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…