Remarkable rainforest of dreams in southern Costa Rica

May 16th, 2014

Here is the rainforest you dream to see. Down at the bottom of Costa Rica, in the very south of the country that is thankfully not on the tourism “superhighway” and explored only by adventurous intrepid travelers, lay rugged mountains, free-flowing rivers, plunging waterfalls, striking beaches and magnificent towering trees in dense rainforest.

This is the wilder side of Costa Rica. A place where jaguars roam freely, scarlet macaws soar overhead, and humpback whales and dolphins frolic in the calm blue waters of the Golfo Dulce. There aren’t many roads, and there are far more trees than people.

In the southwestern corner of this peaceful Central American nation, renowned for eco-tourism, the Piedras Blancas National Park is much less visited than its famous neighbor, the Corcovado National Park. One third smaller, the Piedras Blancas National Park spans 34,642 acres that tie into the more than 366,000 acres of land and sea protected in national parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves on the Osa Peninsula.

Sandwiched between the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve to the west and the Golfito National Wildlife Refuge to the east, Piedras Blancas was heavily logged and hunted until land was donated or slowly bought by charitable groups and turned over for public use. The national park was created in 1993.

Today, the park protects the remaining lowland tropical rainforest near the Golfo Dulce, and provides a habitat for all five species of Costa Rica wild cats – jaguars, ocelots, margays, jaguarundis and pumas – and all four kinds of monkeys – spider, howler, white-faced capuchin and endangered squirrel monkeys. The park is considered to be one of the better bird-watching locations in Costa Rica, with more than 330 species recorded.

The best way to visit Piedras Blancas National Park is to stay in the area. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is the top Costa Rica eco-lodge on the Golfo Dulce. Its 165-acre private preserve backs into the Piedras Blancas National Park. While visiting, you can explore thriving rainforests and immaculate beaches, powerful waterfalls and the fascinating Esquinas River and mangrove estuary. Just off the coast are many intact coral reefs, providing excellent places to snorkel and swim.

Article by Shannon Farley

Green Season Specials 2014

May 9th, 2014

Valid june 1, 2014 – december 15, 2014.  Lodge is closed oct 1 – nov 16 annually

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Magical kayaking tour in Costa Rica mangrove river

April 21st, 2014

One of my most favorite tours at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica is to go kayaking in the mangrove estuary at the Esquinas River, and then snorkeling in Golfo Dulce.

There is a magic in peacefully gliding along in a kayak; the only sounds coming from small splashes of kayak paddles sliding through the water, the songs of birds, and the occasional explosion of noise from rainforest insects. Tangled mangrove roots stretch down into silty water like tentacles, while multicolored crabs skitter along the dank wood. Sunshine lights up lime green water reflecting dense green vegetation.

If you stay alert, you may spot the bumpy snout and eyes of a partly-submerged caiman or crocodile. Or you may see a rainbow boa curled around a tree branch, or catch sight of white-faced, spider or squirrel monkeys swinging through the trees. Birds are plentiful, so you will surely see snowy white egrets, ibis, toucans, Scarlet Macaws, any number of kingfishers and herons, multitudes of shore birds at low tide, and maybe a low tree splashed pink with Roseate Spoonbills.

From Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you travel by boat along the coast further up into the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) to get to the Esquinas River (meaning “corner” river in Spanish). Kayaks will be towed behind the boat until you reach the river. The Esquinas River is a tidal river, meaning the water level is fuller at high tide and lower as the tide pulls the river out into the Gulf. You will always kayak with the current to make paddling easier, so depending on the tides depends on whether you start kayaking upstream or downstream. Besides kayaking in the main river, you will explore small tributaries amid the mangroves.

After an hour or more of kayaking, you will board the boat once again to travel back out into the Gulf to a prime snorkeling spot. Right off the coast, there are many small coral reefs housing masses of brightly colored tropical fish and other marine life. The Gulf water is warm, calm and usually crystal clear.

On the way back to Playa Nicuesa, watch for playful dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles in the water. In September, you might see migrating Humpback Whales that come into the Golfo Dulce to breed and give birth.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sustainable Costa Rica eco-lodge by the Osa Peninsula. The award-winning eco-lodge offers family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Why is the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica such a favorite place to visit?

April 4th, 2014

For me, the Osa Peninsula is one of the most worthwhile places to visit in Costa Rica. The small stretch of remote rugged jungle in the southwestern corner of the country, bounded by the deep blue Pacific Ocean to the west and the placid Golfo Dulce to the east, is renowned by scientists, explorers and nature lovers as an astounding paradise.

Covering an area of 700 square miles, this last remaining stretch of tropical humid rainforest in Costa Rica is estimated to hold 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. The natural report card is impressive:

  • More than 700 species of trees, with close to 80 being endemic
  • 463 types of birds, including the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in the country
  • 140 species of mammals, including the exotic tapirs and jaguars
  • 117 kinds of reptiles and amphibians
  • More than 25 kinds of dolphins and whales
  • 4 types of sea turtles

The southern Pacific Ocean, and especially Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), are vital breeding and reproducing areas for endangered hammerhead sharks and the world’s migrating Pacific Humpback Whales. Activists have begun a campaign to create a “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” for the waters along the entire coast of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, to safeguard the abundant yet threatened marine life.

The Osa Peninsula protects more than 366,000 acres of land and sea in at least 13 national parks, wildlife refuges and private reserves – the largest being the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve (149,593 acres), Corcovado National Park (104,900 acres), Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands (66,850 acres), and Piedras Blancas National Park (34,642 acres).

This is the spot that spawned Costa Rica’s eco-lodges and gave rise to the burgeoning industry of sustainable travel in Costa Rica.

What to do on the Osa Peninsula:

Where to stay by the Osa Peninsula

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sustainable eco-lodge by the Osa Peninsula. Its 165-acre private preserve joins with the Osa Conservation Area. The unique adventure travel destination is located on the remote inner coast of the Golfo Dulce, backed by thick jungle and the Piedras Blancas National Park. The award-winning eco-lodge offers family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Have a ball at the Stone Spheres Festival in Costa Rica

March 17th, 2014

Coming at the end of the month to the Osa southern region of Costa Rica, the ninth Festival of the Stone Spheres celebrates one of the most enigmatic historical and cultural mysteries of Costa Rica.

The 2014 Festival of the Spheres will be held March 26 to 30 in Palmar Sur, Palmar Norte and Sierpe. Put on by the National Museum of Costa Rica, the majority of the activities will be at its new satellite Museum of the Stone Spheres at Finca 6 in Palmar Sur, where research on the country’s spheres is centered.

The giant, perfectly-formed spheres of granite-like igneous rock were discovered in southern Costa Rica. Their origin, exact age and history are still a mystery, though archaeologists tentatively date the spheres to 400 to 1500 A.D. Man-made by an indigenous people who disappeared long ago and left no written records, the spheres have sparked international attention as to their origin and purpose. It is suspected that they were used to represent astronomical constellations, for delineation of tribal areas, or served as a place of worship and gathering. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage in early 2014.

Around 300 spheres have been found in the Diquís Delta region in the south Pacific of Costa Rica, near the Térraba River and the cities of Puerto Cortés, Palmar Norte and Sierpe. The almost perfectly spherical stones range in diameter from a few centimeters up to 2.5 meters, with the largest weighing 16 tons. They were discovered in the early 1930s during the clearing of jungle for banana plantations. One of the many unanswered questions is how the native peoples transported a 16-ton ball made of a rock that exists 50 miles away from where the spheres were found in the jungle.

The Festival of the Stone Spheres will combine cultural and artistic performances, environmental themes, concerts, craft fairs, and educational and sports activities. Shows will be put on by indigenous local Borucas, whose ancestors are credited with having made the spheres. A 47 km mountain bike recreational race will follow historic routes through some pre-Columbian communities and former banana plantations. There also will be an 8 km foot race.

Attend the Festival of the Stone Spheres on your way to or from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on Golfo Dulce. The remote oceanfront jungle property is a unique and exotic Costa Rica eco-lodge on a 165-acre private reserve across from the Osa Peninsula.

Article by Shannon Farley

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