Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

A Guided Tour of Manuel Antonio National Park with Naturalist Johan Chaves

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”. –  John Muir

Our villa at Tulemar was like a treehouse, perched high above the jungle and surrounded by nature.  I woke at 5:30 am to the sound of the birds greeting the day and went out to watch the tropical rainforest come to life. Two pairs of scarlet macaws flew poignantly overhead and settled in a neighboring tree where they squawked a bit before taking flight. Kingfishers, warblers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and tiny hummingbirds enjoyed their breakfast in the morning light. I could have laid here all morning but alas I had to get everyone else up for our seven am tour of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

My favorite place of all – the hammock

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Morning sunrise from the balcony at Tulemar

Visting Manuel Antonio had been a dream of mine ever since I first visited Costa Rica on a volunteer trip in 2011. Today I would finally see one of Costa Rica’s most popular and beloved parks and I could hardly wait.

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Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Off to a Great Adventure: Arriving in Manuel Antonio at Sunset

“Every sunset is an opportunity to reset”. – Richie Norton

Exhausted and achy after 13 hours of travel, we finally arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio. It had been an extremely long day, especially for the kids, but we were all in high spirits to finally arrive at our much-awaited destination. I had been wanting to go to Manuel Antonio ever since I first visited Costa Rica in 2011 on a volunteer trip. A group of fellow volunteers had went for a weekend but as a mother of young children, I could not afford to be gone any longer than a week. I had to go home despite a deep unfilled wish of seeing it.

Fast forward 6 years, in the midst of planning our 9 day family adventure in Costa Rica that long seeded desire to visit Manual Antonio National Park arose from hibernation and a little voice kept telling me I had to finally go see it even if it would require a significant amount of time spent in the car driving. As I mentioned in my past post, we flew into Liberia Airport in the north of the country and to reach Manuel Antonio required a long five hour drive down a one-way highway snaking in and out of little beach towns. Yet I had my heart set on seeing Manuel Antonio so the plan was made to get the long drive out of the way immediately on the front end of our trip. I can thank my husband for his wise thinking.

Our route

The entire drive down to Manuel Antonio I secretly wondered if I would truly be satisfied by visiting. I had just spent a week in the remote, undeveloped Osa Peninsula in January and literally had the place to myself. Its raw, untouched beauty and lack of mass tourism made it a paradise on earth and supported my mission to travel responsibly by engaging in sustainable, ethical travel. Manuel Antonio would be quite different as it is known as the first ecotourism destination in Costa Rica so the area has suffered over the years with mass tourism, overdevelopment, and unsustainable practices that have negatively impacted the culture, environment and wildlife of this magical place. A complicated feeling of guilt mixed with pleasure swirled around inside my head.

When we arrived in Quepos, the bustling town located right outside of the park, it was clear that it was nothing at all like Puerto Jimenez in the Osa Peninsula. Street after street was packed with souvenir shops, restaurants and an overwhelmingly amount of tourists. My stomach dropped in initial disappointment yet I should not have been surprised based on all I had read.

We drove the 4 1/2 miles (7 km) through town, constantly avoiding cars and people, climbing up the lush green rain forested hills of Manuel Antonio. Resort after resort dotted the tiny road with gates and security guards and pristine landscaping. I confess it was beautiful yet a stark difference between the tiny town of Drake Bay in the Osa whose sweeping views of rainforest and jungle are unobstructed.

We pulled into the gates of our resort and were relieved to finally be there. After much research and careful consideration, we decided to stay at one of the best resorts in town, Tulemar Vacation Rentals. It would be a far cry from my cheap, local lodging in the Osa and would not exactly follow my mission of staying and supporting local travel. Yet it would have some clear advantages over some of the other choices in the area. First, we would have our own private villa with one large bedroom, a large balcony and a kitchen. Second, we would be in walking distance to all the restaurants so we did not need to rent a car. And lastly and perhaps the most essential is that the resort has its own private beach and park reserve. Unfortunately the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio are very small, overcrowded with hardly a place to relax. Having our own beach away from all the crowds to relax and unwind sounded amazing. I just had to fight with that little voice inside my head reminding me I was staying at a gated compound instead of at a locally-owned ecolodge. (Side note: After thinking about this issue extensively, I contacted Tulemar via email with a list of questions about their sustainability practices. I got some excellent information which I will share in my next post on Tulemar). 

We checked in, and loaded our luggage into one of Tulemar’s vans to bring us to our Villa. I naively thought we could walk but the complex is huge and the roads throughout it are extremely steep. So steep that my calves ached walking to and from the beach (you can of course take the van but I preferred to walk). It is also quite large with lots of different accommodations and even a few privately owned homes. I hadn’t expected it to be so big! There are even a few different pools within the complex depending on your need (a family, adults only, and the sunset pool).

We reached our villa just as the sun was beginning to make its initial descent. We walked out on the large balcony and were rewarded with an astounding view of the jungle and sea below. It made our long day of travel completely worth the effort.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals

The view from our balcony

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The balcony is huge with a couch, dining table and best of all a hammock with an unbelievably gorgeous view.

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The view

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

My favorite place of all – the hammock

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And So It Begins…Our First Epic Family Trip to Costa Rica

“May your adventures bring you closer together even as they take you far away from home.” – Trenton Lee Stewart

Planning our first big family adventure was no easy feat. Despite my Type-A personality, usually when I travel solo I just sign up for a trip and go. I rarely do any pre-trip planning except for the bare minimums. Traveling without everything planned in advance feels much more adventurous and liberating for me. It is the one or two weeks of my life that is not confined to a strictly organized schedule, and as the trip unravels there are often many unexpected delights that make it even more pleasurable.

This style of on the fly planning however was obviously not going to work for an eight-day family trip driving all over Costa Rica. Instead, it required a fair amount of pre-trip planning and organization. My husband and I had to nail down all hotels, transportation and daily excursions beforehand especially since we were traveling during high season. Luckily, I have three friends who had already done the trip with their families so I basically was able to hijack their itinerary with a few tweaks here and there. As always, I bought a travel guide and we researched online perusing TripAdvisor and other resourceful sights to make this trip as easy and fun as possible.

A surprise for later…family shot at Arenal Volcano.

We knew that we didn’t want to just go to an all-inclusive resort and stay on the beach for a week. Instead, we wanted adventure and we wanted to see as much of the country as we could squeeze in. During my past visit to the Osa Peninsula, I learned that driving in Costa Rica is no easy undertaking. There are relatively few roads signs, addresses are unusual, and most roads are unpaved requiring a 4WD SUV with GPS so you don’t get too lost (even with GPS you often find yourself going the wrong way!).

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Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Sunsets of Costa Rica: A Reflective Photoblog

“Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away”. – unknown

We did it. Our first real epic family adventure and it was absolutely amazing. I confess that my expectations were a bit guarded when we finally agreed to do a big international trip with the kids. It is not that they are unruly kids. But they are kids. I have traveled for many years all over the place going to some of the furthest reaches of the earth but I have never brought the kids.

So this time we did. We waited many years, doing various family trips around the US and when they finally reached the age where we thought we could give it a try we did. We packed our bags, boarded a plane and headed south of the border to Costs Rica. And it was marvelous.

We didn’t stay at an all-inclusive resort on the beach but drove all over the place having quite the adventure for our first land trip out of the country. It was the best family trip we have ever been on, hands down. There were no meltdowns, no drama, no sibling bickering or bell bottom tears. Instead, it was nothing but laughing, smiling, enjoying each others’ company and getting out of our comfort zones to try new, daring things. 

I came back from this trip with a new lease on life. On a personal level, the past few months have been emotionally challenging for me. I was often overwhelmed, stressed and feeling like I was losing control. I realized that I had not been feeling at ease for months –quite frankly since the election. My world and everything that I have cared so deeply about was unraveling and falling apart. I was in a constant panic about the crumbling of human rights, the dismantling of the climate and environmental policies, the loss of dignity and the utter hatred, violence and cruelty surrounding the world.

I was constantly on the phone with my senators fighting, begging, and pleading to protect international foreign aid, to make sure mothers would have clean water for their children and that my friends in the community wouldn’t be deported and sent back. It was consuming my life to a point that I was constantly on edge, anxious and filled with dread and despair. I felt like a heavy weight was pushing me down and I was losing my breath.

Until I just simply couldn’t take it anymore. I could no longer obsess and be miserable over things that were out of my control and I couldn’t change. I stopped reading my friends posts on Facebook, stopped getting worked up about every little thing (that albeit in my opinion is terrible yet I can’t really change), and now I skim the newspaper. Slowly but surely the suffocating blanket of anxiety lifted and I could breathe.

I brought my focus back to the things I can change. I can continue to use my voice, I can be kind and good-hearted, I can give back to others and I can give myself some slack. I can live in the moment, and be grateful for the things I do have. Yes, there are millions upon millions of people in this world who are suffering but I can’t let my soul die to save them. I also know that my problems are “first-world” problems or even problems associated with living in the liberal middle class. Not everyone can go on a week trip to Costa Rica! But I’m human and like every single human being on the planet, we all have issues, worries and concerns whether it be health, economic or simply survival.

So I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m practicing mindfulness and living more in the moment. I’m committed to enjoying what I have, my life, my family and as always to giving back and making a difference. That is what one week in Costa Rica with my family did. It brought me back to the now. To being alive, happy and free.

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing Anyway”. – Emory Austin

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

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Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Finding my soul at the Playa San Josecito

“Witness and stand back from nature. That is the first step to the soul’s freedom.” – Sri Aurobindo

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine setting off into the afternoon sun horseback along a remote beach in the heart of the Osa Peninsula. The ocean air gently caresses your face while you slowly ride along the beach. Only the sound of the waves splashing  against the shore and the rustle of the monkeys playing in the trees remind you that you are truly in a magical place where jungle meets the sea. The beauty surrounds you and touches your soul with purity and ease. For that moment in time, you feel truly alive and free. 

Then, the roar of the howler monkeys make you open your eyes and smile. Your horse senses your excitement and begins to trot. You give your horse a gentle squeeze, and you are off, galloping as the wind whips your hair, your camera rocks back and forth against your chest and you let out a loud, exuberant scream. Ah so this is what it is like to feel 16 again, young, happy, pure and free. 

We set off around four o’clock down the steep gravel road that leads to Playa San Jocesito. The air was thick with humidity, blanketing my sunscreen arms with a thin layer of heat. It had been a long time since I had last rode a horse which seemed funny to me since I grew up loving horses so much and being an avid rider.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The steep gravel road leading down to the remote beach.

I was filled with an energy and playfulness that I hadn’t felt in years. Was it being on a horse that made me feel so joyous? Or was it the fact that after an entire week in Costa Rica, I finally would get to go for a swim in the ocean and watch the sun set at the beach? I couldn’t stop smiling.

At the bottom of the road, we arrived at the entrance to the beach. Except for a couple of cars, there was no one else there. It seemed surreal to have such a beautiful place all to ourselves. But given the isolation and remoteness of the beach, few people came.

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It would take us an hour to reach a special cove along the beach that was known for its swimming. There are no roads to this beach and the only way you can reach it is on horse, on foot or by boat.

While we rode along the shore, some of our group embraced in lively conversation while I remained quiet, deep in thought. I grew up riding horses and spent several summers going to a sleep-away horseback riding camp that felt worlds away from my home. At the camp, we were each assigned our own horse to care for and ride the entire week. I started going when I was nine and went every summer until I was 13. I loved it and especially enjoyed the feeling of responsibility and pride at having a horse to call my own if only for a week. When I hit puberty and was no longer that wide-eyed little girl, my passions changed. I no longer rode horses.

Along the beach, I relished the feeling of riding with no trail, no single file line and no rules. When it came time to run I embraced it, letting go of all my inhibitions as my horse raced effortlessly into the horizon. I was aghast by the liberating feeling that swept over me. I was young once again, with pigtails and free.

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The jungle literally travels down to the sea. There were tons of scarlet macaws and monkeys within.

When we reached the cove, we got off our horses, tied them up and got ready for a swim. Slightly off the beach, a group of monkeys were quite excited about our arrival and decided to put on a little show. We watched for a few moments but the lure of the water didn’t keep us long. It was time to dive in and swim like a fish.
Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The water felt absolutely amazing. It was perfect — warm, calm and silky soft. I floated, I swam and when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I grabbed my camera to take a few shots of the beach from the water. It was too beautiful to resist.

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The last group of people on the beach were getting picked up by the water taxi. Soon we had the entire place to ourselves!

And too beautiful not to capture it and share in this short video.

We swam and played in the water for a little over an hour. I could have stayed longer, but the sun was beginning to set and before long it would be pitch black. It was time to get back on our horses and head back.

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa San Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

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Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Enjoying Pura Vida at the Bella Vista Ecolodge

“Family, like branches in a tree we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” – unknown

After a delightful vegetarian lunch with our hosts Eric and Francesca at the Cascada Naguala Ecolodge, it was time to pack our bags once again and be off to our final destination of my week long adventure in the Osa Peninsula. We were staying at a tiny family-run ecolodge on the outskirts of Drake Bay where I’d be flying back home in two days.

If I had imagined that the fun and adventure were over, I was thankfully wrong. I had spent the past six days inside the thick of the jungle and now I would get my time of sun and fun at the beach. Finally, I’d get to dip my Minnesota toes in the warm, soft waters of the ocean and watch the sunset over the ocean’s horizon.

By this point in the trip, nothing about the road conditions phased me anymore. River crossings and bumpy, mountainous unpaved roads were all part of the experience. Not seeing a single road sign was also common nor any place to stop to use the bathroom or grab something to eat. Even seeing other cars was uncommon and there were definitely no tour buses on the roads we traveled.

Drake Bay is much smaller than Puerto Jimenez, where I first landed by small plane into the Osa Peninsula. Besides a few high-end ecolodges and a handful of middle of the range accommodations and restaurants, there isn’t much else there. The one thing I did see however for the first time since leaving Puerto Jimenez were tourists which felt like a little bit of a shock.

The rural tourism part of my trip was near the end and now I’d be lumped back together with the tourists. Thankfully, our lodging was locally and family-owned with not a single non-Costa Rican tourist except for us. I was getting spoiled by the complete immersion into Costa Rican life and culture. I didn’t want to let go of that feeling just quite yet.

Heading along the road to Drake Bay

Driving to Drake Bay

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Drake Bay

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

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Cascada Naguala Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

A Slice of Heaven at the Cascada Naguala Ecolodge

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love”.-  Marcus Aurelius

After my peaceful canoe ride down the Laguna Chocuaco, it was time to leave Rancho Quemado and head to our next adventure in the community of Los Planes. We loaded up our rented SUV and headed northwest towards Drake Bay, the main tourist town in the Osa Peninsula.

The drive was rough and lovely, affording sweeping views of the stunning Drake Bay and the verdant tropical jungle. I was quite thankful we had our heavy duty SUV as there were several river crossings along the way and I cannot imagine how we ever would have made it in a car. Eytan told me that there had been times when he got stuck for hours waiting for the swollen waters to subside enough for him to safely pass and he had even once seen a small bus floating down the river. I definitely didn’t want that to be me!

As we entered the river I held my breath wondering how I’d break the news to my husband that we may have to do this ourselves during our upcoming family trip to Costa Rica in April. Hopefully the roads in northern Costa Rica are a bit better than in the Osa Peninsula.

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This afternoon we were headed to a remote, sustainable family-owned ecolodge called Cascada Naguala that is in the middle of the jungle and only accessible via foot across acres of beautiful private land. It had opened up to tourists only a few months ago after a series of tragic losses in the family. The first owner died eight years ago by a fallen tree and his brother took it over only to die in an ATV accident six months ago. Despite the tragedy, his son Eric and lovely wife Francesca reopened the lodge and went into business. We would be their first customers.

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Laguna Chocuaco, Rancho Quemado, Osa Península, Costa Rica

Canoeing in Laguna Chocuaco

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”. – John Burroughs

By my fifth day in the Osa Peninsula, I was finally beginning to fall into a rhythm. My rusty Spanish was improving and I could comprehend more. My body had adjusted to the high humidity and heat of the jungle, and I naturally began rising at dawn with the morning sun and singing of the birds. My soul was relaxed, and I finally felt peaceful and free. Sadly I only had three more days left of my epic adventure yet I was determined to make these three days as fantastic as possible.

There is something about a Costa Rican breakfast that makes me smile. It is almost always the same: Gallo Pinto. Black beans and rice from the meal the evening before, stir-fried with the magic Costa Rican sauce Lizano and then topped with queso crema, a homemade sour cream that has a tangy taste to it and complements the dish well. There may be a slight variation to the morning meal that includes scrambled eggs, freshly made tortillas, fruit or fried plantains. But the gallo pinto are always available and after my week in Costa Rica I grew to love it.

Rancho Quemado, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

My incredible breakfast

For today’s tour, we would meet Carlos Villalobos at his family property in Rancho Quemado for a birdwatching canoe ride on “Laguna Chocuaco” their private rainforest lagoon. We said our goodbyes to our friends Alice and Enrique at Rancho Verde and were on our way.

Their property includes a farm with livestock (pigs, chickens, cows and horses), a vast pasture and field for growing trees and produce, a dormitory for tourists to stay in, and a large open-air eating area for home-cooked Costa Rican meals.

When we arrived at the ranch, Carlos’ brother was milking the cows and getting ready to lead them out to the pasture. We had a brief tour of the farm and then headed out to the pasture where Carlos showed us some of the trees that they raise at the family farm.

 

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While many farmers cut down all the trees so there is more pasture for the livestock to graze on, Carlos and his family believe it is important to keep the trees for various reasons. The trees provide shade for the animals on the hot, humid days and fruit for the birds and to sell at the market. Lots of birds like toucans rely on the seeds and flowers off the tops of the trees for their diets. The trees also provide a lot of natural beauty to the landscape and a place for birds to nest in. The property has over 40 species of birds in which 20 species live along the low growing trees and bushes along the lagoon.

 

A toucan

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Rancho Quemado, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

A Stay at Rancho Verde Rural Cabins

After an exhilarating day exploring rural tourism in Rancho Quemado, a tiny community in the Osa Peninsula, it was time to check in to another local accommodation for the night. I was feeling rather tired from a day in the hot sticky sun learning how the locals mine for gold and turn sugar cane into sugary sweet desserts and drinks. By the end of the day, I’d had my fix of sugar and Costa Rican food. I felt like I was ready to collapse into a food coma of some sort. However, little did I know I would be staying at the perfect venue for the evening to slow down and relax. It was nothing fancy but what the Rancho Verde Rural Cabins didn’t have for luxury, it made up for charm and delightful hospitality from its warm, lovely owners husband and wife team Enrique and Alice Ureña.

As we drove down the dusty gravel roads, I could hear the roar of the howler monkeys off in the distance. There were birds everywhere chirping and singing in the late afternoon heat. All I could think about was how good it would feel to take my icy cold shower. I’d grown used to not having hot water showers for the week and the only thing that was difficult was washing my long hair. I had discovered a way to get the shampoo and conditioner out by bending over sideways so the cold water wouldn’t rush down my back and give me the chills. Thankfully it worked out pretty well.

I had no expectations for our lodging for the night. In fact, I didn’t even really read the itinerary before I signed up to go on this trip. The anticipation was part of the fun and adventure of it all. My lodgings ranged from a jungle cabin with no electricity high up in the mountains to a luxurious ecolodges with no walls. Everything was different and very unique. I would soon discover that Rancho Verde had its own charm.

Rancho Quemado, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

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Traditional Sugar Cane Milling in Costa Rica

The Art of Traditional Sugar Cane Milling at Trapiche Don Carmen

After our gold mining tour and delightful lunch with Juan and his family at Finca Las Minas de Oro, we got back in the car and headed to our next adventure, a tour of a traditional sugar cane mill. Sugarcane grows easily throughout most of Costa Rica given its plentiful amount of rain, warm sunshine and rich fertile soil. It also is one of the top agricultural products in the country after bananas, pineapples and coffee. However, traditional sugarcane milling is on its way out as more sugar is being processed by machines and not by hand.

I had never visited a sugar mill before and honestly had no idea how sugar was processed or that it could make so many different kinds of products. Our afternoon tour of the Trapiche Don Carmen in Rancho Quemado would be another fascinating experience into an art and tradition that may not be around in another ten or twenty years.

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The air was thick with humidity and the dark clouds of a potential rain shower were rolling in. So far the weather had been hot and humid yet without rain and I was hoping my luck would last for the rest of my visit.
We arrived at Trapiche Don Carmen a little after three to thick, bellowing smoke snaking up into the sky. There was a burning sweetness to the air which I would soon discover was the brewing sugarcane juice. Eytan introduced me to Johnny Rodriguez and his wife Noemy who were tending a large caldron of sugarcane juice. It had been brewing for over three hours now and was almost ready to be processed. We had arrived just in time!

raditional Sugar Cane Milling in Costa Rica

Johnny tends to the the sugarcane juice which is boiling hard

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Rancho Quemado Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

An Artisanal Gold Mining Tour in Rancho Quemado

I woke to the sounds of the jungle in my open-air cabin at Amazonita Lodge in Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre. I felt amazingly refreshed and quite invigorated for another adventurous day ahead in the Osa Peninsula. Our gracious host Zulay made us a wonderful Costa Rican breakfast in her house before we headed out for our next tour. The beauty of rural tourism is that besides the tours and sightseeing, you also receive an intimate experience with the local community. You are welcomed into their homes for conversation, friendship and delightful home-cooked meals. It truly is an incredible experience that you miss when simply staying at a regular hotel or doing mainstream tourism.

It was time for us to say our goodbye to our friends in Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre and head to a new rural community called Rancho Quemado which is the least-visited community in the Osa Peninsula. There we would meet Juan Cubillo and his family to learn about artisanal gold mining, a traditional way of life that is on its way out.

The drive to Rancho Quemado was about an hour and half northeast into the interior of the Osa Peninsula on bumpy roads. It was a beautiful drive through glorious lush countryside and rolling hills. We were surprised to see many dump trucks hauling debris and road work being done to repair the damage from the Hurricane Otto. Normally there are very few cars and rarely a truck on these remote dirt roads. However, two months after the storm hit there is still much clean-up to be done.

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We arrived at Rancho Quemado around ten o’clock and of course it was already steaming hot. Juan and his lovely wife Rosa welcomed us into their home and farm at Finca Las Minas de Oro where they have lived for many years with their family of three children. We were one of Juan’s first customers for his newly launched gold mining tour, a way for him to provide income for his family without having to illegally mine for gold.

Rancho Quemado Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Juan’s wife Rosa painted this sign advertising their new business, gold mining tours, open to tourists.

 Rancho Quemado Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Rancho Quemado is a small, rural town of about 300 people and has its origin in gold mining. Two gold miners settled on the site of Finca las Minas de Oro in the early 1940s when they discovered gold within the neighboring creek. One day when they were out hunting, their house burned down hence the village was named Rancho Quemado which means “Burning Ranch”.  As soon as word got out there was a sizable amount of gold in the area, people came from all over Costa Rica to find their fortune and pan for gold. Juan and Rosa also moved to the community searching for gold and a better life for their growing family. Juan has panned for gold for years however it is difficult, backbreaking work in high heat and humidity for upwards of 8-10 hours a day and it is also technically illegal. But like most people in rural communities throughout the Osa Peninsula, gold mining is their only source of income and until more sustainable jobs are available, mining will continue.

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Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre, Osa Península, Costa Rica

A Stay in the Jungle at Amazonita Lodge: An Ecolodge in the Heart of Costa Rica

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more”. –  Lord Byron

By four o’clock, I was hot, dirty and exhausted after such a thrilling day that begin with watching the sun rise over the Osa Peninsula and ended with a six-hour remote trek through the thick jungle of the Corcovado National Park. I can’t quite remember ever having a past twenty-four hours so incredibly invigorating and succinct to Mother Nature. I’d seen sloths, a troupe of collared peccary, pizotes, a mating pair of scarlet macaws, monkeys and more. Yet best of all, it was only us and the wildlife. Not another soul had ventured into this part of the park and for that I was truly blessed.

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Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre, Osa Península, Costa Rica

We left Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre saying goodbye to our newly made friends and traveled the short distance down gravel roads to a locally-owned eco lodge located on the outskirts of town, surrounded by tropical rainforest jungle. I would soon discover that the Amazonita Lodge was the ultimate nature lover’s paradise.

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