A special place on the planet: Playa Nicuesa

September 30th, 2014

Sometimes the places most worth visiting require a little more effort to get there. Like Playa Nicuesa.

I’ve taken a small 19-passenger plane 50 minutes south from San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, to the pancake flat coastal town of Puerto Jimenez. We disembark into the sweltering tropical heat of the near-equator and quickly jump into the air-conditioned taxi waiting to drive us five minutes to a rickety, dubious-looking boat dock. All smiles, we are greeted by our very friendly boat captain and guide, who assist our little group to clamber down the dock steps into the little panga boat – thankfully outfitted with a canopy roof.

As we zip across the calm blue-gray waters of the Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”) for our 25-minute boat ride to Playa Nicuesa – the only way to get there – I am mesmerized by the scenery. The horizon is filled with dense green forest and mountains; the Gulf stretches on and on like a giant mirror to the sky. There are no buildings to be seen, not even another boat. And I wonder if this is what Costa Rica must have looked like hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Soon, we are pulling up to the long, very solidly built boat dock at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge. Here, the clear water looks like liquid jade, reflecting the endless shades of green of palm trees and jungle that crowd the edge of the pebble and sand beach. We are helped off the boat by smiling, friendly staff, and as we walk down the dock toward shore, I nearly expect to see Ricardo Montalban of Fantasy Island come out to greet us.

The extraordinary Costa Rica eco-lodge was designed for sustainable travel. Lodge buildings and bungalows are tucked into the forest, preserving the beautiful coastline. Everything is constructed from naturally fallen or farmed trees and recycled materials, like the roof tiles made from recycled plastic banana bags and other plastics. Lights and electricity come from solar panels and a biodiesel generator that burns recycled fast food oil and other vegetable oils. All water on the property is potable, being piped in from a mountain spring and filtered. The Costa Rica rainforest lodge is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST).

Guests are spread out around the lodge area – located on a 165-acre private preserve that borders the Piedras Blancas National Park – in six private cabins and the four-room two-story Mango Guesthouse. Beautifully built accommodations are very comfortable, and feature bathrooms with a high-walled open-air garden shower.

Over the next three days at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, I enjoyed dolphin and whale-watching to see migrating Pacific Humpback Whales that come into the pristine Golfo Dulce to give birth and breed – we saw a mother whale and her calf. I hiked in the rainforest on lodge trails; kayaked in the mangroves of Esquinas River; enjoyed a yoga class; sat at the beach and relaxed; swam in the warm Golfo Dulce; and had fun socializing with other guests at happy hour every night in the bar, and while savoring delicious, fresh, creative dishes from Nicuesa’s commendable kitchen.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located by the Osa Peninsula on Golfo Dulce in southern Costa Rica. To get there, drive or fly (NatureAir or Sansa Airlines) to either Puerto Jimenez or Golfito. Nicuesa Lodge will pick you up by boat and transfer you to the lodge (about 30 minutes one-way). Included in lodge rates are all meals, boat transfers, all taxes, all meals and snacks, unlimited self-guided hikes on preserve, use of kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment.

Article by Shannon Farley

 

Playa Nicuesa is a top sustainable hotel in Costa Rica

September 4th, 2014

What does eco-tourism and being sustainable really mean? Is that just recycling the trash or turning off a few lights?

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica, sustainability means much more. The Costa Rica rainforest lodge is one of only three dozen hotels in Costa Rica that have received the highest rating of Five Leaves in the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST).

Created by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), the CST program rates and certifies tourism businesses based on their compliance with natural, cultural and social resource management. CST consists of five levels, called “Leaves”; Level five, or Five Leaves, signifies that the company is considered “outstanding in terms of sustainability.”

“Our goal is to provide guests with an experience that they will always remember fondly: Excellence, friendly service, high-end accommodations, educational opportunities and unique, well-run adventure activities, and to provide this experience while operating the lodge in the most environmentally-friendly manner possible,” explained Playa Nicuesa owners, Michael and Donna Butler.

The extraordinary Costa Rica eco-lodge was designed in harmony with the environment constructed from naturally fallen trees and recycled materials. Immersed in the dense tropical rainforest bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park and the pristine Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf) in southern Costa Rica, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located on a 165-acre private preserve. Adding to its uniqueness, the only way to get there is by boat across the pristine waters of the Golfo Dulce from either Golfito or Puerto Jimenez.

“We traveled all over Costa Rica and other parts of Central America to find and create a special place where one can intimately experience the natural world of both the tropical rainforest and the Pacific Ocean,” expounded the Costa Rica rainforest lodge owners. “Our plan was to create a place that offers the comfort of a lodge and the activities and diversity of an adventure tour.”

The area is part of a giant conservation area including the world-famous Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula. The unique tropical fjord of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for migrating Pacific Humpback Whales, and resident and migratory communities of dolphins and sea turtles.

Playa Nicuesa sustainability highlights:

  • Lodge buildings are located on less than 2% of property – 98% is a private protected area.
  • Used recycled construction materials, such as: roof tiles on the lodge and cabins made from recycled plastics, including banana bags.
  • Wood came from naturally fallen trees, permitted by the government to be pulled out of the forest by oxen, or from farmed trees.
  • Electricity is provided by solar energy. Panels are located on main lodge structure. Back-up generator runs on recycled vegetable oil.
  • Solar drying room used to dry all of the lodge wash.
  • Hot water is provided by on-demand propane which means that the propane is used only when the hot water faucet is turned on.
  • Received the Ecological Blue Flag Award for clean beaches.

Check out Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge Green Season Specials for adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort at great prices through Sept. 30, 2014.

Article by Shannon Farley

 

Monkeying around at Playa Nicuesa in Costa Rica

August 18th, 2014

One of the most thrilling experiences when you visit Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica is seeing monkeys. It is so much fun to watch the cute, miniature-sized Squirrel Monkeys jump and play, and marvel at the ingenious antics of clever White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. You’ll never tire of watching Spider Monkeys swing gracefully through the trees with their long arms, legs and tails. And the haunting call of Howler Monkeys will greet you at dawn, and close your day at dusk.

There are only a few places in Costa Rica where you can see all four native species of monkeys – Playa Nicuesa on Golfo Dulce, the Piedras Blancas National Park, Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park.

Out of 250 species of primates in the world, 68 are in the Americas. Native to the forests of Costa Rica are the Central American Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), the White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), the Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi).

All four kinds of monkeys are active during the day and live in the treetops. You can see them using their strong limbs and prehensile tails (almost like a third hand) to swing between the trees when you walk the trails at Playa Nicuesa Lodge or on a visit to the Piedras Blancas National Park. On the kayaking tour in the Esquinas River mangrove estuary, you can frequently see White-faced Capuchin Monkeys and also Squirrel Monkeys.

The smallest of the Costa Rican monkeys is the Central American Squirrel Monkey. Adult males average 0.8 kg (1.8 lb) and adult females about 0.7 kg (1.5 lb). Once listed as endangered, in 2008 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revised its status to “vulnerable”. Squirrel Monkeys have the most restricted range of living of all the monkeys, found only on the central and south Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

The other three species have wider ranges, being found in forests from Mexico to Ecuador. The White-faced Capuchin is the second smallest monkey in Costa Rica, while the endangered Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey is the largest. The Mantled Howler is the second largest and is most known for loud calls made by males, especially at dawn and at dusk that can be heard for several kilometers.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located in the pristine rainforest on a remote beach of the Golfo Dulce. A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the Costa Rica eco-lodge in has its own 165-acre private preserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park.

August and September bring whale-watching season to Golfo Dulce, where you can see migrating Pacific Humpback Whales that come to Costa Rica’s warm waters to breed and give birth.

Article by Shannon Farley

Having a whale of a time at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica

July 3rd, 2014

It is nearly whale-watching season on the Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica! Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is readying to receive visitors to witness one of the most amazing spectacles in the animal kingdom – the thousands-of-miles-long migration of Pacific Humpback Whales.

Starting in August, the tranquil blue waters of the Golfo Dulce, between the Piedras Blancas National Park and the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica, begin to receive the endangered whales that come annually to breed and give birth in Costa Rica’s warm waters.

The annual migration of Pacific Humpback Whales is a remarkable journey of nearly 10,000 miles from near the North and South Poles to warm tropical waters. As winter turns the seas to ice in Antarctica, southern Humpback Whales swim north to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and as far as Costa Rica, where they can be seen between August and October. Northern Humpbacks travel from Alaska and British Columbia south to warmer waters by Mexico, Hawaii and Central America from December to March.

You can see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica along the southern Pacific Coast, from the Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical down through Cano Island Biological Reserve off of Drake Bay and into the Golfo Dulce.

 

Known as a tropical fjord, the “inner sea” of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for Humpback Whales and is vital to the species’ survival, according to the Center for Cetacean Research of Costa Rica (CEIC).

“A large part of the Gulf is used by Humpbacks to rest, give birth to their young and nurse them,” notes the CEIC. “The importance of protecting this area becomes more urgent if we take into consideration that Costa Rica’s economy depends on tourism …. Today, many tourists come to marvel at the solitude of these sanctuary waters; for them to see a dolphin or whale swimming near their boat is the best living evidence of the well-being of this still wild place.”

Once hunted to near-extinction, Humpback Whales are an endangered species with international government-protected status. Humpback whales are named for the prominent hump on their backs. The baleen whales can grow to be 56 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons, with distinctive, long black and white pectoral fins (flippers) that reach about one-third of their body length. They live a long life to about 45-50 years old. Babies (or “calves”) are born after an 11-12 month gestation period, which explains why some years when the whales are visiting tropical waters they are breeding and other years they are giving birth.

Humpback whales are easy to spot since they live at the ocean’s surface, both in the open ocean and in shallow coastline waters. They swim slowly and are known as the “acrobats of the sea” for their great displays of jumps and splashes (breaching). Males are famous for singing long, complex mating “songs” – sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds – during their migration and when in breeding areas.

In the Golfo Dulce, the migrating whales are almost strictly from the Southern Hemisphere. Males concentrate at the entrance to the Gulf waiting to breed with available females, while pregnant females swim into the shallow waters of the Gulf’s interior to birth their young and breastfeed them.

Whale-watching in Golfo Dulce

See these gentle giants in person on the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located in the pristine rainforest on a remote beach of the Golfo Dulce. During whale-watching season, the award-winning Costa Rica eco-lodge offers boat tours of the Gulf to see the whales, resident pods of dolphins, and other marine life like sea turtles and seabirds.

A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the rainforest lodge in Costa Rica has its own 165-acre private preserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. It is a unique adventure travel destination for its remote, pristine wilderness location.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica Green Season specials at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

May 30th, 2014

Adventure, nature, yoga, relaxation and comfort … you have it all at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica.

And now in Green Season, you can have it all for a better price!

The unique rainforest lodge in Costa Rica is offering a special vacation deal of a free extra night when you stay three nights. The offer is valid now through Sept. 30, 2014, and applies to any room category.

A true Costa Rica eco-lodge, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge embraces conservation and harmony with nature, and at the same time offers comfortable luxury in the jungle. You can choose to stay in either a private cabin or in the two-story Mango Guest House, which has four rooms each with private bathrooms and a balcony or terrace. Three healthy, delicious meals per day are included with your stay, along with unlimited use of the lodge’s trails, kayaks, snorkeling and fishing equipment, and boat pick-up and drop-off from/to Puerto Jimenez or Golfito.

Accessible only by boat, Playa Nicuesa is beachfront on the breathtaking Golfo Dulce (“Sweet Gulf”), one of only a handful of unique tropical fjords in the world. The renowned Osa Peninsula is just across these placid Pacific Ocean waters from the lodge, which is surrounded by its own private nature reserve that joins into the Piedras Blancas National Park.

Another excellent offer is the Yoga Bliss Vacation Package: stay five, six or seven nights at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in your choice of accommodations, and receive two yoga classes daily and three guided adventure activities, in addition to Playa Nicuesa’s usual vacation amenities.

At Playa Nicuesa, you can enjoy multiple adventure tours and activities: rainforest hikes, bird-watching, kayaking, snorkeling, botanical gardens, fishing, horseback riding, dolphin and whale watching, on-site yoga classes and massages, and hammock relaxing.

Article by Shannon Farley