Revisiting Congo Bongo in Manzanillo
Congo Bongo rental houses were one of the first reasons I fell in love with Costa Rica during my first visit in May 2012. The jungle, howler monkeys waking me up early morning, crabs running in front of me on the way to the beach, remarkable sunsets and nice staff … It was all stuck in my mind for every single day for those 2 years until I decided to go back.
I was volunteering on the Pacific coast at Blue Osa spa & yoga retreat hotel for 6 weeks when a bunch of crazy girls on one of the yoga retreats asked for my professional travel advice. They wanted to know what I recommended when it came to the best beaches in Costa Rica. My first thought was Manzanillo and Punta Uva beaches, my absolutely favorite ones, and of course the unique Congo Bongo houses located in the jungle but just a few minute walk from the beach. I showed the girls my review and some photos and straight away they wanted me to check out the availability and book it for them. So I did …
And my desire of going back to Congo Bongo in Manzanillo just increased with them tagging me on their Facebook photos a few days afterwards.
And guess what? I made plans of revisiting Congo Bongo at that very moment :)
I was staying at Cariblue hotel Puerto Viejo, on the Cocles beach for a week and then when a Czech friend of mine arrived in Costa Rica from Prague, we moved into Congo Bongo for 6 days. It was my friend’s first time outside of Europe, first time traveling without having to go back to work again (he just quit his job back home), his first time in Central America, first time in Costa Rica and also his first time in the jungle.
So let’s just say, it was a lot of first times there :D
But I was comfortable enough to know that making him stay at Congo Bongo first out of all the places I could pick, was the right choice. I knew the area which made it easier, too.
The funniest thing was that out of the 6 rental houses we stayed at the Root House, the same house where I stayed on my own back in 2012. Yay, back to MY house, so sweet! It definitely made me feel like at home again, as I knew by heart already all the pathways around and even a few habits of some animals in here.
My heart melted when I saw that the jungle was the same, if not even more beautiful and better taken care of than 2 years ago. It was one of my biggest concerns before going back as I was scared that the pieces of the jungle would be slowly disappearing.
But all the thousands of different jungle trees, lianas, colorful flowers and wildlife were still there. Just seeing that warmed up my heart like nothing else could.
What changed in Congo Bongo in Manzanillo:
- The biggest change I saw already the first minutes after arriving in Congo Bongo were all the statues. They were for sure one of the coolest memories I had from my first time there, but now they were all freshly painted by a local (in my opinion very talented) painter. Before, I remember, each time I walked back from the beach at dark, the shadows of the stone grey statues were a bit freaky and my very first days they scared me a bit until I got used to it. But this time, all the stone native and animal statues were all cute and colorful, and thus brought a lot of life to the jungle (as if there was not enough already there :))
- Even the light switches, bathroom and toilet lids were now painted with flowers. I believe it was Marisol, the owner, who took time to do so and thus enlighten our days. All the colors around always made my day, highly appreciated!
- I was happy to see a St. Dalfour pure organic green tea from France with natural cinnamon and apple flavor, probably one of my favorite flavors, if they are natural! It reminded me of cold days back home in Slovakia when I used to get a cup of tea to warm up and just enjoy its smell.
- wifi – we did not have to use the mobile wifi stick like back in 2012 but this time they had a wifi router there already. It worked way better but still sometimes, especially when raining, it got cut off for a bit … at least it made me spend time reading as otherwise I would just be travel blogging a lot :)
- phone with pre-paid local/mobile calls in case we needed to call a taxi, the owners, the care-takers, travel agencies to book our tours, or even a doctor if necessary.
- Manzanillo beach – always the same beautiful like I remembered it. A real Caribbean beach, not over-crowded at all, on the contrary, most of the time pretty empty and great for relaxation, meditation, swimming, strolling along, or even practicing yoga. This time there were 3 things that changed though: 1. I could practice some yoga positions to stay fit when traveling; 2. unfortunately I only saw one stunning sunset when it was not cloudy here on the beach while every single sunset back in 2012 was unforgettable (but this was on the full moon night, so worth it all); 3. there were a lot of small fish and a kind of big brownish/orange bees or wasps along the beach, all dead. I have no idea what happened but it made me really sad to see them so I hope my next time on Manzanillo beach there will be no dead animals. I know it has nothing to do with Congo Bongo itself. Other than that, Manzanillo beach is very sexy, indeed, especially when the sun is shining.
- a cat – there was a cat always around our root house and taking care of us.
What stayed the same – and I loved it – in Congo Bongo in Manzanillo:
- all the wildlife around me – watching hummingbirds, butterflies, toucans, lizards when practicing yoga on the porch is the best feeling ever! Even listening to the noisy howler monkeys very early in the morning is something that belongs to the jungle life and one learns to even look forward to it.
- the most helpful staff ever – whenever we needed something, they were all more than happy to help us
- laundry service – if you just leave your dirty clothes, they are picked up in the morning and within the next 3 hours you get them back cleaned, awesome!
- potable water in the kitchen
- a lot of clean towels – I love using one towel for my body, one for my hair and then one for the beach and at Congo Bongo rental houses there’s plenty of towels for you.
- kitchen – and being able to prepare own meals, smoothies, fruit, salads, yummy! The best thing ever was having a blender.
- bike rentals – having a bicycle to go around is the best thing you can do when in here. All the beaches between Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo are different and thus worth visiting each and every single one of them.
- welcome bottle of wine – I personally do not drink but my friend really enjoyed a treat like this
- mosquitoes and other bugs – in a way I was happy to see all the wildlife unchanged there but I was so hoping for less mosquitoes as they were killing me there! It was a bit difficult to concentrate when I was trying to write with all the bites and new bites and more new bites so we were trying to do something to stay inside of a mosquito net but it was too difficult to sit inside in it and work.
*** It took me 4 hours to write this post.