Having a whale of a time at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica

July 3rd, 2014

It is nearly whale-watching season on the Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica! Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is readying to receive visitors to witness one of the most amazing spectacles in the animal kingdom – the thousands-of-miles-long migration of Pacific Humpback Whales.

Starting in August, the tranquil blue waters of the Golfo Dulce, between the Piedras Blancas National Park and the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica, begin to receive the endangered whales that come annually to breed and give birth in Costa Rica’s warm waters.

The annual migration of Pacific Humpback Whales is a remarkable journey of nearly 10,000 miles from near the North and South Poles to warm tropical waters. As winter turns the seas to ice in Antarctica, southern Humpback Whales swim north to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and as far as Costa Rica, where they can be seen between August and October. Northern Humpbacks travel from Alaska and British Columbia south to warmer waters by Mexico, Hawaii and Central America from December to March.

You can see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica along the southern Pacific Coast, from the Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical down through Cano Island Biological Reserve off of Drake Bay and into the Golfo Dulce.

 

Known as a tropical fjord, the “inner sea” of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for Humpback Whales and is vital to the species’ survival, according to the Center for Cetacean Research of Costa Rica (CEIC).

“A large part of the Gulf is used by Humpbacks to rest, give birth to their young and nurse them,” notes the CEIC. “The importance of protecting this area becomes more urgent if we take into consideration that Costa Rica’s economy depends on tourism …. Today, many tourists come to marvel at the solitude of these sanctuary waters; for them to see a dolphin or whale swimming near their boat is the best living evidence of the well-being of this still wild place.”

Once hunted to near-extinction, Humpback Whales are an endangered species with international government-protected status. Humpback whales are named for the prominent hump on their backs. The baleen whales can grow to be 56 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons, with distinctive, long black and white pectoral fins (flippers) that reach about one-third of their body length. They live a long life to about 45-50 years old. Babies (or “calves”) are born after an 11-12 month gestation period, which explains why some years when the whales are visiting tropical waters they are breeding and other years they are giving birth.

Humpback whales are easy to spot since they live at the ocean’s surface, both in the open ocean and in shallow coastline waters. They swim slowly and are known as the “acrobats of the sea” for their great displays of jumps and splashes (breaching). Males are famous for singing long, complex mating “songs” – sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds – during their migration and when in breeding areas.

In the Golfo Dulce, the migrating whales are almost strictly from the Southern Hemisphere. Males concentrate at the entrance to the Gulf waiting to breed with available females, while pregnant females swim into the shallow waters of the Gulf’s interior to birth their young and breastfeed them.

Whale-watching in Golfo Dulce

See these gentle giants in person on the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located in the pristine rainforest on a remote beach of the Golfo Dulce. During whale-watching season, the award-winning Costa Rica eco-lodge offers boat tours of the Gulf to see the whales, resident pods of dolphins, and other marine life like sea turtles and seabirds.

A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the rainforest lodge in Costa Rica has its own 165-acre private preserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. It is a unique adventure travel destination for its remote, pristine wilderness location.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica Green Season specials at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

May 30th, 2014

Adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort … you have it all at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica.

And now in Green Season, you can have it all for a better price!

The unique rainforest lodge in Costa Rica is offering a special vacation deal of a free extra night when you stay three nights. The offer is valid now through Sept. 30, 2014, and applies to any room category.

A true Costa Rica eco-lodge, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge embraces conservation and harmony with nature, and at the same time offers comfortable luxury in the jungle. You can choose to stay in either a private cabin or in the two-story Mango Guest House, which has four rooms each with private bathrooms and a balcony or terrace. Three healthy, delicious meals per day are included with your stay, along with unlimited use of the lodge’s trails, kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment, and boat pick-up and drop-off from/to Puerto Jimenez or Golfito.

Accessible only by boat, Playa Nicuesa is beachfront on the breathtaking Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”), one of only a handful of unique tropical fjords in the world. The renowned Osa Peninsula is just across these placid Pacific Ocean waters from the lodge, which is surrounded by its own private nature reserve that joins into the Piedras Blancas National Park.

Another excellent offer is the Yoga Bliss Vacation Package: stay five, six or seven nights at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in your choice of accommodations, and receive two yoga classes daily and three guided adventure activities, in addition to Playa Nicuesa’s usual vacation amenities.

At Playa Nicuesa, you can enjoy multiple adventure tours and activities: rainforest hikes, bird-watching, kayaking, snorkeling, botanical gardens, fishing, horseback riding, dolphin and whale watching, on-site yoga classes and massages, and hammock relaxing.

Article by Shannon Farley

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

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