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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. It's also easy to spot scarlet macaws in and around nearby Carara National Park, which protects the largest expanse of forest left in the region. Nearby Rainmaker Reserve is another good place to experience wildlife. At Manuel Antonio Park farther down the Pacific coast, you can see wildlife and enjoy an ocean swim at the same time. Over on the Nicoya Peninsula, the smaller Curú National Wildlife Reserve and Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve (its name says it all) are farther off the beaten path but worth a visit if wild is what you seek.
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 down at the beach, 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 decades.
Top Eco-Lodges in the Central Pacific
Arenas del Mar Beach 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. Their goal here was to create a five-star luxury resort that is also a five-leaf sustainable hotel. 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. You may also not be able to see your room for the trees. 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.
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 Manual Antonio, this luxury hotel is not a classic eco-lodge. But owner Jim Damalas has worked hard to minimize the hotel's environmental impact. Guests may notice another more ephemeral but no less important policy here: good-natured hospitality. By creating a harmonious workplace, the hotel has retained 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 country's highest sustainability award: Five Green Leaves.
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."
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