playa nicuesa rainforest lodge hotel

Ecotourism – Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

Nicuesa Rainforest Lodges was sustainably built using 19 different types of wood. One thing I love about ecotourism and the ecolodges that take it serious is the fact you can have a wonderful nature experience and not sacrifice all the comforts of home. Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge sits on a 165-acre private nature reserve next to the pristine waters of the Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica. The lodge also borders Piedras Blancas National Park. Piedras National Park is approximately 35,000 acres and was established in 1992 as an extension of Corcovado National Park. Kayaks are towed up the Golfo Dulce to the Esquinas River.

Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers a number of different ecotours. Kayaking up the Esquinas River was my favorite. The tour leaves just after sunrise. Kayaks are towed behind boats as you travel from the lodge to the river. Early in the morning the waters of the Golfo Dulce are calm and beautiful, increasing your chances to see dolphins and other marine wildlife. Kayaking the mangroves of the Esquinas River is a wonderful ecotour and easily done from Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge.

After a delicious breakfast, the real fun begins. The Esquinas River is a calm and hearty river. The lower portions are all mangrove. I find mangrove forests fascinating. They help protect shorelines from erosion and provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife. Guests are also welcome to Kayak in the protected waters of the Golfo Dulce. What’s beautiful about this is the fact that there is still some lowland-tropical rainforest left in southern Costa Rica. And along the Golfo Dulce, it comes all the way down to the beach.

There are 100s of different tree species in the Piedras Blancas National Park. There’s very little development along this portion of the gulf and views are stunning. Looking up at the different shapes and shades of green is an easy way to see some of the 100s of different types of trees in Piedras Blancas National Park. There are also a number of rainforest related ecotours guests can take. The preserve and Piedras Blancas National Park are only accessible by boat so your chances of seeing another person is slight. However, your chances of seeing a diverse array of wildlife is really quite good. Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is great for birding. 250 different species have been logged by the staff and guests.

Nicuesa is great for birding. They’ve cataloged 250 species on their preserve. Well maintained trails and great guides ensure you’ll see a variety of beautiful birds while at Nicuesa.

The lodge itself is built out of 19 different types of wood. No trees were cut in the actual construction of the lodge. Much of it had previously fallen on the property. The rest came from a tree farm. Guests are welcome to take a free sustainability tour to learn about everything Nicuesa is doing to be sustainable and a true example of ecotourism. Everyone eats together at Nicuesa. It’s a great way to get to know the staff, guides and guests. Everyone eats together at the long table in the main lodge. Guests, staff, owners, all at the same table. It’s great. You get to know your guides, the staff and fascinating people from all over the world. It’s a very relaxed and comfortable place to be. After a while you get into the ebb and flow of the day and things happen. No need for agendas, clocks or schedules. When you’re at Nicuesa, it all comes to you.

Scarlet Macaw

Ecotourism in Costa Rica – Corcovado National Park

“Did you hear that,” my good buddy Johnny asked. “Did I hear that! It sound like a freaking freight train on steroids.” I said wondering what in the heck a train would be doing in the middle of the rainforest. “Let’s get some sleep and we’ll ask a ranger in the morning.” Johnny mangily replied. “Sleep? We’ll see.” I thought as I hoped the body didn’t match the voice.

Los Patos Ranger Station – Corcovado National Park

We had just arrived at the Los Patos Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park. Day 1 of a 4 day tour that some lady on the plane had told us would be the time of our life. Night had fallen and we were setting up the tent we had rented from the same station we got our park permit from. And it was no North Face. Fortunately, there was a tent stand to keep us off the ground. I woke the next morning feeling grateful. Grateful it was morning and grateful Johnny knew Spanish so a couple rainforest greenhorns from Idaho could find out what nearly sent us scurrying up the nearest tree we could find last night. Black Howler Monkeys sound larger than they are. Healthy wildlife populations are good for ecotourism.

The answer. Black Howler Monkeys. I felt relieved knowing what it was and just as I was about to ask if the body matched the voice, we were greeted with another. We ducked our heads thinking the sky was surely falling. The rangers erupted in laughter pointing out a howler monkey up in a tree. We could hardly see it. I think they’re around 2 feet tall on a good day. I always have a video camera with me and as soon as I knew the forest wasn’t going to swallow me whole, I started rolling tape. This impressed the rangers and before we knew we it they we showing us how they stored water, grew fruit, cared for their horses. All was right in the world.

One of many beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica. After a leisurely soak in the stream complete w/beautiful waterfall, we began walking to the next forest station. A mere 15 miles away. Literally as soon as we exited the property and was closing the gate, it began to rain. The two greenhorns from Idaho were about to learn why they call the rainforest, the rainforest. Our plan was to spend our time in Corcovado shooting a pilot for the travel channel we knew they would bite on. But as the rain fell, the trails became mud and our feet became mush. Our documentary would have to wait for now. It was so beautiful. We walked all day on sensory overload. The size of the trees with their huge buttresses. The sounds of the forest and the way it ebbs and flows. The fact we were actually in Corcovado.


Sirena Ranger Station – Corcovado National Park

At last we arrived we arrived at the Sirena Ranger Station. The heart of Corcovado. Now all we had to do was painstakingly walk across the airstrip where some tourists had gathered on a deck without looking like a couple of, well, greenhorns from Idaho. After a delicious dinner of crackers, refried beans, can corn and tuna fish we found out that most of the people there had similar stories. The pain eased. The next day was spent exploring the incredible forest surrounding the ranger station. We canoed up rio sirena and got burnt to a crisp. Day 3 found us sitting on the deck pondering how were going to do the 15 mile walk out with backs the color of cherry filling.

It was then we noticed we noticed this guy about 105 pounds and 5’6 walking up the airstrip. We knew he hadn’t come the direction we had and having some understanding of where we were, I had to ask. He told me he had walked in the way we were to walk out the following day. We introduced ourselves. He name is Mike Boston and to this day he remains a very good friend. He continued telling us he had some clients flying in but he prefers the walk. It’s approximately 15 miles. Much of it is on a hot beach and he was hardly sweating. Amazing.

As we continued talking, it became apparent Mike Boston was not your typical forest guide. He’s an encyclopedia on reptiles, loves crocodiles and is from Ireland. Eventually, he invited us to hike out with him and his clients the next night. Hiking at night has its advantages and disadvantages in the rainforest. Definitely cooler but definitely harder to see. As the trail meandered from the beach to the forest, to the beach to the forest for mile after beautiful mile, we both began to feel we were experiencing something special. We were on the road. Traveling together again. Meeting great people and doing exactly what we wanted to be doing.

We saw our first Baird Tapir on that hike. Albeit for a few brief seconds but we had seen our first gentle giant of the forest. Cool. At some point late in the night, we arrived at the Lookout Inn. Terry the owner had walked out with us and invited us to stay. The beer was cold. Our bodies fried. Our faces smiling. The lady on the plane was right. It was the time of our lives.