Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter
Upala might be the closest ciudad (city) to Origins Lodge in rugged northern Costa Rica, but it still feels a world away for those charmed by the eco-driven luxury property and its tangled jungle terrain.
For starters, modern-day distractions seem irrelevant at Origins. An on-demand weather report can even lead a guest astray: On my first morning at the hotel, my cellphone app indicated a looming forecast of heavy rain. But it actually had pulled the data from Upala, which is a 30-minute drive from Origins.
General manager Claudia Silva also explained that the lodge’s location, set in a high valley flanked by Miravalles Volcano and Tenorio Volcano National Park, has its own microclimate. When it pours in Upala, the sun may very well be shining down on the 111 acres of primary forest that comprise Origins.
Right on cue, sunlight spilled through the treetop canopies as Silva and I beheld delicate angel bees (a stingless native species) darting from tree blossoms to one of the property’s 15 wooden beehives. Nearby was the Eden-like herb and vegetable garden that brims with life, due in part to volcanic soil mixed with compost (fermented with water and hot pepper).
Helmed by Michelin-starred French chef Jean-Luc L’Hourre, the hotel’s El Salto restaurant makes the most of the garden’s bounty, which encompasses everything from basil, turmeric, ginger and malanga (taro) to five different types of spinach. Not a single chemical pesticide is used. During my three-night stay in February, on-site French chefs Dominique Serres and Rachel Biehn created exquisite yet nourishing dishes for the menu that changes daily, such as hummus ravioli with toasted sesame sauce and maiz (corn) three ways. (Note: Guillaume Rouxel, an esteemed chef from France, will replace Serres and Biehn in November.)
“We want to embrace the meaning of ‘origins,’ and for us, that means to go back to the roots,” Silva said of the hotel, which opened in December 2018. “We’re grateful for nature, and we try our best to be as sustainable as possible. We must take care of the garden, the trails and the animals.”
We want to embrace the meaning of ‘origins,’ and for us, that means to go back to the roots.
Those animals are wide-ranging — so much so that out of the approximately 900 species of birds found in Costa Rica, 235 and counting have been identified at the sprawling estate. There’s also the sort of creatures that emerge under the cover of darkness: On a guided night hike around the perimeter of the lodge, I locked eyes with a caiman lurking in one of 11 lagoons that teem with tilapia. Not long after, a set of bright-red pupils betrayed a tree frog’s camouflage. In guestrooms, a pamphlet outlines other locals, from screeching howler monkeys (who taunted me during a waterfall hike) to the elusive jaguar.
Creature comforts, too, are generous at Origins, where accommodations are limited to six standalone guestrooms and the three-bedroom Villa Vertigo. Its design was conceptualized and brought to life by French designers Patrick Rey and Hugues Blanchere, along with Costa Rican architect Mario Aviles. What’s more, nearly all the furniture was built on property, and materials such as mahogany are sourced from local forests. (The hotel has a collaboration with the Costa Rican government to plant 200 new trees each year, as well.)
One such handicraft is the spectacular canopy bed in each spacious guestroom, which is illuminated by a mirrored panel that rotates to reveal a skylight. Other remarkable features include a uniquely wall-less rainshower concept in the in-suite bathroom (in addition to an outdoor shower) and a wood-fire-heated plunge pool on the terrace, where I took my first sip of coffee or last drop of tea in blissful solitude.
What brought me the most peace, though, was tapping into Origin’s spiritual core. Wellness is often defined as a balance of mind, body and spirit — the last of which I’ve neglected and even regarded with skepticism. But at the on-site yoga pavilion, I reluctantly stepped onto a mat for the first time in nearly six months; later that day, I was inspired to return for heart-opening Thai partner yoga. And following a chakra balancing massage in the Laka-Tii Spa Suite with Maria Sabina, a healer from Mexico, a heavy weight seemed to lift off my chest.
By the end of my stay, I felt more grounded than ever before.
As Sabina noted: “Everything we do at Origins pulls us back to the Earth.”
Origins Lodge is currently open; however, travel advisors should check Costa Rica’s entry requirements before booking.
The DetailsOrigins Lodge www.originslodge.com