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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

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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! Costa Rica Hummingbirds

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Costa Rica is Abundant with Beautiful Birds, but the Hummingbird May be the Most Captivating

From the brilliant scarlet macaw to the iconic toucan, thousands of birds of every type and color call Costa Rica home. While large, showy birds abound, one of the country’s most captivating birds is one of its smallest- the hummingbird.

Hummingbird in Costa RicaHummingbirds flicker throughout the Costa Rican jungle like sunlit jewels, fascinating wildlife enthusiasts from around the world. More than 50 varieties of hummingbirds live and breed in Costa Rica, and for good reason. The country’s vast abundance of exotic flowers makes it a perfect spot for these tiny birds.

While they do eat bugs to balance out their diet, hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Their small bodies allow them to insert themselves into a flower as easily as a flying insect, and their long, specialized tongues can reach into the flowers’ interior to draw out nectar.

Hummingbirds are indeed some of the world’s most intriguing birds. They have the unique ability to both hover and fly backwards; they eat half their body weight in food each day; and they have the fastest metabolism of any bird. However, what most people find fascinating about them is their impossibly small size, and their colorful plumage.

Costa Rica’s smallest hummingbird in is the male scintillant, which weighs less than two grams and is no bigger than a large insect. The largest is the violet sabrewing, which weighs in at around 11 grams – about the same as two quarters put together.

Costa Rican hummingbirds display a variety of brilliant colors. The violet sabrewing features a deep purple body and contrasting emerald wings. The coppery-headed Emerald is a vibrant green with a golden head, and the magnificent hummingbird has a silvery-blue throat and a purple crest. The showiest hummingbird, the fiery-throated hummingbird, has an iridescent green body, a dark blue tail, a deep purple chest, a vibrant reddish-gold throat and a stunning blue crown.

Because flowers bloom, fade and die seasonally, hummingbirds must fiercely defend their food source, and are highly territorial. They are true loners, intermingling only to mate. Females create nests of twigs, leaves, and other debris, and bind the nest with cobwebs. They lay two eggs, and raise their chicks for about a month.

Hummingbirds nest during Costa Rica’s dry season, which runs from December through  so they are easier to spot in the wet season. Hummingbirds are not endangered, and their populations are very high. Though can be found throughout the entire country, hummingbirds are most abundant in the lowlands and coastal areas, with only about ten species inhabiting the colder highland regions. The best places to spot hummingbirds include La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Poas Volcano National Park, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Forest, and the Los Quetzales National Park.

 

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Spot This! Whale Watching in Costa Rica

humpack whale Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a great place for whale watching

The sparkling azure and turquoise waters of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast lure many visitors out on the water and whale watching is a favorite activity. Because whales of the northern and southern hemispheres migrate to their winter birthing grounds in Costa Rica, you are nearly always likely to spot a whale or two, or  more. The most common whale in these waters is the humpback, although several deep-water species—blues, grays, pilot, sei and beaked whales—are sometimes seen farther offshore.

Humpback whales have broad, round heads; in profile, their heads look long and slender. Large bumps, tubercles, hair follicles, cover their head and jaw. Humpbacks have stocky bodies with a clearly visible hump. Their tail fins can be as long as a third of their bodies and the color patterns and shapes of their fins and tail are unique to each whale, making it easy to identify individuals. At maturity, humpbacks measure 40 – 50 feet and weigh between 50 – 80,000 pounds. They live at least 50 years.

Newborn calves are about 20 feet long and nurse on the mother’s pink, high-fat milk for about six months. After that, calves begin to feed independently while nursing less and less until about a year old.

The first indication there’s a whale in the area is a blow, a heart-shaped cloud of water rising about 10 feet above the surface. Keep looking and you’ll notice a stubby dorsal fin soon after the blow. The flukes will be clearly visible as the whale surfaces. If you spot one, you’re likely to see several whales: After the humpbacks arrive in Costa Rica, they congregate in pods of as many as a dozen whales.

Humpbacks are famous for their songs, which change slightly from year to year. Whales sing one 10 – 20-minute song continuously for hours. North American whales sing a different song from their South American counterparts, but all males within each population sing the same song, despite great distances between groups. Males float head down, almost motionless, while singing. The songs span several octaves, some undetectable by humans.

Northern humpbacks start arriving in December and stay through April. In June, southern humpbacks migrate up from Antarctic waters, arriving in July, leaving in October. The greatest concentration of humpbacks is in October and November, when both populations are present offshore. Aside from dedicated tours, many sunset cruises and excursions will divert to known whale locations.

 

 

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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 Oncillo

Costa Rica Tigrillo

Little Jungle Cats of Costa Rica are fun to spot

The oncilla, also known as tigrillo or little tiger cat is a native of the rain forests and mountains of Costa Rica and northern Panama. Its South American range extends as far as northern Argentina. Some experts consider Costa Rica’s oncillas to be a distinct subspecies (Leopardus tigrinus oncilla) of the genus.

Closely related to the ocelot, the oncilla is slighter and longer than a domestic cat; average weight ranges from 3 to 7 pounds. Like the ocelot, the oncilla has dark rosettes and its coat varies in color from light yellow-brown to dark ochre, providing camouflage in the dappled shade of the rainforest. The belly and underside are paler but still feature the rosette markings. The oncilla has a ringed tail and the backs of its ears feature bold “eyespot” rosettes. Leg rosettes diminish in size down the legs.

Carnivores, oncilla feeds small mammals, birds, lizards, stalking its prey from a distance and pouncing once in range. Mostly active at night, some oncillas feed on diurnal lizards and have been seen during the day.

Oncillas are sexually mature at about 2 ½ years. Females produce litters of one to three kittens after a 75-day gestation. The average lifespan is 11 years, with some instances of oncillas living to be 17 years.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature rates oncilla as a vulnerable species because of deforestation, poaching and human encroachment on its habitat. CITES, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, has banned international commerce (exotic trade and related products).

The little tiger cat is one of Costa Rica’s endemic treasures and a sight worth seeing if you have the chance.

 

 

 

 

 

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