Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 3: Hiking and Tree Planting

Destination: Zarcero

I crawled out of bed, grabbed a fleece blanket, and cozied up by the fireplace. At El Silencio Lodge, each suite is equipped with a gas fireplace that keeps the room warm and the ambiance romantic. Fabian and I had left ours on overnight and the orange flames tempted me to read by the early morning light.

a small waterfall trickled over the path

We went to breakfast shortly after 7:00 a.m., and surveyed the menu's list of wholesome choices. Over a plate of fresh papaya, mango, pineapple, and watermelon, I decided on a whole-wheat veggie wrap, while Fabian chose his favorite omelet. The food was delicious and well prepared; it was obvious that the chef took pride in his dishes.

We hurried back to our cottage to fill up water bottles and grab a few snacks. Just across the river, the Silencio Trail awaited. Ronald, our eco-concierge, had recommended the gentle hike for its scenery, picturesque lookout points, and "Magical Knot" labyrinth, a butterfly garden laid out in a maze.

Like yesterday's hike, we seemed to be the only guests on the trail. Climbing up the grassy path, we soon reached the first lookout point. The wooden platform was set into the mountainside and afforded beautiful views of the mountains and Bajos del Toro valley. Cloud forest surrounds the lodge, and though mist clung to the mountains, the sky was clear.

the magical knot hummingbird garden

Farther along the trail, we came across a scene I can only describe as half secret garden, half mythical grove. A small stream tumbled down the rock face, running over the path before continuing its downward descent. The trail, which had previously been open to the valley below, was covered in vines and green branches. Birdsong harmonized with the flowing water, creating a setting that was as tranquil as it was beautiful.

Normally, I hike with purpose -- I'm either headed somewhere or pushing my own limits, but there's something about walking along gorgeous trails with no one in sight. We found ourselves savoring every moment, taking time to focus on the colorful berries, fuzzy leaves, and moss-covered rocks decorating the trail.

We ended at the Magical Knot, a small garden of butterfly bushes, cacti, and other decorative plants. Without plastic feeders, the garden only attracts hummingbirds naturally -- and there were plenty. Purple and green were the morning's most popular colors, and the tiny birds whizzed past us, flying faster than my eyes could track. They stopped suddenly to drink from a flower before dashing away in search of more sweet nectar.

planting our tree

To satisfy my own sweet tooth, I ordered a pineapple smoothie at lunch (and a slice of chocolate mocha cake) to accompany my vegetable spring rolls wrapped in delicate rice paper and covered with white and black sesame seeds. This delectable appetizer was followed by tilapia in a spicy tomato sauce. Fabian chose an avocado and tomato salad and chicken kebobs. For dessert, he sampled carrot cake topped with a warm coconut glaze in lieu of the traditional (and lactose-laden) cream cheese icing.

Later, we met with Ronald for the lodge's special tree planting ceremony. All guests are invited to commemorate their stay by planting a tree. Ronald had selected a small Dama sapling, which would grow into a large tree bearing red berries for the birds. Together, we carefully placed it in the ground, covering it with fresh earth. A small name card dangled from a branch, a memento of our time at the lodge. As newlyweds, this ceremony held special meaning for us -- it would forever symbolize our first days as husband and wife.

prepping for our fireside dinner

That night, the waiters had a special fireside dinner planned for us. Set apart from the restaurant, we enjoyed a private meal by the great stone hearth, enjoying the warmth of the wood fire. Costa Rica's weather rarely warrants a fire, and this was one of my favorite features at the lodge -- I was never cold, but always cool enough to enjoy the romantic flames.

After dinner, we went back to our suite for one last dip in the hot tub. The sounds of the cloud forest were everywhere, relaxing my mind as the bubbling hot-water jets massaged my muscles. We reflected on our three days at the lodge, and agreed that it had been the ideal beginning to our honeymoon.

Day 3: Hiking and Tree Planting in Pictures