Melodious bubbling of the river below combines with the metallic “clink” of Common Tink Frogs and the hum of crickets to lull me to sleep. My soft, cushy bed in my modern, comfortable bungalow is just steps from the wild Costa Rican rainforest. I make out the dark outline of large vine-covered trees out the window, and sweet fragrances of night-blooming flowers drift through the room. This is jungle living!
I spent a recent weekend at Portasol Rainforest and Ocean View Community on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, just between Manuel Antonio and Dominical. Portasol is a sustainable residential community with building lots for sale that also offers tourism hospitality with unique vacation rentals. Set on 1,300 acres of pure rainforest along the Portalón River Valley, Portasol is a 20-minute drive to the Quepos Airport, and 30 minutes from Quepos/Manuel Antonio and also Dominical to the south. The long, lovely, uncrowded Playa Matapalo is only a 5-minute drive away.
The views and undisturbed nature commanded my attention the most. The Portasol land has been in the hands of owner Guillermo Piedra Gonzalez’s family for 42 years. Originally, the family used the land in the 1970s for wood harvesting in selective areas. You’d nearly never know it today. Thick green tangled forest, splashed with bright tropical flowers, climbs up steep sides of the Portalón River Valley to seemingly endless mountain ridgelines. The crystal clear river borders one side of the property; natural springs and waterfalls pour in from all sides. Guillermo’s father decided to stop cutting and let the forest grow back naturally in 1982. Hence, the rest of the land is aged secondary forest with many primary forest trees still standing tall, massive and majestic. From abundant lookout points, and from scores of the residential lots, you have sweeping views up and down the Pacific Coast from Manuel Antonio to Dominical (about 30 miles).
The Portasol sustainable residential community and vacation rentals concept was conceived in 2002 by Guillermo. The family set aside 200 acres of virgin forest that had never been touched by man near the top of the mountain for a private nature reserve. In 2004, they began developing the infrastructure and construction in the lower areas. And what amazing infrastructure it is! Originally there was no road to the property, a few river crossings as obstacles, and dense steep jungle. Today, there are 2 small bridges, a gated entrance with a 24-7 staffed guardhouse, a well-designed gravel road system complete with stop signs and street lighting, a Reception building and dining area, various vacation rentals, a massage/spa area, and private homes built here and there tucked into the forest. A large open garden space sits in one area just above the river, with a large covered group area (rancho), electricity and water, and grass volleyball court. Called the Cazuela Park, the area is perfect for group picnics, weddings and events, yoga retreats, etc. The river in this spot features 2 marvelous natural swimming pools and a waterfall … glorious for swimming!
Residential lots are large – starting at 5,000 m2 (1.5 acres) to 10,000 m2 (3 acres). A key feature to the eco-community is that only 15% of each lot may be used for construction; the remaining 85% must be preserved in “green space”. Ranging from 250 feet to nearly 1,800 feet in elevation, 50 lots have been created at present; 40 of which are already sold. Guillermo said that a new Phase 5 of the residential community is in the planning stages. All utilities services are already established for each developed lot – water, electricity, and land telephone lines – a major indicator of the projects’ high-level of professionalism.
Though 40 lots are owned, only 8 houses are built so far. Most are vacation home rentals with a handful of permanent residents. John Ruhl and Luther Winden moved to Portasol in 2007 from the USA to retire in the rainforest’s peace. They had bought one of the development’s first lots in 2004, and built a gorgeous home on a promontory with capacious ocean views designed by renowned Costa Rican architect Franz Beer Chaverri. John said they visited many properties along Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast before choosing Portasol. “We were looking for a warm, tropical environment. I liked Portasol immediately, and the thought that was put behind it,” John explained. “The jungle is still intact. The water is good. The air is good. We liked the friendliness and genuineness of the people.” John and Luther said they love the solitude and quiet the most.
Peace, quiet, pure nature, vanguard tropical architecture, and harmony with surrounding nature and wildlife – Portasol offers a unique place to experience Costa Rica’s amazing beauty. Three spectacular private homes, 2 modern bungalows by the river, and 1 duplex overlooking the forest provide comfortable vacation lodging to guests.
The fabulously luxurious Casa Monos Locos is the largest vacation home, where nothing stands between you and the rainforest and ocean views. The house sleeps up to 9 persons, but can easily be enjoyed by couples for the ultimate romantic getaway. House features include a master bedroom & bath, 2 additional bedrooms with a shared bath, fully equipped kitchen, panoramic open-air living & dining room, broad terrace with ample sun and shade, and a magical infinity pool stretching into the blue sky and sea beyond. You’ll never want to leave!
The Toucan House also features splendid ocean views, plus a kitchen to inspire any chef, 2 spacious bedrooms and bathrooms, an immense balcony terrace and a Jacuzzi. The cozy, open-air design Colibri House is perfect for a couple with 1 master bedroom & bath, fully equipped kitchen, and picturesque forest view with a private trail to the river. The snug 2-bedroom duplex works great for families or a group of friends; located near the Reception building, it has 1 bath, a kitchenette and wireless internet.
Twin bungalows, each on either side of a large central deck, are built in a cantilever design in the forest as it slopes down to the river. You have beautiful views of the tree canopy and the river below. Soothing sounds of the river add a restful touch to your stay. The bungalows are perfect for couples or a family; each has 2 queen beds, private bath, a mini-kitchenette, cable TV and wireless internet. A forest trail leads down to the river where there are 2 natural pools for swimming. Full breakfast is included in stays at the bungalows and duplex.
STAY AT PORTASOL
Stay the weekend for a little R&R, or use Portasol as home-base to explore the many attractions in Manuel Antonio, Dominical, the Ballena Marine National Park, and beach time at the nearby Playa Matapalo. One of the fun things I did during my visit was hike down the river canyon to the swimming holes at Cazuela Park. The stair-step geology of the river bed is intriguing, with many refreshing natural pools along the way for delightful swimming. We saw numerous types of lizards, basilisks, salamanders, anoles, poison-dart frogs, butterflies and birds during the hike. There were feline tracks in the river sand, and the area has a reported ocelot and jaguarondi population. Other wildlife residents include wild peccaries, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and white-faced monkeys.
From its pure waters to its pure rainforest, Portasol is a pure Costa Rica nature experience worth visiting.
By Shannon Farley