical fruit trees, decorative plants, medical trees and plants, forest and trails surrounded by the unique Costa Rican nature. The property is facing 300 mtrs of Cano Negro lagoon and refuge. The Outdoors center hotel offers comfortable rooms with private baths, fans, A/C, hot water. The rooms are large, with top quality finishing, including fine woods and terracotta floors, to make you feel at home. The bar and restaurant are in a beautiful rustic structure. The rooms and swimming pool are located in a spacious green area in the shade of tropical fruit trees and flowers. ... more less
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