Where do I begin? How about the road there?
Like all the best things in life, it takes some effort to get to L&L. The road there is a trip in and of itself but if you let a little gravel stand in the way of you getting there, this place probably isn’t for you anyway. Eventually, you make you way through the village that time forgot and end up in the retreat.
I can’t really describe the feel of the place. It has the laid-back Costa Rican vibe along with Debbie’s Midwestern friendliness and hospitality, Steve’s whimsy and creativity, and the overt LOVE the staff have for the place. Every employee approached their job with pride and care and the property sings with a voice of its own.
You can’t complain about the view. Each cabin is perched on a hillside and they all have views of Arenal. You will feel like you are miles from the nearest person, they are each situated so privately. Everything you need, nothing you don’t. All the cabins are now equipped with outdoor showers in addition to the indoor ones. Fun! WiFi in the restaurant only…I did miss it at first but I can see why its the decision they made. As the globe continues to warm they may want to add A/C, but most of the time we were perfectly comfortable. We stayed in the Monkey Cabin (the most private, I think) and our friends were in the AWESOME hobbit house.
There will be bugs. Get over it. There will also be hammocks and tropical birds and monkeys and sloths and flowers beyond compare. It is impossible to believe that ten years ago the property was clear-cut grazing land. Steve and Debbie have engineered a come-back for the ages and should be proud – more than proud – of the land they have redeemed. The love Debbie has for her horses is amazing…
Let me tell you about these horses. They are the most themselves of any horses I have ever seen. They play, they have personalities, they are sure footed and stout-hearted. They have horses that were born there and horses that have luckily retired there and they were utterly splendid. No bits needed for these guys; they are gentle and responsive. Best of all, Debbie makes sure you spend adequate time bonding and working with the horse to develop a bond before you hop up on their backs – for the mutual benefit of horse and rider. The trail rides are not boring, nose to tail affairs. These horses are actualized and alive and you will feel more so just by being near them!
The food is farm to table. Delicious. Eat there more often than not. Drink their lemonade, it is delicious. The pancakes in the morning were the best I’ve ever had. Whatever is in the yeast rolls (other than yeast) was addictive and unreal good. The kitchen staff is eager to please, and was so patient with my bad Spanish. When I ordered a complicated pizza, the cook and I shared a laugh and she dragged me into the kitchen so I could frantically gesture over what I wanted where – and was just awesome through the whole trip – teaching me the word for “spoon” and “maple syrup.”
Sally and Enrique were also great stand outs. Sally is from the UK and left her job to come work with the horses. She was a great help and possessed a sort of charmed spirit. Enrique led the tour to the waterfall. He was raised in the local village and was a wonderful guide on the trip. His assistant Esteban was great too, the strong and silent type for sure but a wonderful help.
I would be completely remiss if I did not mention Sabina, who is a recent addition to the family there and yet feels like the soul of the place. Her kind welcome, courteous attention to our every need in planning activities, and best of all her Yoga classes were priceless. (Take the Yoga classes! They are on an outdoor deck overlooking the horse arena and are only ten dollars!) At the end of her class, she led the group in meditation… “This is your safe place, and you can come back here whenever you are scared or stressed or unhappy.” I know she was speaking about the space inside yourself, but to me that happy place will always look a lot like Leaves and Lizards, a sanctuary for all who make the journey.
Where do I end? How about the road away? It feels less rough somehow, you will leave noticing the bumps less and less. When your wheels finally hit pavement again, it won’t feel as good as it once did. You will be more secure, sure, and I guess it’s easier driving…but somewhat less satisfying. You will find yourself longing for the bumps, for the bugs, for the sounds of the rain forest at night. You will miss the friends you made and the friends you could have made if only you had the words. You will miss the hidden waterfall, and the horses, and the taste of the fresh eggs and milk. You will leave thinking that maybe Pura Vida cannot be found on a paved road.