We were in Costa Rica in mid-September, during the rainy season. Yet that didn’t stop us from going to some of its iconic biodiversity sites. We were really willing to see animals in one of the most megadiverse countries in the world and leader in conservation in Latin America. And it didn’t let us down. Its parks and natural areas, the dedication and work of all the people is incredible.
We started in Monteverde, we went to the cloud forest – very cloudy indeed!! It is known as “the mountains where you can touch the clouds”. One of the natural jewels of Costa Rica, since it is one of the last extensions of this type of pristine forest in the world. There are many biological reserves and private parks that protect the forest in different ways and offer various ways to enjoy it. We went to one that has hanging bridges and a sloth refuge. There they take the sloths that are found injured in Costa Rica. We learned that power lines are one of the main causes of injured sloths, as well as accidents on the roads.
From here we went to the province of Punta Arenas, on the Pacific coast, to a quite impressive place. Look at the image below if not. The place is called “Bahía Ballena”, it is part of the National Marine Park Bahia Ballena, the largest marine reserve in Costa Rica, and was named precisely because of the humpback whales that frequent its waters and because of the shape of a whale’s tail that forms on its shores when the tide goes out! Incredible.
But that was not the reason why we went there… that was a plus, the real reason was a couple who have a beautiful project. Pilar & Travis are co-founders of Bodhi Surf & Yoga in this little corner of Costa Rica. Bodhi started as a small tourism company, to share the practice of surfing and yoga. However, they decided that their business should be used as a vehicle to facilitate positive social and environmental change in their communities. Over the years, this business has grown into what it is today: a B Corporation and 1% for the Planet certified yoga and surf camp. There are many positive actions that they do in the community in addition to providing an experience of connection with oneself and with nature through sports to those who come to visit Bodhi. They inspire others to do business in a sustainable way and with a positive impact, and they hope that the teachings of yoga and surfing can be applied by visitors in their daily life once they leave.
Pilar is also always looking for ways to support the Bahía Ballena community and is the one who pushed for Bahía Ballena to be one of the communities that forms part of the Costa Rica Electric Routes. This is a support network that seeks to install charging points along the access routes to Costa Rican communities. For this, the communities have to show interest in installing chargers, be it in hotels, restaurants, cafeterias. To want to participate, business owners must understand how they will benefit. So, how? Easy, think about it, we go to places because there are chargers. While we wait for our cars to charge, we eat there, stay overnight, buy something or visit the place. This is an opportunity to support local businesses. In Monteverde we were able to do this since it was the first community to promote being part of the electric routes and in Bahía Ballena also thanks to the work that Pilar did to explain to the community the importance of chargers for the environment but also for their business! Specifically, in Bahía Ballena we charged at a mechanical workshop, which we interviewed since not only theyt installed a charging point but they are also taking other actions so that their workshop has a lower environmental impact.
Although it was super good to discover this initiative of Electric Routes in Costa Rica, and the support for communities to install chargers and attract tourists in electric vehicles, we are not going to lie, in Costa Rica many chargers did not work! In the end, the country that had the most chargers, up to a certain point, was more difficult because we arrived and they didn’t work. We share this to highlight the importance of companies that install them or the government of reviewing these charging stations.
But hey, back to the fun. Where did we go next? Costa Rica has infinite places to visit, but one caught our attention. The remote Osa Peninsula. Why? Here are some facts. It has 3% of the world’s biodiversity and more than 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity! It is one of the regions with the highest density of biological diversity in the world! Furthermore, 80% of the territory is protected by two parks that the government created in the 1970s, the Corcovado National Park and the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. We did not have many days and the range of the cars was tight for us since it is remote and the charger there did not work… but we took a chance and decided to go anyway.
Once there we reached a local company that promotes ecotourism, Osa Wild, which we loved and connected with its motto “support local people through tourism.” Osa Wild, far from being just an economic initiative, has always been oriented towards social and environmental well-being and has focused on finding solutions to conserve and protect one of the most biodiverse places on earth, inspiring the local population to preserve their land. How do they support local populations? Organizing visits to their farms or projects, to learn about local ways of life, and thus they have some extra income and can maintain the land and the life on it. Basically, Osa wild connects travelers with the community and all humans with nature.
This is how we met Doña Maria and Don Jorge. Since they met Osa Wild they have an income that allows them to keep their land. They offer visits to their farm to get to know the rural, local way of life. They live far from the town, in fact getting there was not easy because the river was high so we had to walk, and we had gone with the kids! We had to walk for a while through the countryside until we finally reached their farm, Valle Soñado. And it is an actual dream, quiet and surrounded by nature. It was a magical visit and we recommend that if you go to the Osa Peninsula, not only do nature tourism – that is, go explore the national parks – but also do rural tourism, go see how the local people live, share with them. It was a great adventure and one of the most enriching activities to be able to share with them, as a family, in their little green corner of the world. And the kids enjoyed this adventure more than anyone!
Happy with this experience, the next day we decided to go to the famous Corcovado National Park, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. It is THE place where National Geographic goes to film for example. This was also organized by Osa Wild who connects you with a local guide, in our case it was Milton Vasquez – a genius and a much needed animal spotter. The Park is HUGE and has five biological stations. This is the only place where you can spend the night if you want to spend a night inside the park and wake up inside the tropical forest – sunrise is the best time! There are several different, multi-day expeditions that can be done. Tuti and Oli did the one that takes 2 days and you walk 40 km – for obvious reasons Martin and the kids couldn’t join.
First we drove to one of the edges of the park, on pristine Carate beach, and there the walk began at the La Leona station. From the first moment one already starts with all the feet wet due to river crossings, mud and more. From there you walk 20km, sometimes along the beach, other times through the forest. The mission is to get to Sirena Station, in the heart of the park, where you can spend the night, before night falls and the river rises. You can’t take too long because if the river rises then it’s very dangerous to cross it because of the crocodiles! But there are so many distractions while walking that at times it’s hard to keep up. Situations and unique encounters such as those in the photos below abound: anteaters, coatis, marmosets, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white hawks, water cockerels, grenadier guans, crocodiles, baby boa, parrot-like snakes, tapirs, toucans, bats… we saw all this and more! The only animals we did not see are big cats such as pumas and jaguars.
Someone very urban once said “it’s like walking through a zoo but open.” And it’s true. Except that this is their house, this is reality… we encourage you to immerse yourself in their world once it is one of the most beautiful experiences you can do to understand at least a little bit of the mysteries and fun of nature.
We arrived at the Sirena Station with a lot of rain, where we took a bath, they gave us a delicious and abundant meal and we slept after walking 20 km. The next day at 5am, we had to go 20 km back. Our feet hurt but we were excited about it. And this time we saw crocodiles crossing the river! Exhausting but without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences of the trip was being immersed in that biodiversity.
Full of good memories, we decided to go to a beach on the Osa Peninsula, off the grid, to stay in a little house with solar panels. We asked ourselves, can we access off-the-grid places in electric cars? What about the battery? Can it be charged using the solar panels in these places? We discovered that you can, here’s the proof! We trusted and arrived at a VERY remote surf spot in Costa Rica, where there is no electricity and, on the days when the sun came out, we charged with solar panels. How crazy to plug your car into the “sun” and charge and what a nice way to close Costa Rica.
And to finish, a very special mention to Lo, who turned 1 year old while we were in Costa Rica.