Category Archives: Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Mystical Cloud Forests

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Our first stop on our trip to Costa Rica is Savegre Mountain Lodge in San Gerardo de Dota, a little valley among the mountains and forest. As you drive through the winding roads from San Jose, you go higher and higher until you reach the clouds. Literally. All of a sudden the clouds are passing by the car and you know you have arrived in the cloud forest. The cloud forest is different from the rain forest in the sense that clouds hang between the trees at the mountain tops almost all day every day.

Clouds coming in over the San Gerardo mountains  The clouds of the cloud forest, San Gerardo de Dota

It’s cooler here up at this elevation, 2200 metres (6400 ft) almost feels like the mountains in a temperate climate. This makes for an interesting forest because there are pine and oak trees, among moss covered rubber trees, vines, bamboo, lichens, bromeliads and millions of other plants.

Jim looking at the tree Usha walking by the big tree

This morning we (our guests Usha and James, and I) woke up early and went for a birdwatching tour through the forest with Melvin, our funny and knowledgeable guide. At one point he heard 6 different birdsongs and could identify them all simultaneously and he can spot something in an instant. He would set up his spotting scope (looks like a telescope to find birds that are hidden from the human eye below the treetops) within seconds of a bird flying by so that when it landed we could get a close-up look.

James, Usha and me in San Gerardo de Dota Savegre lodge outdoor patio

This area of the country is one of the best places to see the Resplendant Quetzal. It is one of the most spectacular birds I have ever seen, and judging by the amount of people with their expert cameras with massive telescopic lenses out on the search with different guides, it is a popular bird to add to your list.  We were lucky enough to see no less than six today!  We saw two couples along the road and then another couple inside the forest on the trail. First the female arrived, so we knew the male would be close by (It’s mating season). While the females are beautiful, the males are spectacular, with green spiky soft feathers on their heads, red bodies, and teal green backs with long plumage that is whispy in the wind.

Quetzal back of quetzal plumage

In the afternoon, we decided to take part, at least in observation, of the procession along the road to the church for the easter celebration of the “stations of the cross.”  Usha, being from Africa is very interested in all of the cultural differences between where she grew up, where she lives now (the US), and Latin America. So we walked along as people from the small community here in this forested valley sang and prayed on this the most important day of the year for Catholics.

Tomorrow we are off to see the whole process of coffee, from bean to cup.  This region is famous for its coffee, as the best coffee grows at high elevations. It should be another beautiful day in this special part of the country.

My Trip to Costa Rica

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– Kelly Galaski

I have to say I feel pretty lucky to be going back to Costa Rica already. I’m going to be visiting some of my favorite places, and people, for an authentic cultural and nature experience. First we will be at Savegre Lodge where the rainforest sights and sounds are at your fingertips.

Then we’ll be off to my beloved friends and “family” in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor. This is the area that has two protected nature preserves, one named after the famous ornithologist that lived there and studied the birds and other wildlife in the rainforest for 60 years!

La Escondida  Las Nubes Cloud Forest

It will be great to see everyone again. We are going to do some “comida tipica” or traditional food lessons, learn how to make some yummy “tica” food. We will be staying at La Escondida, the “Hidden Farm”, a sustainable coffee farm and home of Luis Angel Rojas, his wife Carmen and their family. I can’t wait to see the toucans and monkeys that come every morning while you’re eating breakfast!

Then we’ll be off to the coast, to the beautiful and wild Uvita area, to La Cusinga ecolodge, which sits up on the coast with beautiful views of the ocean, and tons of birds on the property that are always in view from their outdoor dining area.

Come on the trip with us! Vamos a Costa Rica 🙂

Experiencing the Heart of Costa Rica

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By Kelly Galaski

Have you ever experienced a vacation that stayed not only in your memories, but in your heart?  Have you had the chance to interact with people, to get to know locals and feel a part of their family – an authentic cultural experience?  I had this opportunity last year in Costa Rica and my life is forever changed. I have more than friends there now, I have a home, with a family that cares for me like their own.

When I first arrived in Costa Rica in January 2008 I found myself in a kitchen surrounded by rapidly-speaking Spanish family members and felt pretty lost and a little scared. But from day 1 I was treated like a special guest. And each day I was able to communicate more, and meet more people – neighbors and friends that made me feel welcome in these small communities of Santa Elena and Quizarra, in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor.

The Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor is named for the famous ornithologist, Alexander Skutch (a bird biologist) that lived in the area on a private farm-turned-nature-preserve for 60 years studying the diverse bird and wildlife of the area.  The “corridor” is the area between two nature preserves, the Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary – where Skutch lived, and the Las Nubes Forest Preserve – a cloud forest donated to York University for conservation and research. There are several small farming communities all connected by coffee and sugar cane farms, small community centers, soccer fields, churches and schools.  The people here love to host volunteers, students and birdwatchers, and anyone interested in preserving their beautiful environment and learning about their culture.

Las Nubes Cloud Forest Sustainable Coffee farm

Andres and NatalieI was fortunate to stay with two families, the Hidalgo-Blanco family and the Valverde-Godinez family, as well as spend lots of time with Luis Angel Rojas at La Escondida “the hidden farm.” All in all I had 4 sisters, 3 brothers, 2 nieces, 2 nephews and two sets of parents/friends!  They filled me up with yummy breakfasts of eggs and “gallo pinto” – Costa Rica’s native dish of rice & beans, Lizano sauce, cilantro, celery & red pepper all mixed together. I had lots of lunches of garlic fish fillets (my favorite), pastas, fried plantains and “frescos” – fresh blended juices. There was also no shortage of fresh avocados from the tree outside and other fruits and vegetables from the farm. And I certainly can’t forget the “cafecitos” (pronounced cafe-sitos), which means literally little coffees, which are afternoon coffee breaks that I had almost every day around 3 o’clock chatting with my “mom” and friends.

Walking along there were always offers of rides from neighbors, and invitations to community meetings, festivals, and dances. The communities are small and friendly, everyone knowing each other, so it is one of the safest parts of the country.

Till this day I keep in touch with the friends I made there, who helped me learn Spanish, and made me feel like a part of their world in rural Costa Rica.  Since being back I have wanted to help more people experience this special place, as well as give back to these wonderful people. So I helped create an itinerary that brings people to the area for a couple of days, to stay in a small cabin on a private sustainable coffee farm,  “La Birdwatching at La EscondidaEscondida,” where toucans and monkeys come to play in the mornings and evenings, among tons of other colorful bird species.  Travelers can meet the “mom” I lived with, Sidey, and have a traditional food cooking lesson learning how to make tortillas or another dish. They can go with a local guide through the Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary and spot white-faced capuchin monkeys as well as see Alexander Skutch’s home and ancient mysterious petroglyphs. They can also visit another good friend Pablo, on his farm “Santuario Filaverde” where he gives a tour of his primary forest that he is trying to protect from encroaching pineapple plantations. See the full description of the trip, Costa Rica Cultural Experience, here which can be modified to suit individual tastes.

Another opportunity for those that are looking to volunteer for a longer period of time, for the summer between years of school or just for an international experience, a “Teaching English and Environmental Conservation” voluntour was set up with uVolunteer.org. Students or other volunteers can stay with a family and help out the schools and community groups who are trying to learn English by providing lessons as well as work with a tree nursery group on conservation activities – all while learning Spanish and experiencing the real heart of Costa Rica.

Helping plant trees and coffee Quizarra School

For further information on visiting the area, contact us at GreenSpot.travel, we would be happy to help you contribute to this special community.

Luxury & Green Hotels in Costa Rica: A video tour

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tree plantng 

Since so many of the green hotels and ecolodges that GreenSpot.travel loves to recommend to clients have been winning awards for their efforts, not to mention receiving rave reviews for service as the latest TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards show, we’ve decided to tell you a little bit about why we choose the hotels we do and what makes them green and great.

Green initiatives range from physical building features like solar panels for heating water, low-flow toilets and showerheads, furniture made from recycled materials, to waste management such as recycling and composting. Many of the lodges also contribute to conservation through either donations of revenues, or by protecting land through private nature reserves. Going beyond environmental initiatives, several lodges contribute to their local communities by supporting schools and purchasing local products such as materials and farm produce.

Here is a great video that takes you on a green tour of Arenas del Mar, a luxury beach resort in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, to give you an idea of how the best ecolodges are blending comfort, service and sustainability. Arenas del Mar’s extensive sustainability initiatives can be found here. It is one of the hotels included in GreenSpot.travel’s Luxury Adventure in Green.

Enjoy the tour!

Sea Turtles and SEE Turtles

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GreenSpot.travel loves to hear about and showcase organizations who are working hard to benefit people and the planet. In countries that have sea turtle nesting beaches, often there are challenges to keeping those nesting places undisturbed and healthy.  In some cases there is illegal poaching of sea turtles, in other cases development inhibits the ancient, mysterious creatures from coming ashore for their regular reproduction routines.

Photo by Neil OsborneOrganizations that work toward the conservation of sea turtle nesting sites such as SEE Turtles know that their work is essential in the preservation of these areas so that sea turtles can flourish.

Director Brad Nahill and his team at SEE Turtles have a mission to contribute profits to conservation, providing necessary income to communities that surround the sea turtle nesting sites. He shared his latest news with GreenSpot.travel:

“Building on a successful first year, the SEE Turtles (www.seeturtles.org) conservation tourism program is relaunching its website with a new look and expanded offerings.  Visitors to the website will find a variety of new trips to participate in sea turtle conservation and research in beautiful surroundings.  SEE Turtles creates partnerships with leading tour operators and organizations to promote travel to sea turtle hotspots where a modest amount of tourism can greatly benefit conservation efforts. Each trip generates donations for turtle conservation and creates alternatives to turtle poaching or irresponsible fishing in small coastal communities in Baja California Mexico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad & Tobago.”

Thanks to Brad and SEE Turtles for another great example of how green travel can create positive impacts.

Make sure to check out SEE Turtles’ 10 Tips for Turtle Watching!

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