Journal: Costa Rica - March 2012

My trip to Costa Rica was part of my Tropical Ecology and Conservation field studies class while enrolled in the Master's program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. The commentary below is lifted from a trip report I wrote for NatureScapes.Net shortly after my return home:

Everything I have ever heard from those who have been to Costa Rica has been overwhelmingly positive, and after having just spent two weeks there as a student participant in a graduate level class on Tropical Ecology and Conservation, I can easily understand why.

Our trip started in the capital of San Jose where met with a representative from FONAFIFO, the government program that compensates land owners for green space via a system called Payments for Environmental Services (PES). We then traveled north to the Cloud Forests near Monteverde, stopping along the way to sample fresh fruits at a fruit stand, where I discovered the delicious guanabana for the first time. We stayed up in the Monteverde area for several days, exploring the Monteverde Reserve, Monteverde Institute, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, and an organic coffee farm, and learning from various environmental experts and stakeholders about the region’s incredible biodiversity, conservation issues, and environmental policies. During this time we saw the iconic Resplendent Quetzal and endangered Three-wattled Bellbird, caught and released fruit bats with bat expert Richard LaVal, and enjoyed incredible sunrises and sunsets overlooking the Nicoya Peninsula from our home away from home at the La Calandria Field Station on the Pacific slope. We also stayed at the San Gerardo Field Station for two nights, and although the clouds never lifted enough for us to see the Arenal Volcano from the lovely back deck, we made the most of our time on the Carribean slope, enjoying dozens of colorful moths and a chorus of frogs each evening. Other notable species we spotted in the cloud forests included coati, giant blue morpho butterflies, stick insects, rufous-eyed stream frogs, black guan, swallow-tailed kite, keel-billed toucan, trogons, and number of other birds; we also got to meet an adorable baby sloth.

Our final days in Costa Rica were spent on the Nicoya Peninsula exploring the tropical dry forest, mangroves, and coastal tidal pools. The rancho we stayed in at the Caletas-Ario National Wildlife Refuge was within the territories of at least two howler monkey troops, and each morning around 4:30AM, we would wake up to the sound of hollering monkeys and a symphony of birds and insects. Nature’s early alarm clock provided me with the perfect opportunity to sneak away to the beach for sunrise. Here, I also spotted scorpions, a constrictor snake, a variety of adorable crabs, a giant banana spider, and a family of tail-less whip scorpions that lived under the sink.

After two weeks in Costa Rica, I felt the way I think one should always feel at the end of a good vacation; sad to leave, but happy to return home. Costa Rica is an absolutely incredible country and my visit there was nothing short of amazing. I hope to return to Costa Rica in the near future, maybe to work on programs that will combine photography with educating people about the country’s wildlife and unique ecosystems. Costa Rica’s incredible beauty and biodiversity, combined with the country’s forward thinking environmental policies, a thriving ecotourism industry, and it’s genuine, friendly and welcoming people, give it enormous potential for such projects.

The photographs below appear in chronological order and highlight some of my favorite images and memories from the trip.

walkway, color, Hotel Casa Las Orquídeas, San Jose, Costa Rica, traveller , photo

Retreat to Paradise

A traveler walks among a colorful walkway lined with flowers at the boutique Hotel Casa Las Orquídeas in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
cloud forest, rainforest, Costa Rica, tropical, plants, forest, Monteverde, Bosque Eterno de los Ninos​, Children's Eternal Rainforest, CERF, photo

Cloud Forest

Tropical plants stretch in every direction in a Costa Rican rainforest. The Bosque Eterno de los Ninos, or Children's Eternal Rainforest (CERF), is partially managed by the Monteverde Conservation League.

Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
sun, mountain, Costa Rica, Monteverde, photo

The Day's End

The orange globe of the sun sets into a gray cloud behind silhouetted mountains.

Central America, Costa Rica, La Calandria, Latin America, panorama, panoramic, scenic overlook, scenic view, sunset, vista, photo

The sun sets over the mountains on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica, viewed from the La Calandria Field Station near Santa Elena, Costa Rica.

Howler Monkey, monkey, baby, Caletas Ario Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, photo

Howler Monkey and Baby

A baby Golden-Mantled Howler Monkey clings to the back of its mom perched high in the branches of a tree at the Caletas Ario Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica.

Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, Nicoya Penninsula, Pacific Coast, beach, landscape, scenic, sunset, vacation, waves, photo

The Perfect Family Vacation

A family with a young child play in the waves at sunset on a beach on the Nicoya Penninsula on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo
Central America, Costa Rica, Latin America, photo