Our Stay in Middle-earth

Maybe it was the fact that we watched all three Lord of the Rings movies while we stayed in the condo. Maybe it was the mention in Fodor’s that this area looked like Middle-earth. All I know is that from the moment we arrived at Peace Lodge and Waterfall Gardens, I could think of nothing else.

As we crested a steep incline, unfettered by human or machine, I expected Aragorn to gallop across the green hills. And when we entered our room, I felt sure that Elrond himself would greet us and welcome us to Rivendell.

The landscape was breathtaking in its rugged beauty and the lodge was stunning, down to every detail. The Peace Lodge has only seventeen rooms. There are four or five buildings, which look like houses, each of which has four rooms with separate outside entrances. I’ve never stayed anywhere remotely like this.

Okay, this next one -- this is in our bathroom. Yes, those are live ferns with a waterfall. In my bathroom.

Peace Lodge is also home to a nature preserve and wildlife refuge. It's like having a small zoo just below your hotel room. Eager to make the most of our short time in this enchanted place, we scurried down to the park where we saw monkeys, jaguars and vipers. We also fed hummingbirds.

We were sad to find the frog house closed but John, a young tour guide with just enough English to be funny – or possibly dangerous, convinced us to sign up for a night-time frog tour. It turned out to be amazing – if not for the fantastic pictures then for the animated descriptions given by John. His excitement was infectious. His dedication toward helping our younger son nail the perfect photo endeared me to him, even as he more often than not, misunderstood our questions.

When night fell, clouds swallowed mountains whole and then reached up to our veranda as if offering us passage to the land beyond. That night, with the mountain air coming through the screens, I slept like a princess under silky mosquito netting and woke to the bright sunshine angling through the window and the calls of birds in the aviary below. Next -- our visit to Poas Volcano, a coffee plantation and Rivendell - er, the Waterfall Gardens.