Harnessing the sun’s energy in the Costa Rica rainforest

A lot of people ask us about our solar drying room at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica. Given that we are a Costa Rica rainforest lodge – and that it does rain in the rainforest – a frequent comment in our guest reviews is how happy people are to have a place available for drying out wet clothes.

Guests who stay at our Costa Rica eco-lodge receive a cloth cotton laundry bag upon check-in, with their cabin or room name printed on it. Guests are invited to bring the laundry bag with any wet clothes to be dried to the main lodge building in the morning at breakfast time. Give it to a staff member and the clothes are hung up in the solar drying room. Lodge staff does not wash clothes – guests may do this in their sink or shower.

On a hot sunny day, clothes usually dry in one to two hours. Even on an overcast day, guests should receive dry clothes back in the afternoon of the same day.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is dedicated to sustainable travel and has received the highest rating in the Costa Rica Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST). The lodge dries all of its towels, sheets, bedding, etc. using solar energy. On a sunny day, 24 loads of laundry can be dried in three to five hours!

How does it work?

The solar drying room is located in a natural clearing in the rainforest behind the main lodge buildings, near the tree nursery and compost area. The floor of the drying area is made of gravel stones which heat up quickly, radiating that heat upward toward drying items. The stones also hold the heat if the sun goes away behind clouds.

A clear polycarbonate roof absorbs and reflects the sun’s heat, creating an “oven effect” with the stone floor. The roof is slanted at an extreme angle to create a circular air flow. Sides of the drying room are open for air ventilation and circulation. Lastly, aluminum rods are used for hanging wet items, because the aluminum also heats up quickly and helps with the drying process.

The entire system is very efficient. You can learn about our solar drying room on our Sustainability Tour when staying at the lodge.

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). The only way to get there is by boat across the Golfo Dulce from either the towns of Golfito or Puerto Jimenez. 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

 

Playa Nicuesa is a top sustainable hotel in Costa Rica

What does eco-tourism and being sustainable really mean? Is that just recycling the trash or turning off a few lights?

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica, sustainability means much more. The Costa Rica rainforest lodge is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating of Five Leaves 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. CST consists of five levels, called “Leaves”; Level five, or Five Leaves, signifies that the company is considered “outstanding in terms of sustainability.”

“Our goal is to provide guests with an experience that they will always remember fondly: Excellence, friendly service, high-end accommodations, educational opportunities and unique, well-run adventure activities, and to provide this experience while operating the lodge in the most environmentally-friendly manner possible,” explained Playa Nicuesa owners, Michael and Donna Butler.

The extraordinary Costa Rica eco-lodge was designed in harmony with the environment constructed from naturally fallen trees and recycled materials. Immersed in the dense tropical rainforest bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park and the pristine Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) in southern Costa Rica, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located on a 165-acre private preserve. Adding to its uniqueness, the only way to get there is by boat across the pristine waters of the Golfo Dulce from either Golfito or Puerto Jimenez.

“We traveled all over Costa Rica and other parts of Central America to find and create a special place where one can intimately experience the natural world of both the tropical rainforest and the Pacific Ocean,” expounded the Costa Rica rainforest lodge owners. “Our plan was to create a place that offers the comfort of a lodge and the activities and diversity of an adventure tour.”

The area is part of a giant conservation area including the world-famous Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula. The unique tropical fjord of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for migrating Pacific Humpback Whales, and resident and migratory communities of dolphins and sea turtles.

Playa Nicuesa sustainability highlights:

  • Lodge buildings are located on less than 2% of property – 98% is a private protected area.
  • Used recycled construction materials, such as: roof tiles on the lodge and cabins made from recycled plastics, including banana bags.
  • Wood came from naturally fallen trees, permitted by the government to be pulled out of the forest by oxen, or from farmed trees.
  • Electricity is provided by solar energy. Panels are located on main lodge structure. Back-up generator runs on recycled vegetable oil.
  • Solar drying room used to dry all of the lodge wash.
  • Hot water is provided by on-demand propane which means that the propane is used only when the hot water faucet is turned on.
  • Received the Ecological Blue Flag Award for clean beaches.

Check out Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge Green Season Specials for adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort at great prices through Sept. 30, 2014.

Article by Shannon Farley

 

Remarkable rainforest of dreams in southern Costa Rica

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

Two top scientists in Nicuesa Lodge

March 1-7: Drs. Howard Topoff and Carol Simon

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is excited to host Drs. Howard Topoff and Carol Simon – both formerly professors at the City University of New York and Research Associates at the American Museum of Natural History – during the first week of March. These two research scientists and study leaders of natural history will offer daily multimedia presentations focusing on the Natural History of Costa Rica – including the following topics:

Introduction to Rain Forest Animals & Plants

Social Behavior of Monkeys of Central and South America

Social Insects of the World

The Evolution of Animal Coloration

Poisonous Reptiles and Amphibians of the Rain Forest

The Evolution of Animal Communication

Courtship and Mating Strategies of Animals

Howard Topoff has spent 40+ years researching the social behavior of animals. His field research has been conducted in Central and South America, Africa, and in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. In addition to his publications in scientific journals, his more popular articles have appeared in magazines such as Scientific American and Natural History. His research has been featured on National Geographic Television, and Scientific American Frontiers.

Carol Simon is broadly trained in ecology, behavior and evolution. Her research on the social behavior of reptiles has taken her to many areas of North and Central America. Her current field research on reptile behavior is based in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.