Learn to make chocolate on Nicuesa Lodge cocoa tour

Cacao tree seed pod at NicuesaIf you visited the beautiful property of Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge four decades ago, instead of a high-end Costa Rica eco-lodge, you would have found only chocolate trees.”

Cacao tree plantations were once plentiful in Costa Rica’s southernmost region of the Golfo Dulce and Osa Peninsula. Cacao was an important export market for Costa Rica until the fungus blight called Monilia destroyed 95% of production in 1979.

On the Chocolate Tour at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you will learn about cacao’s rich history in Costa Rica, what the cacao fruit looks like, how it is harvested and how to make delicious natural chocolate from raw cacao seeds. The best part is eating your own freshly made chocolate treats after the tour!

Cacao beans, photo by Smithsonian MagazineCacao has a long history in Central America. Cacao beans were revered by indigenous peoples and even used as currency in Pre-Columbian times; in Costa Rica, cacao continued to be exchanged for goods up until the 1930s.
Continue reading

Your cooking could win you a trip to Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica

Dine gourmet on fresh fish at Playa Nicuesa LodgeRead any of the TripAdvisor reviews about Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica and most of the time guests mention the delicious fresh meals, freshly-caught fish, tropical fruit and creative cocktails.

The family-style dining experience has become an integral part of staying at the Costa Rica rainforest lodge by the Osa Peninsula.

Now you can enjoy the exotic flavors of Nicuesa Edible Landscape Cookbook at Nicuesa LodgeLodge with the free PDF downloadable Edible Landscape Garden Cookbook. In the past, Nicuesa Lodge has published annual short recipe books; now this is a full collection of 38 of their most popular recipes so you can create a little bit of tropical paradise right in your own kitchen.

To celebrate the new cookbook release, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is conducting a Photo Contest to win a four-night vacation for two persons at the Costa Rica eco-lodge. You definitely don’t want to miss this opportunity to win a trip for two to the fabulous eco-lodge located on a 165-acre private preserve by the Piedras Blancas National Park on Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica.

Continue reading

Costa Rica is top 10 Green Country in the World

Costa Rica is named the third best Green Country in the World, according to the recently released 2014 Global Green Economy Index™ (GGEI).

The Global Green Economy Index™ (GGEI) measures the green economic performance of 60 countries and 70 cities in the world with regard to leadership and climate change, efficiency sectors, markets and investment, and environment and natural capital. The GGEI also assesses the public’s perception of a nation’s green performance. The fourth edition of the GGEI, published by Dual Citizen LLC, a private U.S.-based consultancy, was released at the end of October 2014.

In the Performance Rank, Sweden and Norway top the list, followed by Costa Rica in third place, and then Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Iceland and Spain for the top 10. Germany leads the Perception Rank, followed by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, United States, Japan, UK, Finland and Switzerland; Costa Rica comes in at 14th place in this ranking. The Perception index is interesting given that Costa Rica ranks third in performance but 14th in perception; while China ranks 13th in perception and 55th in performance.

This is the first time that Costa Rica has been included in the ranking.

“Covered for the first time, Costa Rica records an impressive result, ranking third behind Sweden and Norway on performance and in the top 15 for perceptions overall, a notable accomplishment for such a small country,” states the GGEI. “Costa Rica’s overall top result on the performance measure is driven by impressive results on both the Efficiency Sectors and Environment and Natural Capital dimensions, making it one of only a few countries to achieve such strong results in both areas.”

Costa Rica performs well most notably in tourism where it is the top ranked country in terms of performance on the five areas assessed by the GGEI, the report notes.

Green tourism, also called eco-tourism and sustainable travel, is what Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica is all about. The Costa Rica eco-lodge by the Osa Peninsula is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST). Created by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the CST program rates and certifies tourism businesses based on their compliance with natural, cultural and social resource management.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located on a 165-acre private preserve in southern Costa Rica, bordered by the Piedras Blancas National Park and the pristine Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), across from the Osa Peninsula. The region is a critical habitat for migrating Pacific Humpback Whales, hammerhead sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, Scarlet Macaws and jaguars.

The lodge is offering Green season specials through Dec. 15, 2014.

Article by Shannon Farley

 

A special place on the planet: Playa Nicuesa

Sometimes the places most worth visiting require a little more effort to get there. Like Playa Nicuesa.

I’ve taken a small 19-passenger plane 50 minutes south from San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, to the pancake flat coastal town of Puerto Jimenez. We disembark into the sweltering tropical heat of the near-equator and quickly jump into the air-conditioned taxi waiting to drive us five minutes to a rickety, dubious-looking boat dock. All smiles, we are greeted by our very friendly boat captain and guide, who assist our little group to clamber down the dock steps into the little panga boat – thankfully outfitted with a canopy roof.

As we zip across the calm blue-gray waters of the Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”) for our 25-minute boat ride to Playa Nicuesa – the only way to get there – I am mesmerized by the scenery. The horizon is filled with dense green forest and mountains; the Gulf stretches on and on like a giant mirror to the sky. There are no buildings to be seen, not even another boat. And I wonder if this is what Costa Rica must have looked like hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Soon, we are pulling up to the long, very solidly built boat dock at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. Here, the clear water looks like liquid jade, reflecting the endless shades of green of palm trees and jungle that crowd the edge of the pebble and sand beach. We are helped off the boat by smiling, friendly staff, and as we walk down the dock toward shore, I nearly expect to see Ricardo Montalban of Fantasy Island come out to greet us.

The extraordinary Costa Rica eco-lodge was designed for sustainable travel. Lodge buildings and bungalows are tucked into the forest, preserving the beautiful coastline. Everything is constructed from naturally fallen or farmed trees and recycled materials, like the roof tiles made from recycled plastic banana bags and other plastics. Lights and electricity come from solar panels and a biodiesel generator that burns recycled fast food oil and other vegetable oils. All water on the property is potable, being piped in from a mountain spring and filtered. The Costa Rica rainforest lodge is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST).

Guests are spread out around the lodge area – located on a 165-acre private preserve that borders the Piedras Blancas National Park – in six private cabins and the four-room two-story Mango Guesthouse. Beautifully built accommodations are very comfortable, and feature bathrooms with a high-walled open-air garden shower.

Over the next three days at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, I enjoyed dolphin and whale-watching to see migrating Pacific Humpback Whales that come into the pristine Golfo Dulce to give birth and breed – we saw a mother whale and her calf. I hiked in the rainforest on lodge trails; kayaked in the mangroves of Esquinas River; enjoyed a yoga class; sat at the beach and relaxed; swam in the warm Golfo Dulce; and had fun socializing with other guests at happy hour every night in the bar, and while savoring delicious, fresh, creative dishes from Nicuesa’s commendable kitchen.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located by the Osa Peninsula on Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica. To get there, drive or fly (NatureAir or Sansa Airlines) to either Puerto Jimenez or Golfito. Nicuesa Lodge will pick you up by boat and transfer you to the lodge (about 30 minutes one-way). Included in lodge rates are all meals, boat transfers, all taxes, all meals and snacks, unlimited self-guided hikes on preserve, use of kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment.

Article by Shannon Farley

 

Webs of Gold in the Costa Rica Rainforest

The morning sun filtering through the rainforest foliage at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica shimmers gold as the light catches the strands of the complex web woven by a golden orb spider.

I’m generally not a big fan of spiders, like most people, but the golden orb is fascinating. These large spiders weave enormous pigmented webs, adjusted in color for camouflage, with protecting chemicals, and such incredible strength and elasticity that bioengineers and other scientists are studying ways to mass-produce their silk.

The golden silk orb-weavers (genus Nephila) are noted for the impressive webs they weave, and are also called giant wood spiders or banana spiders, according to Wikipedia. Their name refers to the color of their web silk, although the female spiders do have gold spots on their large bodies and black and yellow striped legs, which are specialized for weaving.

The spiders are widespread in warmer regions around the world – the Americas, Australia, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. They are the oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen dating to 165 million years ago. You can find golden orb spiders hanging out in their shimmering webs everywhere around Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge and along the trails.

Threads of their webs shine like gold in sunlight. Studies suggest that the silk’s color may serve a dual purpose: sunlit webs ensnare bees and other insects that are attracted to the bright yellow strands, and in the shade, the yellow color blends in with background foliage to act as camouflage. Golden orb spiders can adjust the web’s pigment intensity relative to background light and color. They also secrete a chemical – pyrrolidine alkaloid – on the strands that protects the web from ants.

The fine-meshed spiral webs are gigantic: they can span 20 feet tall (6m) and 6.5 feet wide (2m). When you look at a web, you can’t help noticing the female spider since she is huge; golden orb females reach sizes of 4.8–5.1 cm (1.5–2 in) not including leg span. Those little spiders on the web are the males, being usually 2/3 smaller (less than 2.5 cm, 1 in).

If you should doubt the strength and elasticity of a golden orb weaver web, walk into one. You’ll find it is not easy to remove. When walking the trails at Nicuesa Lodge, I always watch out for golden orb webs – they are beautiful to admire, and you want to avoid being covered in the sticky silk. While the spiders rarely bite humans, their venom is potent with a neurotoxin effect, though not lethal to humans.

During your visit to the unique Costa Rica eco lodge at Playa Nicuesa, be sure to look out for these amazing eight-legged wonders. Capturing the morning or afternoon sunlight on their webs produces beautiful photos.

Article by Shannon Farley

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a fun eco-tour on Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Just 10 minutes by boat from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is a magical playground for animals at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. The animal refuge is a popular eco-tour for Nicuesa guests.

Meet sloths, kinkajous, tayras, ocelots, peccaries and anteaters. Stand next to Scarlet Macaws perched on an almond tree. Watch white-faced monkeys swing and play, and have your heart melt when a spider monkey comes to hold your hand.

The sanctuary on the Golfo Dulce coast at Cana Blanca was originally an eco-lodge started by owners Carol Patrick and Earl Crews. Carol got a reputation for tending to injured animals, and soon locals began dropping off orphaned and injured wildlife until there was no time for guests. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1996.

 

At first primarily an avian sanctuary, after Poppy the spider monkey arrived in 2003, all sorts of wonderful critters started showing up. The sanctuary is currently home to about 70 orphaned and injured animals that are indigenous to the southern zone of Costa Rica. Sadly, many of the animals are victims of illegal pet trade. Monkeys, wild cats, kinkajous, Scarlet Macaws and other prized creatures are captured as babies, and then abused or discarded once they reach adulthood when their owners don’t know how to deal with a wild animal. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary works closely with the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to rescue illegally-held animals.

Carol and her staff try their best to rehabilitate animals to release back into the wild. For each animal that enters the refuge, a complex and often unconventional playground, specifically designed to mimic its natural habitat, is created for housing. Same types of animals are put together when they can be. Environmental enrichment features – like species-appropriate toys, imitation streams with cascading water, and tree branches –encourage natural behaviors and prevent boredom.

The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization and relies on donations and tour fees to help with expenses like food, staffing, veterinary medical care, and supplies. Guided tours for visitors cost $25 per person and reservations must be made in advance.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, just down the Golfo Dulce Coast, offers its guests tours to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive eco-lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve. Like the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, the Playa Nicuesa Reserve borders the lush rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park and fronts the pristine Pacific coastline of the Golfo Dulce. The award-winning eco-lodge caters to travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. They offer family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica’s Rich Biodiversity Reveals 5,000 New Species

It is amazing, that in this day and age, scientists are still discovering completely new species of plants and animals in the world. You would think that everything had already been discovered.
In Costa Rica, for instance, recent reports reveal that 5,000 new species of animals and plants have been discovered and classified between 2011 and 2013. The finding is part of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy (ENB in Spanish) for 2014-2020, which follows the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Most of the new 5,000 species found are insects. The others include a few orchids, mushrooms, mollusks, fish, reptiles and birds.

In the world so far, scientists say they have identified between 1.5 and 1.8 million animal and plant species, about half of which are insects. Beetles are the largest group with 300,000 species. In comparison, there are only 4,500 species of mammals recognized on the planet. Costa Rica, although a tiny country occupying only 0.03% of the planet’s landmass, hosts more than 500,000 plant and animal species. Keeping with the world trend, Costa Rica has about 300,000 kinds of insects. (Anyone who has ever walked into a Costa Rican rainforest without bug repellent knows this!)
Scientists estimate there are probably roughly 8.7 million species existing on Earth, according to a 2011 study in the journal PLoS Biology, published by the Public Library of Science. The crucial point is that approximately 83% of those plant and animal species have yet to be discovered. Scientists calculate that there are probably 6.5 million species living on land, and 2.2 million in the ocean, but that 86% of land-inhabitants and 91% of ocean-dwellers are still roaming at large undiscovered, described or cataloged, reports the study.

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you can see an abundance of plant and animal life. Located
on the Golfo Dulce next to the Piedras Blancas National Park, the award-winning eco-lodge features several unique ecosystems – primary and secondary rainforest, ocean and mangrove forest. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers nature and adventure tours, yoga classes and retreats, family vacations, and honeymoon trips.

Waterfall hike- The Monkeys were on the Monkey Trail

Coming back from the waterfall, walking down the Monkey trail we heard a big noise and the tree branches breaking. We stopped completely and stood quiet paying attention to the forest to realize that it was the jungle mafia, yes the White Face Capuchin Monkeys giving us a warning: “HEY YOU GUYS! This is our territory”.

 Mike and Lisa were captivated by the scout of the group and the troop behavior. These are the smartest monkeys in the Tropical Rainforest, they are opportunists (they eat everything) and they can live up to 45 years. Capuchin Monkeys travel in packs from 6 to 8 males and as Mark and Lisa witness it, they fight to protect their territory.  
Guide: Freiman