Manuel Antonio and the Central Pacific Coast Feature

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Eco-Lodges in the Central Pacific

The Central Pacific is more renowned for its hedonistic Pacific beaches and resort nightlife than for wildlife or ecotourism. But there are some small pockets of original forest and habitat, and a couple of greener lodging choices.

An ecological transition zone between the dry forests of the North Pacific and the rain forests of the South Pacific, the Central Pacific is home to animals and plants of both regions. It is one of the easiest places to get a good look at the American crocodile, many of which gather near the bridge over the Tárcoles River. At Manuel Antonio National Park, you can see wildlife and enjoy an ocean swim at the same time. Just outside the park are a handful of luxury resorts that have earned four and five leaves in sustainability, a remarkable achievement considering the stringent guidelines of the CST Certification System.

Good Practices

No matter how many warning signs are posted, visitors still feel compelled to feed the animals. At Manuel Antonio National Park, the white-faced monkeys have become a nuisance at the beach and at nearby hotels, begging for food and even stealing backpacks and ripping food packages open. They are very cute, but they can also be quite mean and deliver nasty bites to the hands that feed them.

It's not only animal behavior, but also animal health that has been compromised. The white-faced monkeys in Manuel Antonio show elevated levels of cholesterol from all the fried chips they have been fed over recent decades.

Top Eco-Lodges in the Central Pacific

Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Nature Resort

One of the newest hotels in the Central Pacific, this luxury hotel has an impressive eco-pedigree. It is the brainchild of Teri and Glenn Jampol, owners of Finca Rosa Blanca in the Central Valley, one of the first lodges in the country to achieve five-leaf sustainability status. The first most obvious eco-aspect guests encounter is the reception center in a forest clearing, where you leave your car behind and ride an electric golf cart to the main open-air lobby. For 20 years, the Jampols reforested and allowed these formerly farmed slopes to regenerate before they began building, often wrapping terraces around established trees. The result is a totally natural landscape, home to lots of wildlife. Other green practices include ionization systems for the swimming pools, biodegradable cleaning products, solar-heated water, a recycling program, and a black water treatment system. A behind-the-scenes sustainability tour is free to hotel guests.

Hotel Sí Como No

From its meticulous recycling policy and energetic reduction of waste and energy consumption to its innovative conservation programs, Sí Como No has led the way in sustainable tourism. Perched on a hillside in the center of developed Manuel Antonio, this luxury hotel is not a classic eco-lodge. But owner Jim Damalas has worked hard to minimize the hotel's environmental impact. By creating a harmonious workplace, the hotel has retained a well-trained, happy staff, who in turn do their best to make guests happy, too.

The hotel's most notable contribution to local ecotourism is the nearby Butterfly Garden and a 30-acre wildlife refuge. Sí Como No also promotes local culture in Quepos and its surrounding farm villages. The hotel is a member of the Green Hotels of Costa Rica and has attained the five leaves for sustainability.

From Our Writer

"Conserving natural habitat is not only a good idea, ecologically speaking, but also makes for potentially unpredictable and memorable wildlife sightings. On a visit to Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort, in Manuel Antonio, I was relaxing by one of the hotel's two swimming pools, watching white-faced monkeys scrambling among branches over the nearby restaurant roof, throwing down half-eaten fruits and the occasional partially vivisected grasshopper (headless but still squirming).

Suddenly, my peripheral vision caught sight of a coatimundi emerging from the forest at the far side of the pool. He dove into the pool, dog-paddled diagonally across, climbed out, and made a beeline into the forest. It was a surprise to me to learn that coatis could even swim. This one was obviously so at home here that he thought nothing of using the hotel pool as a cool shortcut."

Updated: 2014-08-15

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