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Costa Rica’s National Parks

Manuel Antonio National Park Costa Rica

Costa Rica is abundant with national parks and preserves

Costa Rica is the proud home of twenty-seven national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas/mangroves, 11 forest reserves and 8 biological reserves, plus 12 other conservation regions protect the distinctive and diverse natural habitats. Nearly 5% of global flora and fauna, representing 12 life zones, live in an area about the size of West Virginia. The six national parks below capture some of Costa Rica’s amazing biodiversity and all are within a few hours’ drive of Los Sueños Resort and Marina.

 

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in northern Puntarenas province sits on the Continental Divide, where mist produced by the high humidity at elevations of up to 5,200 feet collected on the branches of the tallest trees, supports a stunning range of biodiversity. Extending across eight distinct biological zones, the reserve is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. There are several ways to explore the reserve, on foot or exploring the canopy via skywalk or zipline. Well-maintained trails vary in difficulty from easy to moderate, and with thick moss covering nearly all surfaces, sturdy hiking boots are necessary.

 

 

Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula, preserves the largest primary tropical rainforest on the American Pacific coast. Its remote location has helped preserve it as habitat for many endangered plant and animal species, even as the park’s popularity as an ecotourism destination grows. Scarlet macaws, resplendent quetzals, red-eyed tree frogs and tapirs are among the hundreds of species that inhabit the park’s 13 ecosystems. A certified professional guide must accompany all visitors.

 

Arenal Volcano within Arenal Volcano National Park is one of the most recognized in Costa Rica. The conservation area (290 square miles) encompasses eight of the 12 life zones in Costa Rica. Hiking, boating, cycling, bird watching and natural hot springs add to the volcano’s steady geothermal display. Birdwatchers especially should pay a visit; most of Costa Rica’s 850 bird species can be found here.

Piedras Blancas National Park, formerly part of Corcovado, helps protect the last remaining lowland tropical rainforest on the Golfo Dulce. In addition, Piedras Blancas is one of the few jaguar habitats in Costa Rica. Bordering Golfito National Wildlife Refuge, Piedras Blancas and Corcovado create and protect an important ecologically diverse biological corridor in the Golfo Dulce. Many rate Piedras Blancas as a premier bird watching park because many birds from throughout the Americas gather.

 

Los Quetzales National Park encompasses 3 rainforests and 14 ecosystems along the Cordillera de Talamanca. Reaching altitudes of nearly 10,000 feet, the mountains provide a stunning backdrop for the park to rival its colorful namesakes. Here, brightly colored, long-tailed green and red quetzals are plentiful, belying their nearly mythological rarity. Other avian residents include the colibri, with its cone-shaped nests and hummingbirds. Squirrel monkeys, sloths, jaguars and pumas are also plentiful within the park.

 

Santa Rosa National Park, founded in 1972, is part of the Guanacaste Conservation area that protects a great deal of the last tropical dry forest in the world. Ten distinctive habitats, deciduous forests, littoral woodlands, evergreen forests, mangroves, marshlands and savannahs, can be found within park boundaries. Lush in the green season, the park becomes a topical dry forest in the dry season with well-marked trails. Playa Naranjo and Playa Nancite are two of several stunning beaches. Playa Nancite is an olive ridley turtle nesting site, while Witches Rock at Playa Naranjo offers some of the best surfing in the world.

Manuel Antonio National Park, on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, encompasses rugged rainforest, white-sand beaches and coral reefs. It’s renowned for its vast diversity of tropical plants and wildlife, from three-toed sloths and endangered white-faced capuchin monkeys to hundreds of bird species. The park’s roughly 680 hectares are crossed with hiking trails, which meander from the coast up into the mountains.

 

For such a small country, Costa Rica leads the world in environmental conservation, in land, species and government programs. HRG’s dedicated concierge team can help you arrange a visit to any of the parks on our list or help you choose from the many choices available to you. They’ll take care of all the details, from door-to-door.

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Best Things to do During Green Season in Costa Rica: Waterfalls and Rivers

waterfall Costa Rica

Green season brings crashing waterfalls and rushing rivers to beautiful Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its beautiful shorelines, and for its game fishing, scuba diving and surfing opportunities. However, the country is not all about salt water. Parts of Costa Rica receive up to 300 inches of rain in any given year, and dozens of rivers and streams course across the interior rainforest, cutting through lush jungle vegetation and winding around spectacular mountain, forest and jungle landscapes.

Costa Rica’s rivers have much to offer the sightseer. During the rainy season, they become rushing rapids that beckon daring travelers for a rafting adventure. There are rapids for every skill level, from beginners to those looking for a hard-core adventure.

Those looking for a more low-key way to enjoy Costa Rica’s rivers won’t be disappointed. They can coast along on gentle currents on a one-of-a-kind wildlife tour, where they can see everything from capuchin monkeys to crocodiles. Or, they can simply enjoy the scenery from the safety of the river bank.

Where there are rivers and mountains, there are waterfalls, and Costa Rica lays claim to some of the world’s most incredible falls. From thundering giants that draw visitors from around the world, to clandestine cascades that can only be seen after a trek through the jungle landscape, there are falls of all types to be enjoyed here.

Celeste

The Celeste waterfall is always a spectacular site. The waterfall cascades into a luminous baby blue pool, the color of which is caused by a combination of naturally occurring chemicals. Every so often, lucky visitors catch the falls when they themselves turn a vibrant, glowing shade of blue.

La Fortuna

This waterfall is a popular, well-traveled site, and for good reason. It cascades nearly 230 feet in a perfectly picturesque setting, and ends into a pol just perfect for swimming.

El Chorro

Those willing to take the three or four hour hike — or a pleasant hour-long horseback ride – up a secluded canyon will be treated to the sight of these majestic falls, which tumble gracefully from impossible heights into the Pacific Ocean. A freshwater lagoon sits just at the bottom of the falls, which is popular for swimming.

Savegre

If you are up for a trek through exhilarating cloud forests and across lofty suspension bridges, then you will be rewarded with the sight of the Savegre Falls. These falls fall 100 feet into a crystal-clear pool, and are nestled against a background of rolling hills and wildflowers.

Nauyaca

Visitors to these falls are in for a treat – these falls create a two-tiered cascade effect, which tumble into a sparkling crystal pool. The falls are located on private property, but can be visited by the public on horseback. Intrepid visitors can dive from steep ledges into the pool, while those looking for a little relaxation can just take a dip in the cool fresh water. .

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Making Memories and Recording Them in Los Sueños Costa Rica

butterfly tropical on a digital camera photographer with hand woman.

How to record your luxury vacation at Los Sueños Costa Rica

A luxury vacation at Los Sueños Resort and Marina is a trip to paradise that passes all too quickly. Once you get home, you’ll want to preserve those special moments. While travel journals and sketches are still popular with writers and artists, digital recordkeeping—photos, videos and audio—is likely more accessible for the rest of us. Whether it’s a candlelit dinner for two or the kids cavorting on the beach, you’ll want to capture those special memories.

Reserve your mobile phone for spur-of-the-moment selfie opportunities and rely instead on a digital camera. Even a modest camera produces better quality pictures and videos than your cell phone. If you’re a photography buff, you probably have specialized equipment for capturing quality images.

Use a travel journal or notebook to record the highlights or even the low points—you’ll laugh about them later. Jot down a note or two about whom you talked to, who took that picture of the two of you or to jog your memory about a great day trip, a fantastic meal or where you saw that fabulous waterfall. Consider taking along an inexpensive audio recorder to capture a spontaneous reaction. It will pay dividends when you get home again.

Be sure to save the whimsical bits and pieces you collect on your trip—ticket stubs, brochures, coins and the like. Tuck them away for the trip home because they’ll help you remember the little moments too: a walk on the beach or a hike through the rainforest.

Once you’re home, sift through the pictures, videos and recordings, choose the best and organize their order. There are several high- and low-tech ways to preserve your memories. If you have photography enhancing software, you can easily correct color, contrast, etc. Stashing videos and pictures on the hard drive is easy, but chances are you’ll forget the circumstances of the picture. If you’re ambitious, you can create a fancy scrapbook; if not, a cheap photo album and a few labels will remind you.

A shadow box can make a nice display of photos and those odds-and-ends you brought home. If you went digital, a digital picture frame could play a slideshow of your favorite pictures. For something special, consider creating a photo book: Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mixbook and even Costco offer standard and customized printed albums shipped to your door.

Those bits-and-bobs? Spreengs.com and its parent company, pim.tv, have a line of standard and custom video boxes. Store the trinkets in the box, when you lift the lid, the video plays inside the lid and you can see and feel the memories every time you open the box.

A Los Sueños vacation is a luxury dream in paradise—a bit of forethought and planning will keep the dream alive for years to come.

 

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Spot This! The Costa Rica Capuchin Monkey

Costa Rica Capuchin Monkey

Check out the Capuchin Monkey of Costa Rica…

 

Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most exotic and colorful wildlife. But there is perhaps nothing that captivates the hearts of visitors more than the cute and cuddly capuchin monkey. This adorable critter isn’t shy, and isn’t hard to spot in Costa Rica. It’s also quite mischievous, and its antics often delight passing spectators.

Capuchin monkeys can be found in Costa Rica’s Caribbean wetland forests, and in the deciduous dry forests of the Pacific. They live in altitudes of up to 4500 feet, and spend their days browsing the forest for delicacies. Capuchins are omnivorous – they prefer ripe, juicy fruits, which are abundant in Costa Rica, but they will also eat shoots, grubs, insects, and occasionally, eggs and small vertebrates like lizards, squirrels and small birds.

Capuchins are a relatively small-sized monkey, with black bodies, white faces and shoulders, and a distinctive black patch, or “cap” on their heads. Their faces are very expressive, and they are very playful, which makes them endlessly entertaining to watch.

Capuchins are diurnal, which means they are most active during the day. This makes them easy to spot as you hike Costa Rica’s forests. The monkeys travel in groups of up to 15, which are headed by a single male, and they can often be seen in trees, swinging from branch to branch using their hands, feet and prehensile tails. Females bear young every 1 to 2 years – one of the biggest treats for visitors to Costa Rica is to see a baby capuchin peeking out from its mama’s fur.

In the regions of Costa Rica where they are found, capuchin monkeys can be seen everywhere, often running together in large groups. One of the best places in the country to spot these cuties is Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is inhabited by large populations of capuchins, and is so highly frequented by humans that the capuchins have become quite used to interacting with (and being fed by) people. They are not shy, can easily be seen, and will even “pose” for pictures.

If you would like to see these monkeys in a more natural setting, head to the Junquillal Bay National Wildlife Refuge, or the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge. The monkeys may be harder to spot and less friendly, but you’ll have a better glimpse into their natural habitat and their natural behavior.

 

 

 

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Travel Costa Rica- Respect and Sustainability

Ugly American

When traveling Costa Rica, ghosts & goblins are fine, but don’t be the “Ugly American”

You’d be amazed at the number of “Ugly Americans” walking around in Costa Rica, and not just on Halloween! Ugly American is a pejorative term used to refer to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of North American citizens, mainly abroad. Many people think of the term in reference to social exchanges, but the term can refer to thoughtless interactions with nature and ambiance too.

When traveling to Costa Rica, or any country in the world for that matter, it’s important to travel with deference and sustainability.

Here are some suggestions for travelling Costa Rica respectfully

  • Shouting won’t help non-English speakers understand you better. Do your best to try to learn some basic Spanish words and phrases before your trip. Bring along a Spanish phrase book or download a translation app to your smart phone. Have fun with it and just try; hand gestures, “spanglish” and a smile will get you much further than yelling.
  • Don’t talk at, or about, Costa Ricans in a condescending manner.  Remember, different doesn’t mean less than.
  • Keep in mind that Latin America IS America; it’s polite to refer to the United States as “North America” or “The States” or “The U.S.” Say, “I’m North American” rather than, “I’m American.”
  • Don’t complain about how things are done in Costa Rica; remember, you are a guest. When you are back home, you can expect things to be done, and do things, in the way you are accustomed to. When traveling, you have an opportunity to respect cultural differences and learn from them!
  • Be respectful of the communities and environments you visit, regardless of whether you’re in the city, or you’re in the Costa Rica rainforest surrounded by jungle flora and fauna.
  • Don’t litter. Ever. Anywhere. Leave no trace other than footprints, and take nothing away with you except memories.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle to help prevent contribution to excessive plastic in the landfills.
  • Be conscientious of energy consumption. Turn off the lights and unplug your phone; take public transit, or walk when you can.
  • Conserve water. Take shorter showers and reuse towels. Did you know that the average hotel guest uses nearly 80 gallons of water per night? In luxury accommodations, it’s 6 times that amount!
  • Always ask permission before taking pictures and respect the wishes of your potential subject.
  • Do not buy or eat products of endangered species such as turtle eggs.
  • Support the local economy. Buy locally made souvenirs, eat at local restaurants, stay at  small privately owned (versus huge corporate) vacation rentals, hotels and hostels, and enjoy the local culture!
  • Try to frequent hotels, guest houses, lodges and vacation rentals that have sustainable practices in place such as composting, recycling, and water conservation.

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. When you do that, you arrive on the seen as a welcome Traveler, not the Ugly American.

 

 

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Spot This! Leatherback Turtles of Costa Rica

Turtle Hatchling Escaping Into The Ocean

Leatherback Turtles of Costa Rica- one of the most fascinating treats for visitors

Costa Rica has a complex ecosystem, and is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on Earth. Of all the animals Costa Rica visitors love seeing on their trip, the leatherback turtle is one of the most popular, and for good reason.

As far as turtles go, the leatherback is an impressive species. It is the largest living turtle on earth, measuring up to 6 feet in length and up to 1200 pounds in weight. While little is known about how long they live, it is believed that they may have a life span of 50 years or more.

While all other turtles have a hard, woody shell, the leatherback’s shell is made from skin and oily flesh. The turtle’s upper body is dark grey with scattered white splotches, while its underbelly is pale.

Leatherbacks lack true teeth, so they mainly dine on soft-bodied creatures like cephalopods and jellyfish. They are highly adaptable, and are perfectly at home in all but the coldest ocean waters. They roam far and wide during their lifetimes, with individual turtles having been found everywhere from Argentina to Alaska.

While leatherbacks may spend most of their lives traveling the ocean, they always come back to the same spots to nest. Leatherbacks only nest in tropical zones, and female turtles come back to the same shores they were born on to lay their own eggs.

Female leatherbacks work hard on their nests. They use their flippers to dig sizable holes, into which they deposit their eggs. They then cover the eggs with sand to keep them warm. Eventually, the baby turtles hatch, dig their way out of the sand, and head out to sea.

Unfortunately, the trek out to sea is treacherous for baby leatherbacks. There are many predators waiting to snatch them up, including dogs, crabs, birds, and even humans. Nesting sites are being broken up due to beach erosion, and the lights from coastal buildings are confusing the turtles and luring them in the wrong direction.

Adult turtles have their own challenges; they are often killed in fishing nets, and they frequently mistake plastic items in the water for jellyfish, which leads to intestinal blockages. For all of these reasons, leatherbacks are listed as an endangered species, and conservationists around the world are doing their best to protect their populations.

Costa Rica is well-known for its wildlife conservation efforts, and it is fiercely protective of its leatherback population. The country is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of these amazing turtles. Numerous females congregate on both the Pacific and the Caribbean shores to lay their eggs, and visitors can see – and even take part in — the entire process themselves. On the Pacific side, leatherbacks nest between September and March, while on the Caribbean side they nest from February to August.

The best places to see leatherback turtles in Costa Rica include Corcovado National Park, the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge , the Marino Las Baulas National Park, and Tortuguero National Park.

 

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10 Days of Delight: Your Ultimate Trip to Costa Rica

Make your trip to Costa Rica count

To help you make the most out of your trip to Costa Rica, we’ve created this travel guide that can promise you a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination with its wide array of environmental and cultural attractions.  As you plan your vacation, be sure to check out the premier luxury Los Sueños Resort, featuring a spa, championship golf course, gorgeous views of the ocean and marina, and more!

 

10 Days of Delight: Your Ultimate Trip to Costa Rica

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Spot This! Costa Rica Woodpecker

Hoffmann's Woodpecker

Birdwatching can be a fascinating pastime in Costa Rica and the Costa Rica Woodpecker is no exception

While most people think of Costa Rica’s wildlife as exotic, there are some familiar faces that are just as beautiful and charming as some of the country’s more showy inhabitants. One such creature is the lineated woodpecker.

Locally known as the “carpintero,” which literally translates to carpenter, this woodpecker easy to spot and easy to love. With its shock of bright red head plumage, black and white body, and signature white lines, the bird will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen its close relative, the pileated woodpecker, pecking away at trees in the United States.

As far as woodpeckers go, the carpintero is one of the largest, measuring 12 to 14 inches in length and weighing between 6 and 8 ounces. Its habitat ranges from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and, while it prefers open areas like pastures and forest edges, it also lives in dry, humid and coastal forests. This makes it easy to find in many different places across Costa Rica.

The carpintero mainly eats insects, including ants, termites, spiders, grubs and beetle larvae. However, it also indulges in nuts, seeds, fruits and berries. The carpintero does its characteristic to get to the tastiest treats. But it also performs its drum song to attract the best mates, and to burrow a home or a nest for itself.

Carpinteros are a model of marital cooperation: they mate in breeding pairs, and stay together throughout the breeding season. They often use specific pecking sounds to communicate. Both males and females help to make the nests, which are built in cavities of dead trees. Breeding takes place during spring months, and both parents help care for the chicks. During the day, females feed and care for the young, while males guard the nest. At night, Dad takes his turn caring for the chicks.

Carpinteros are well-known and well-loved for several reasons, the most obvious being their bright red, “punk-rock” hairdos and their attractive black markings. But avid birdwatchers also delight in their vocalizations, which sound like crazy laughter, and their habit of not spreading their wings to fly until they have very nearly hit the ground.

Lineated woodpeckers often travel in groups, and are abundant in Costa Rica. While they are more abundant in lowlands, carpinteros are plentiful and can be seen in nearly every Costa Rican national park and nature reserve.

 

 

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Spot This! The Costa Rica Land Crab

Depositphotos_66956951_s

When most people think of Costa Rica’s wildlife, they think of cheerful monkeys and colorful parrots. However, there is a wealth of lesser-known, yet equally fascinating animals to seek out. One such animal is the Tajaline, or land crab. These colorful creatures come out in droves just before the rainy season, charming spectators with their unique appearance and curious behavior.

Land crabs love warmth and sunshine. They inhabit the Caribbean, the southern Atlantic coast, Gulf Coast, and have been found in Bermuda, Texas, southern Florida, and Central America. They can be seen in many spots of coastal Costa Rica.

Land crabs grow to about 4 inches in length, and can weigh up to just over a pound. The most well-known species located in Costa Rica is called Cardisoma, and is the brightly-colored shell of its juveniles, which features vibrant shades of orange, purple and green.

Land crabs are omnivorous, and eat both plants and small animals, although some species are mainly vegetarian. They live almost completely on land, but never more than five miles from the ocean.

Land crabs mate during full moons in the summertime. The female releases her eggs – all 300,000 to 700,000 of them – into the surf. Most crab larvae never make it to adulthood, but their loss is the ecosystem’s gain – many other creatures depend on them for food.

Land Crabs live tunnels burrowed into the ground. At the start of the rainy season, they burst out of their holes and begin their trek to the sea to lay their eggs. They walk in straight lines, over and past any obstacle, through homes and across roads.

Although watching land crabs heading on their determined journey or burrowing quickly back into their holes is fascinating for visitors and nature-lovers, the local farmers and gardeners see them as pests, as they don’t discriminate where they build their tunnels, and can damage lawns and gardens. They aren’t shy about coming into the house, either. It’s not uncommon to find them indoors. Finally, be careful when driving down the coast highways in Costa Rica- you will find they don’t bother with looking both ways before crossing the road.

Land crabs are shy around humans, and are harmless unless they are provoked. Even then, they only react defensively, and the worst you will get is a painful pinch, warning you not to mess with them again.

Land crabs can be seen in many different national parks in Costa Rica. The best time to see them is during the rainy season, which begins in late April to mid-May and ends in late October to mid-November.

 

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Spot This! Stone Spheres in Costa Rica

Costa_Rica_Stone_Spheres

Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most diverse wildlife, and some of its most beautiful unspoiled landscapes. However, the country is not without its archaeological wonders. While Costa Rica has historically been minimally populated, there are a few fascinating sites that tell an interesting tale of its past.  One of these sites is the Stone Spheres.

Known locally as “Las Bolas,” meaning simply “the Balls,” these fascinating monolithic sculptures range from just a few inches around to over 6 feet in size, and can weigh up to 15 tons.  They are made from native basalt, sandstone, and are strewn across the Diquís delta in Costa Rica’s southern region.

Like Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues, the Stone Spheres have presented the world with a mystery that is as fascinating as it is vexing. Who made them, and why? How were they made? How were the heaviest ones transported so far from the material source? Are they the work of aliens?  Or perhaps a lost civilization?

The Stone Spheres were first found by workers from the United Fruit Company in 1940, as they cleared land for agricultural purposes. There were estimated to have been hundreds of spheres at the initial discovery; since then some have been broken by farming equipment or blown up by those searching for gold. Meanwhile, others have been dispersed across the country, and now grace museums, important historical sites, and even the lawns of well-to-do Costa Ricans. Very few are still in their original spots.

While much myth and speculation have arisen around these spheres, their existence likely has a simple, if not entirely satisfying explanation. They were made by human hands, by natives who lived in the area before the Spanish arrived. Unfortunately, the identity and history of this culture appears to have been lost to the ages.

The stones were discovered in the Térraba River delta, but they have been found as far north as the Estrella Valley, as far south as the Coto Colorado River mouth, and across the Isla del Caño. The sculptures are believed to date back to somewhere around the year 600, but proper dating has been difficult, as it requires seeing the stones in their original spots.

No one is exactly sure how the spheres were made, but some experts believe that the crafters honed boulders into spherical shapes, possibly using a system of hot coals and cold water baths.  It was believed that many of them were perfectly spherical – a virtual impossibility with pre-Colombian technology. However, erosion and faulty measuring techniques have made these claims dubious.

Of course, where there are mysteries, myths abound. Some people believe that aliens placed the sculptures, while others believe they are from the lost city of Atlantis. Still others believe that they were created using a special potion that dissolves rock.

However they came to be, the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica are worth seeing, and make a fascinating stop on a tour of the country.