Though opening a new ecolodge during a pandemic may seem less than ideal, studies also show that now, more than ever, travelers appreciate destinations that combine nature, wide-open spaces and privacy — and they’re willing to pay for those luxuries.
In that sense, the timing of Cielo Lodge’s May 2021 grand opening couldn’t be more perfect, according to Nicole Goldstein, co-owner of the luxury eco-lodge in Golfito, Costa Rica, which was recently named to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2021 Hot List and Travel + Leisure’s 2021 It List.
Set among 380 acres of lush rainforest overlooking the waters of Golfo Dulce, Cielo Lodge is a mountain hideaway offering an intimate experience with only six Canopy Suites — each one elevated, separated from the rest and accommodating two to four people, for a total property occupancy of 12 to 24 guests. This all-inclusive (except alcohol) ecolodge also features meals by a local chef, an infinity-edge saltwater pool and much more.
Here, Goldstein shares details about this property, which is commissionable for travel advisors and has been more than 10 years in the making.
What inspired you and Keith (husband and lodge co-owner) to leave the U.S. and build Cielo Lodge?
It’s a multitude of things, but the idea of being able to have a business while at the same time protecting the environment is hugely interesting to us. If we were going to do something, [protecting the environment] was an important aspect of it, and Costa Rica is known for its environmental protections. It felt like the best place to do it. We also came [to Costa Rica] as a family in 2005 and just fell in love with the whole place.
What are some of the highlights of Cielo Lodge?
I think the first thing is the feel. When you walk into these modern, minimalist buildings, and you feel the light and the air and that sense of space, it changes your sense of being. You just immediately relax. People who come up here always say that this is “magical.” It’s such a nice word, and we appreciate it.
People who come up here always say that this is “magical.” It’s such a nice word, and we appreciate it.
In terms of our guest experience, because we’re really small, we offer a very customized and personalized guest experience. We really try to cater to what the guests want.
We’ve got naturalists who can take [clients] on a midday rainforest walk. They can also go in the morning or early evening for a frog walk. We have some wellness programming included [in our rate], such as forest bathing and barefoot walking. We can also take them to the Boruca community, which is an indigenous community about two hours north of the lodge, where they can take a tour of the town and go to various artist and textile workshops. We can also arrange a massage or a yoga class. The idea is that guests can write to us and say, “Hey, we really want to do this,” and we would look into it and help them.
What kind of activities can guests enjoy off-property?
Many of the activities that we include in our rates are off property, such as a dolphin tour or a mangrove tour. So, we drive guests in our vehicles down to town and go on a boat, out into the Golfo Dolce, and they spend four hours on their tour. If guests want to spend the day at the beach, we can arrange for that. Once again, that would mean putting them on a boat, because Golfito doesn’t really have a town beach, even though there are a lot of really beautiful, isolated beaches just 10 minutes away by boat. They can also do artisanal fishing, which would be going out in a small boat, cutting the engine and dropping a line in the water. There’s also sport-fishing.
Who is the ideal client for a visit to Cielo Lodge?
Our ideal client is someone who wants to be immersed in nature, so generally eco-tourists. They [also] want to get out and see things. It could be a couple; it could be a family with kids older than 10; it could be a multigenerational family. And for the Rainforest Sanctuary Buyout package [a buyout of the entire lodge], it can truly be multigenerational in that we would allow children younger than 10 since it’s just one group.