Are there dogs and cats running around? Yes. Does it smell like farm animals? Yes. Are there occasional bugs in the house? Yes. Is Rancho El Rio one of the most wonderful places on Earth? ABSOLUTELY YES! This home may not be for everyone but my family (husband, me, 2 teenage boys) had a fabulous stay for 3 nights in July 2018. We loved all the animals, walking around the property, swimming in the river, and being "unplugged" from iPhones and video games). The weather was perfect...not too cool, not too hot. Even at night with no AC, I was a bit worried, but honestly we did not need it. Thank you to Veronica and Clare for arranging horseback riding at Finca Lindora and a trip to Selvatura for ziplining....both excursions I highly recommend! We also ate 3 dinners at nearby Restaurant El Sol because it was so delicious. Book your best vacation ever at this incredible ranch! We hope to be back soon.
Rancho el Rio
I struggled with this review. Not because I have trouble writing it, but because I was torn on how to give an accurate depiction without turning people off to this location. First, this would probably be a great location for families with children ages 5-9. The farm has chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, a calf, donkeys, etc. Think of is as a petting zoo in the rainforest.
If you are traveling with teenagers....think twice, maybe three times. It's rustic setting is both a strength, and a weakness. It gets dark at 6:00 pm. There is no TV, virtually no wifi (they had a router, but no signal), and no air conditioning (they do have fans), but it was warm 88-90 F when we visited. Additionally, the lighting in the house is very dim (they use a very low watt bulb), so if you want to read, it's very difficult due to the low lights....also, the lights attract insects.
Lastly, the house has an open air kitchen, albeit a novelty, but the walls of the house do not seal off the rooms from the kitchen so you end up with flying insects in your bedroom. Basically, you may wake up with insect bites.
Again, this may be great for families with small children, the animals, the farm, nature walks, etc., but teenagers and older children have different wants, needs and motivations.
This house is close to Monteverde and has a beautiful view and access to the Guacimal river! With wifi and hot water, a big beautiful screened in kitchen, and nice warm weather, this is definitely the place to visit if you want to combine luxury and the real Tico experience.
I wanted to introduce some extended family to Costa Rica. True Costa Rica is not just beaches with tourist traps. The rural life of the mountains is what gives Costa Rica its flavor. This farm stay fit the bill well. The owner met us with fresco and empanandas. Her son is well versed in frogs and spiders and took us for a night walks in the surrounding property. The family loved working with the pigs and other animals on the farm. We joined the weekly ag fair and danced with the farmers and ate tamales. The little house was adequate with all necessities. The river below the house was delightfully refreshing. It was also lovely to meet a wonderful couple working so hard for environmental protection. Most of the property is set aside for conservation. They run a sapling nursery of native species which is given for reforestation of the area. They also have students and give instructions. -In short ; this stay is not for every one. It is a taste of rural costarican life at its best. Wonderful for those with children curious about nature, and for those who like to "rough it" a bit.
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We spent three nights here based on wanting to be near Monteverde while still being out a ways. The reviews were good and so after emailing back and forth with Veronica reservations were all set. She will email driving directions which are accurate however the longitude coordinate she sends matches the location shown here on TripAdvisor Map and is not correct - the property is actually due east of her GPS coordinates and the location pin shown on TripAdvisor; just look east until you hit the first road - Rt 605 (the gravel one) and that is the actual location.
The next two reviews do a good job of describing most everything. So there are no surprises, I will describe a few things that added to the rustic nature of the place. These typed, if we were looking for another similar adventure we would stay again.
The small house has a living / receiving room; two bedrooms, one with queen bed, one with twin-size bunk beds; two bathrooms, each with shower but only one with hot water; very large screened in kitchen / dining area; and a large back patio with swinging furniture, two hammocks, dining table and fusball table. There are wastebaskets for all the toilet paper - it cannot be flushed. The hot water shower is missing the nozzles of the shower head so it sprays in most directions.
The kitchen works quite well with full size fridge, toaster oven and three burner gas stove. It comes with all the cooking and eating ware you will need and a small supply of cooking oil and spices (I get the impression visitors like us purchase and leave behind unused items). The screened-in outside kitchen does allow ants and other small lizards and the like in, so keep tasty items in or on the fridge. There is a Costa Rican coffee maker with locally sourced coffee beans and a grinder to make decent coffee.
One evening we had a small war with about 150 - 200 flying termites that made their way inside after dark. After killing them all one-by-one and leaving their carcasses at the baseboard we woke the next morning to find they were all gone. All of them. Which brings me to the iguana that likes the 3-inch space above the burlap ceiling and corrugated metal roof. Seems he slips down overnight to take care of any insects on the floor and then back into the ceiling during the day.
And about that corrugated metal roof. At least this time of year the large trees that help shade the little house drop their very dense, very heavy seed pods from great height onto the roof with an irregular frequency of between two and five per hour. These hit the roof with a terrifying end-of-the-world BANG like a car door being slammed shut. Throughout the night.
The wild and domestic animals are quite enjoyable to watch and interact with as they allow. The large dog Strider in particular is extremely well-mannered and quite the host. When he saw us heading toward one of the trails he took up the lead and brought us to the best swimming hole and proceeded to dive in and swim across to show us how it's done.
Veronica arranged a local woman to cook and deliver our first dinner (US$10 a person with drink and dessert). You can do that all the time if you like, but if you want something else there is a tiny restaurant / bar 'El Punto' 1/2 mile away that we went to for a lunch. There were two options - cevechi (so delicious) and a beef stew with rice. Past that, the next town is 3km away and has a slightly larger restaurant and tiny convenience store with limited goods. What you really want to do is either pack in groceries when you come, or drive the 40 mins to Monteverde where they have proper restaurants and a large grocery store.
We did walk down the path, crossed the river and took a small tour of the back of the Sustainability Center which Stuart gave us. Seems like it may be an uphill battle, and I commend Veronica and all the others striving to make modifications to the local agricultural / rural lifestyle in a positive, sustainable manner.
As I typed, we would stay again. Just go in eyes wide open on expectations.