Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The Last Sunset in the Osa

“Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees”. –  Rumi

As I walked along the beach, heavy water-laden clouds began rolling in, bringing the threat of rain. Despite the pleasurable relief that rain would bring, I prayed it would wait until after sunset. For it was my last night in the Osa Peninsula, and I could hardly wait to see one of nature’s greatest gifts.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

I walked slowly, stopping often to pay attention to the changing of the clouds and light. Tiny beams of sunlight burst through the dark, thick clouds leaving glowing streaks of gold across the gray water. Despite the dark palette of grays, blues and creams the sunset had a calming effect on my soul. It was just what my spirit needed to end an adventurous week.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

When I arrived at the end of the beach, I found the perfect spot on the sand to place my towel and sit. I saw a lovely family of five playing in the water and took that moment to capture them on film. They were so beautiful and radiant with happiness and joy. The scene could not have been more idyllic as it brought happy thoughts of my own family back home. They would be seeing this for themselves soon. Not the Osa Peninsula, but the beauty of Costa Rica.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

I did nothing for the next hour but sit there and enjoy the unfolding of the show. As the sun dipped further and further below the horizon, I noticed the slight variations in cloud formations and light. I snapped away on my camera, trying to capture this moment in time.

I couldn’t resist putting slideshow of the small changes in light, color and clouds.

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I deeply wanted to stay down at the beach but it was starting to get dark and I was getting eaten alive by sandflies and mosquitos. Thankfully, the Bella Vista Lodge was perched at the opportune spot high above the beach for the grand finale. I got up the steep gravel road just in time to see the grayness come to life in a fit of color. Like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Slowly it unfolded. From pink….to orange…to red.

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa RicaPlaya Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Playa Jocesito, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

And I couldn’t think of a more serendipitous send off from this incredibly magical place. But the good news is that I will be back. Tomorrow at this time, I will be in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

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Isla del Caño, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

A Day of Snorkeling at Isla del Caño

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans”. – Kahlil Gibran Jr.

I awoke at 6 am to the beautiful sound of the birds yet to a terrible backache. I had tossed and turned all night feeling like the Princess and the Pea moving beds and eventually sleeping on the twin bed in my room with three mattresses stacked on top of each other. Obviously I wasn’t 16 like I felt the night before when I was galloping into the sunset with glee. The horseback ride that I had so blissfully enjoyed had done a number on my lower back and I was feeling more my age.

Despite dealing with chronic back and neck pain my entire life, I wasn’t going to let pain get in my way today or any day on vacation. It was my very last day in Costa Rica and today we were going snorkeling to the reefs off of Isla del Caño, an island about 12 miles offshore of Drake Bay.

Besides hiking, snorkeling and being like a fish in the water is one of my other favorite activities to do while on vacation. Unfortunately living where I do and often choosing mountains over oceans, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to snorkel. Similar to horseback riding, swimming was something I spent a lot of time doing in my youth.

I grew up with an outdoor pool which was pretty crazy given the fact that we lived in Minnesota and our season for swimming was a mere three months. I will never forget the excitement that brewed in my blood come Memorial Day weekend and knowing we would get to remove the ugly dirty tarp and finally fill up the pool with water.

By the end of May, we opened up the pool and for the next three months until Labor Day my brother, sister and me were fish. I spent entire days swimming and eventually joined a competitive swim team for five years until I hit 13 and was too embarrassed of my ugly duckling pre-puberty body in a speedo. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise I quit the hours of practice and turning my neck because a few months later my neck hurt and it hasn’t stopped hurting for 30 years.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

There was a plate of freshly made huevos rancheros with tortilla, beans and dark rich Costa Rican coffee awaiting me on the terrace of our hotel. The sun was long up, the day was warm and clear, and the birds were singing with all their glory. I knew it was going to be a delightful day.

By 7 o’clock, we piled into the Land Cruiser and drove over to Drake Bay where we were fitted for flippers and masks. It was the first time in six days that I had been anywhere near tourists and it felt a bit strange after being in rural, local-based travel lodgings for so long. The group of 20 was a mix of mostly Europeans and all ages. Our svelte snorkel guide was a 40-something man from Spain and he was like a mermaid in the water. So incredibly agile and graceful. He had moved to Costa Rica to follow his passion of free diving and was an incredibly knowledgable guide. We were truly lucky to have him.

We boarded the boat and set off into the hot morning sun, wind blowing in our sun kissed faces and the taste of salt clinging to our tongues.

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Drake Bay

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Heading to board our boat that will take us to the island.

A visit to Isla del Caño is one of the most popular excursions from Drake Bay. Roughly a thirty minute boat ride from Drake Bay, the crystal clear waters and reefs surrounding the island make up the Caño Island Biological Reserve, one of the best areas for snorkeling and scuba diving in the Osa Peninsula. The protected reefs around the island shelter a large variety of fish as well as sea turtles and birds. A recent push by the government to protect and conserve the national parks of Costa Rica has helped preserve this pristine ecosystem. Since 2014, the Costa Rican National Park Service has restricted access to the island and only allows a certain amount of visitors each day. You can no longer explore the island on foot and need a permit to visit. There is only a tiny bathroom facility and other than that the rest of the island is wild and undeveloped.

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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’s Hidden Treasure

“Advice from a Waterfall” 

Go with the flow. Roar with excitement. Let your cares fall away. Create your own magic. Immerse yourself in nature. Stay active. Make a splash!  – Ilan Shamir

After a delightful Costa Rican dinner made by husband and wife team Eric and Francesca at the Cascada Naguala Ecolodge, it was time to put our headlamps on and walk back to our cabins in the jungle. It was pitch black outside with not a single light except for the radiating glow of our headlamps. Despite the darkness, the jungle was alive as ever with all the nocturnal species. I confess that I was constantly watching my footing fearful I would finally see one of Costa Rica’s many snakes. But I didn’t thank goodness.

I slept well inside my little jungle cabin, listening to the ebb and flow of the cicadas and whatever else was out in the jungle stirring in the night. I arose wonderfully rested and ready for my final day in the jungle before heading back to civilization. I was half excited half disappointed thinking it would be nice to have wi-fi again yet how sad it would be to leave such a tranquil place where I felt so attuned to nature. If only there was a way to incorporate this relaxed state of being into my daily life!

It was another gorgeous day in paradise. A fresh pot of rich, dark Costa Rican coffee was waiting as was our breakfast of gallo pintos and fresh smoothies. I enjoyed all the birds greeting the rising sun and singing their melodic songs. The roar of the nearby waterfall reminded me of our upcoming adventure. After breakfast, we would hike a half an hour following the river to another even larger waterfall. After seeing the Cascada Naguala yesterday, I couldn’t imagine there being anything more spectacular. I was in for a special treat.

Cascada Naguala Osa Peninsula Costa RicaCascada Naguala Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Cascada Naguala Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Our delightful breakfast

Cascada Naguala Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

The hilarious hummingbird who was obsessed with his reflection in the mirror.

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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

“Sometimes it is better to begin the journey, to get under way, then it is to sit back and wait until such time that you’re convinced that all conditions are perfect and that there’ll be no surprises along the route”. –  John Engler

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

“You’ve got to be patient and have faith”.  – Juan Cubillo on mining for gold 

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

“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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Scarlet Macaw

The Osa Peninsula’s Crown Jewel: Corcovado National Park

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. – John Muir

After watching the spectacular sunrise over the Osa Peninsula, we returned back down to Xiña’s cabin and ate a delicious breakfast of homemade pintos, eggs, tortilla and fresh fruit. I lavishly drank several cups of freshly roasted Costa Rican coffee and prepared for our day of adventure at Costa Rica’s crown jewel, the Corcovado National Park.

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The Corcovado National Park was created in 1975 by the government to protect and conserve this amazing place which contains over 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and is the last remnant of humid tropical rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Central America. The Corcovado National Park is enormous. It is the largest national park in all of Costa Rica and covers one-third of the Osa Peninsula. It is home to over 750 species of trees (1/4 of tree species in Costa Rica), 390 species of birds, 6,000 species of insects, and 140 species of mammals, and 116 species of reptiles and amphibians. It also is one of the only places in Costa Rica that has all four species of monkeys – howler, white-face, squirrel and spider, and has the largest concentration of scarlet macaws in the country.  All in all, the Corcovado National Park is a pretty magnificent place and a natural treasure that is well worth protecting.

Our guide Rolando (who goes by the nickname “Toti”) was there waiting for us. Toti is from Dos Brazos de Tigre and lives just a few houses down from Xiña. He grew up in a mining family with the surrounding Corcovado National Park as his playground. After he finished school, he trained to be a certified guide for the park and began working with tourists once the new park entrance at Dos Brazos de Tigre opened a couple of years ago.

A farewell shot of Nuria, me, Xiña and our guide Toti outside of Xiña's cabin.

A farewell shot of Nuria, me, Xiña and our guide Toti outside of Xiña’s cabin.

Josue (the carpenter working on updating the cabin), me, Eytan and Xina.

Josue (the carpenter working on updating the cabin), me, Eytan and Xiña (still in her pajamas that she wore on our morning sunrise hike).

After breakfast, we packed our daypack of belongings, took a few last minute photos and said our goodbye to Xiña and her sister Nuria. We loaded up on bug spray, sunscreen and water for our six hour hike. The air was thick with humidity and I was already sweating profusely at nine am when we left Xiña’s cabin and headed back up the trail to the entrance of the park. It was going to be another adventure-packed day and I could hardly wait.

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